You may know that I published an ebook, Reaching the Campus Tribes, back in 2009. I was humbled by how well it was received by college ministers (and others) from across the Christian spectrum. And I’m so excited that God continues to use it (including in training present and future college ministers, like at Beeson Divinity School). It’s still free, it’s still an easy read – and it still could revolutionize the way you understand, do, and tell others about Collegiate Ministry.
In Chapter 4 of Reaching the Campus Tribes, I made my fundamental argument that collegiate ministry should be approached like foreign missions. This includes recognizing the vital need for contextualization, patience, realistic expectations, aggressive progress, and more.
We also need to pursue longevity, as I argue on pages 53 and 54. Here’s a portion of that reflection:
Another way college ministry parallels mission work is in the value of long‐lasting ministries. Our hope should be to build ministries that serve as powerful campus missions for decades to come.
College ministries often benefit from a lengthy tenure. For one thing, a campus ministry or church‐based group that is widely known as effective and established will receive positive word‐of‐mouth from students, campus staff, the community, alumni, and others who hear about its work (even from far away). Relationships grow deeper over time, too. Strategy and contextualization become more and more fine‐tuned. And even when a ministry isn’t the largest ministry on its campus each and every year, it may have an easier time staying “in the mix” as a staple in that campus tribe.
The net result of longevity is also a pretty powerful statistic. While other ministries may at times steal the spotlight, a consistent, long‐term college ministry can ultimately impact a much larger number of students. Plus, a long‐lasting mission effort not only gets to impact collegians, but eventually its influence can extend to faculty, administration, and other “locals” as the ministry becomes an integral part of the campus and even the city.
This seems like a great thing for us to ponder in April and May, doesn’t it? The truth is, whether your college ministry is reaching 10 a week or 1,000 a week, if it lasts long enough it could truly have an impact on 10,000 students or more. But are you establishing your college ministry so that it could do that?
Some questions for us:
- How sure are you that your college ministry will be far better in most areas in five years?
- What specific actions are you taking to help this happen?
- Have you made long-range (definitely beyond one year) plans to be a stronger ministry?
- If your ministry is more than five years old, is it having a significantly better impact now than it was two years ago? Is it run more effectively / efficiently? Have you begun to see your past long-range plans bear fruit?
- When’s the last time you planned – specifically – for ministry strength beyond the next school year?
- Are you at the point where you (or someone) can spend ample time thinking about “new initiatives” and “taking more ground” in your ministry? What would it take to have that time each month?
- If God suddenly calls you to a new job elsewhere this summer, will your campus ministry outlive you? Would it thrive in the years to come?