strengths in the branches

This week, I’ve been offering some learning on the various branches. Not all of this is news to most readers, I’m sure, but I still want to share what I’ve seen in the nationwide views I’ve had the chance to gain.

Today and tomorrow, I want to visit the other part of my seminar from Tuesday morning: my perspective on the Strengths and Struggles of the four branches of college ministry. First, many of the strengths that seem to exist in each branch – including some you might not have often thought about.

These strengths usually reflect the more “classic” or more common models for each area. As I discussed yesterday, there are variations in every branch, so some strengths apply more broadly than others.

Campus-based college ministry strengths

  • While our entire field remains quite underdeveloped, campus-based college ministry is clearly the most developed of the branches. In general, it’s got more handed-down wisdom, more collaboration, more “lifers,” more conferences, and more history than the other branches.
  • As I’ve argued – often and in ebook form – I believe all college ministry works best when it’s viewed missiologically. Campus-based college ministry seems to take this tack pretty naturally, as it usually involves some group – a number of supporters, perhaps, or a collection of churches – sending a missionary-expert to dwell within and reach a campus tribe.
  • Longevity – of ministries and ministers.
  • Oversight is provided – usually – by other (or former) college ministers.
  • There are in some sense “unlimited” job openings, as long as individuals are willing to raise their own support.
  • While many find personal support-raising (the predominant funding method here) a discouraging concept, many do report value in raising up lots of ministry “partners” – and it’s diversified funding, as well.

Church-based college ministry strengths

  • When a college minister is actually employed by a church, the funding is steady and doesn’t generally have to be raised.
  • Naturally provides opportunities to integrate students into church life and help them make intergenerational connections (which seems beneficial for both the present and life following graduation).
  • As American Christians – possibly – seem to be recognizing a greater need for impacting students after high school, there seems to be lots of room for growth in this branch.
  • Those serving within a church setting might have the opportunity to feel less isolated.
  • The backing of a church can encourage longevity of a ministry and its identity, even across multiple leaders.


  • This area seems to have the best structures in place for widespread collaboration, and this is perhaps the most “learned” branch. (Some institutional college ministers serve as faculty, have higher levels of education than most, serve as “lifers,” learn from other fields – secular and Christian, etc.)
  • High level of integration with the campus (obviously), thus sharing some of the proximity strengths of campus-based college ministry
  • Funding is often “set” and might be an expected, long-term part of the budget (moreso than many church-based college ministries).
  • The backing of the school may aid ministry longevity.

Collegiate Churches

  • Share an interesting mix of some strengths from both church-based ministry (church integration, for example) and campus-based college ministry (missiological activity, among other things).
  • Autonomy
  • This strategy seems to have some momentum, as major groups are (newly) considering this strategy and the emergence of  multi-site churches has led / could lead to collegiate sites.


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  1. Pingback: struggles in the branches of collegiate ministry « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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