contextualization in the bricks

On Monday, I wrote about one of the areas I feel is most lacking in the world of collegiate ministry: campus ministries that are built from the ground up with their individual campuses in mind.

There’s a difference, I said, in building contextually right from the beginning (“using contextual bricks,” in other words) versus building a ministry and only afterward  making it more contextual (“using contextual paint”).

David Bartosik followed up that post with a question, though, and I wanted to flesh out a little better what this might mean. David said,

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.

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

My quick answer to David’s final question would be… Yes, but I’m not just talking about contextualizing the message – but contextualizing the methodology. And I’m not even really talking about “contextualizing” some methodology that already exists, but instead forming each method around the needs, specifics, and even eccentricities of that campus.

So I’m not simply encouraging us to make sure what we speak from the stage is contextual… because that presupposes both a stage and giving messages from it! Instead, I’m suggesting we could use many more college ministries that are built in response to loving a campus, getting to know the campus, and begging God’s wisdom for reaching it in very specific ways.

Does this mean that we need to start more slowly than we often do? Yes. Does it mean we need to put everything on the table from the very beginning, including things we would never, ever expect to consider optional? Absolutely. Does it mean we shouldn’t assume we’ll have a large group meeting, shouldn’t assume we’ll try to reach all the students, shouldn’t assume our ministry will look much like others in our national organization or denomination? Yeah… and we won’t assume anything else, either. We’ll come to know – and love – our campuses, and in the process we’ll discern the best ways to impact it.

There are lots of merits to the “standard forms” of college ministry, and in some cases they’ll be the most contextualized route we could take to reach students. But how we decide that – and how long we’re willing to take to discern this – makes all the difference here.

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