contextualization: bricks or paint?

After all my travels and explorations and conversations, one of the clearest conclusions is that we don’t have nearly enough college ministries that have been built – from the ground up – with their particular campus in mind.

Many, many of us are good at slapping some coats of Contextualization on our already-built ministries, ministries composed of bricks from various sources. If we spend time loving one campus long enough, we might occasionally do some minor renovations that involve Contextualization more heavily, adding a wing or modifying a previously incongruous room to match better the campus we love.

But there’s not a lot of evidence of campus ministries designed with their own campus in mind more than any other influence. This sort of ministry would be composed of local bricks, nearly every decision affected by the campus tribe in which it finds itself. These college ministries are inherently contextual rather than simply growing to fit (somewhat) the field they’re in over time.

Of course, a large number of college ministries are still doing amazing work on their campuses. The lack of ground-up contextualization hasn’t kept them from bearing exciting, enormous fruit. But what more might we accomplish?


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  1. I don’t know if I completely catch what your throwing, pick up what you’re laying down…dont get me wrong, I am interested. I have a college on my heart even as you say this, but would love to hear more of what point you are trying to communicate.

    Meaning each campus has a particular flavor and you are asking what specifically are you doing to contextualize the gospel to that heart college?

    Mayeb you have some other posts that clarify your point of give some tools to help understand the contextual needs of your heart campus.

  2. Hey David! Thanks for the comment!

    I’ve definitely written about contextualization a lot – for more, I’d start with searching “contextual” or by looking in “College Ministry as Missions” under the categories on the left. But my book (it’s free) also hits this idea – you can find it at

    But I do think you ask a good question, and this is a vital enough aspect of good college ministry that I want to follow-up in a stronger way. Look for a post on this – probably Wednesday or Thursday!

  3. Pingback: what freakishly contextual college ministries might look like « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

  4. Pingback: Notes, Quotes, and Happenings – Campus Ministry Toolbox

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