struggles in the branches of collegiate ministry

Last Monday, I argued that we who serve as “missionaries to the campus tribes” need to avail ourselves of learning our field – our “missiology.” It’s not enough for us to learn techniques and “Best Practices” (which I’ve argued don’t exist much in college ministry, anyway). We need to care about the theory side of our work, even if some of us are wired to care about it more than others.

To that end, I wrote about some things I’d had opportunities to speak on recently: the delineation of the four branches of campus ministry, some variations I’ve seen within those branches, and some strengths of each form.

Now I arrive at some of the “struggles” in those branches. Today, I’ll look at the difficulties faced in campus-based and church-based college ministry; tomorrow I should be able to examine struggles in the other two branches.

As I noted last week (in regards to the strengths), these listed struggles generally reflect the more “classic” or common models for each area. As I discussed last week, there are variations in every branch, so some struggles apply more broadly than others.

Campus-based college ministry struggles

  • Though many in this camp will – rightly – talk about the joy of locating partners for their ministry, personal support-raising can still be a difficult road. Not all campus-based groups have to support-raise, but those that don’t seem generally limited to denominational campus-based work in the South.
  • For those truly “parachurch,” it’s easier to disconnect with the rest of American Christianity – whether it’s churches, denominations, new lines of thoughts, new forms of ministry, or anything else.
  • Denominational campus-based ministries may face difficulties – practical, theological, or otherwise – of their denominational ties. Some have faced severe issues along these lines.
  • It is often harder within this form of college ministry to connect students to local churches within their collegiate years, and even pointing them to / teaching them about “churchmanship” may also be more difficult (or simply less of a felt need).
  • Autonomy has its downsides, to be sure.

Church-based college ministry struggles

  • Churches often struggle with a lack of longevity – of both college ministries AND “versions” of their college ministries.
  • These ministers are usually not overseen by individuals who have served in college ministry.
  • Integration with the campus is trickier in this branch than any other.
  • Compared to campus-based college ministry, it’s much harder to find an open position in this field; even the opportunity to volunteer to run a church collegiate outreach may, sadly, not be available!
  • This branch doesn’t hasn’t had a lot of development.


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