michael frost on college ministry

updated tuesday, may 18

It’s not often that we who invest our lives in students get to hear “thoughts on college ministry” from Christian leaders in other areas. (But I look forward to the day when that’s not the case!)

So you might imagine that I’m lapping up all I can this week, as Dr. Michael Frost is discussing missional ministry with our team of 40 – a majority of whom are college ministers.

He just started teaching yesterday, but I’ll add to this list (on this same post) as the week goes on. So be sure to check back each day; if something new has been spoken, I’ll try to have it here.

For now… (and please remember, these are his opinions, not necessarily mine)

  1. He said he doesn’t like the approach of motivating college ministry by sharing the bleak statistics: his specific example was sharing the large number of people on our campus, “but only 1% follow Christ.” That’s not all that motivational, he said. Instead, he seemed to be inferring that we should motivate by sharing the specific people to whom we’ve been sent.
  2. He said that as a general rule, “I don’t think we’re meant to evangelize strangers.” This was said in response to a question about how “announcement” and “demonstration” work together without one being subservient to another (a key point he argued on Monday). He stated that they’re meant to work as two sides of the same declaration, not as two pieces that are juxtaposed. That point led to this quote, which certainly directly applies to our methodologies. (Again, these are his thoughts, not mine.)
  3. After stating that missional Christians have to embed ourselves into communities, he added, “I guess you do [that] as campus ministries especially.” In other words, he was stating his observation that college ministries often already participate in that area of missional ministry.
  4. He used the arguments of Allen (1927) and Bosch (from the 80s) to argue against campus ministry models that let the church “outsource” their mission aspect. He described it as the college ministers saying, We’ll go on mission, and then we’ll send them to you to get the Worship, Discipleship, etc..
  5. Connected to #4, he said oftentimes those people most willing to go “on mission” get ejected from our churches into performing that mission outside the church.
  6. Connected to #4 and #5, he noted that we campus ministers are part of that “missional” bunch of people. So we need to take that passion God has given and make sure we’re connecting with our churches enough to help bring them to this understanding.

More to come! Meanwhile, if you’d simply like the notes of what Frost is teaching this week, I’m blogging that in my official capacity on the trip. I’ll update this list in the days to come, too.

Feel free to interact with anything he’s said here (or with me personally). I’m looking to glean this week – not just for me but for all of us, and not just things I agree with but things that can and should make us all think!

Update: Brazil Missional Trek

Monday, Day 4: This was another long day. I went with one team to journey throughout downtown and a few different neighborhoods, seeing some sites but ultimately ending in some “free hugs” service and an amazing time with the Zoe Church community at Starbucks. I even had the chance to talk about Jesus with a guy – in tandem with one of the Zoe members! (To follow along with the team and what we’re learning / experiencing, see our blog at plantingbrazil.wordpress.com.)

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2 Comments

  1. Benson–this sounds like a FANTASTIC trip on many levels, and I’m jealous of your opportunity to hear about our field from a guy like Frost!

    I’m definitely guilty of the charge in point #1–more recently I’ve been using the stats, but as a supplement, and making sure to tell more stories.

    I read over your notes on the other blog about what constitutes missional ministry with great interest, especially the following:

    “However, Frost continued, a missional church decides, We want to have all four of those commitments, but we would like Mission to be the organizing principle of the other three, catalyzing and shaping how each of the others are performed. In other words, this church’s strong commitment to announcing and demonstrating (the components of mission, remember) would deeply shape how its people worship, grow, and fellowship.”

    This isn’t new of course, but it gets at the crux of our favorite “disagreement,” and the question I’m hoping you could ask him: Is college ministry in North America, by and large, inherently missional? I could agree that it *might be* in theory, but I don’t believe most college ministry is missional *in practice*. I don’t think the majority of campus ministries make mission the organizing principle or ethos of what we do. I think we relegate it as a component of something else, like worship or community. This is, I think, where we disagree. But it would be fantastic to have a guy like Frost weigh in on that question.

    Back to point #3–it seemed ambiguous to me. Is he saying that’s what we ARE doing, or what we SHOULD be doing? Because it seems to me that some of us “embed” ourselves inside little fortresses on campus, with very little missional activity happening. You can easily be on campus without reaching it.

    I also hear an implicit critique of the large, institutional parachurch ministries there in points #4-6. Like Neil Cole’s critique of “parasitic parachurch” in his book “Organic Leadership.” Thoughts on that?

  2. Thanks for your thoughts! I’m pretty sure at least SOME of the times when I’ve argued before that college ministry is fundamentally missional, I’ve delineated between approach/initiation of the ministry, practice on campus, and training of students. Without delineating between those three things, we really can’t talk about what “missional” college ministry means. And American college ministry is “fundamentally” missional only in the first one – but that’s a big one, and it’s clear it pushes us to be more missional in the other two, with varying degrees of success.

    The very fact that college ministries tend to be oriented toward BOTH a subculture (collegians) and a geography (the campus) means that college ministries are “sent,” since their leaders (unless it’s an entirely-student-led ministry) are coming from the outside in. Measuring “sent-ness” doesn’t start with the college ministry; it starts with whatever impulses were involved in deciding to plant the ministry in the first place. (That’s different than, say, measuring a church’s missionality.)

    But once on campus, the ministry then needs to decide what third steps of “mission” need to be taken. But these will all generally be third steps; the first step of mission was in choosing the subculture; the second step (for most ministries) was in choosing an orientation to the campus itself.

    More on this to come.

    As for Frost’s statements above, in #3 I’m just stating what he stated – that college ministries DO embed themselves into communities. He may or may not be right, but that’s what he said.

    On #4 through 6, I’d be careful of eisegeting. While yes, he was critiquing the fully parachurch ministries, his sense was laying the burden more on the churches than on the ministries. He spoke very highly of the obvious missionality of the parachurch ministries, but seemed frustrated that they removed from the local church the particularly missional people (i.e., the college ministry people).

    Throughout his talks, he dropped all sorts of comments praising the missionality of college ministers. So I’m not sure you’ll agree with his comments, but I’m going to update all this and actually put it as a new post. Probably tomorrow’s post.

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