This week, I’ve had a couple of chances to discuss college ministries that are built contextually from the beginning, letting the mission field itself suggest the methods and activities that can be best used to reach it.
To further flesh this out, I’d like to give some examples – but examples are hard to come by. Why? For one thing, I’ve rarely seen campus ministries that have obviously been built in this way. But second, the whole point is that these sorts of ministries can only come about by spending time loving and learning our individual campus tribes.
Still, I want to do my best. So here are a few ideas of what a college ministry built “with contextual bricks” might look like:
- As a campus missionary got to know a particularly academic campus, he might realize that discussion-based college ministry that takes place on Friday nights (when students aren’t as pressured to study) makes the most sense. Because of incredibly busy schedules of many of his students, he might organize “discipleship pairs” in place of the more common small group structures.
- During my first semester in Abilene, Texas, I noticed a need for greater unity among Christian students in town, as well as a large number of students seemingly “going through the motions” in this town with THREE Christian colleges. So a few of us designed a multi-campus, multiple-church-connected freshman small groups ministry, aiming to supplement the other work going on, exhort students in specific areas we’d noticed needs in, and raise up leaders.
- One local college minister was stepping into a church role and a college ministry that had yet to establish itself very well at SMU or other local colleges. After looking at this church’s strengths and potential (as well as the prevalence of other groups on campus), we discussed the possibility of a college ministry built as a collection of “pods” – multiple niche-based ministries that would impact areas of the SMU campus not already being reached well, while some “pods” might reach other campuses, too.
- At a campus with a (well-deserved) reputation as a party school, a new campus minister might decide her new ministry needs to offer people a “better fun.” She may intentionally design several front-door structures – a high-energy weekly large group meeting, a monthly public party, a huge ski retreat each semester, an annual dinner for the whole Greek system, and tailgating before every big football and basketball game – to draw non-Christians and help introduce them to “the life that is truly life.”
If you could re-tailor your college ministry for your campus, what would it look like? What stopped you from starting in that way? What’s stopping you from re-tailoring now?