two options for more than a few

I’ve certainly written about these before, but in light of yesterday’s post, I wanted to talk about two options that I think far too few college ministries consider. Further, while any present campus ministry can consider adding these to its repertoire, it’s even more important that any – and perhaps every – new ministry consider one of these roads instead of the standard path.

Niche-based college ministry

Why do most college ministries start by trying to reach throughout the campus? Many campuses clearly have “tribes within the tribe,” so it might often be more missional to aim specifically for one portion of campus. Further, this can make a lot of sense from a growth perspective – reaching critical mass within a smaller group is far easier than reaching critical mass from a pool of thousands.

Sadly, niche-based college ministry is rare… except in the situations where it’s so common we don’t even think about it. Think about it: ministry to athletes (a la FCA), ethnic-specific ministry, and international student ministry are three instances of “low-hanging fruit” in our world. Right?

So I think it’s vital for any college minister – from any organization or church – to consider if they’re perhaps not called to compete as directly with the present, full-fledged, classic ministries on that campus. Who are the unreached groups? Who’s underrepresented? Are there populations, geographies, or other niches that would be impacted better by your mix of skills, personality, and opportunities?

Complementary college ministry

Complementary ministry is like niche-based, in that its aims are more modest – while offering potentially more impact. In this form of ministry, an organization (or individual college minister) specializes in one form of ministry. So instead of trying to fully disciple students in all the ways they may need, instead this ministry complements what more “full-fledged” ministries do.

Leadership training, missions mobilization, apologetics training, vocational preparation, a city-wide Bible study (without any other structures, like small groups). These are just a few examples of what complementary college ministry can look like.

This one requires new thinking on both sides, of course: It takes a college minister recognize that they’re more impactful by specializing, but it also requires other college ministers recognizing that complementary ministries can play a role in impacting their students.


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  1. “Complementary college ministry” is what I do. Our focus is on helping students think about vocation and call, what they do with their lives and how they do it. It is a great job with two problems. One is connecting with campus ministers and helping them see how we can work together. Sadly, collaborative ministry isn’t the norm. But I think I’m slowly making some headway. The second is getting congregations and other groups to understand that we are not a “typical” (as if typical really existed) campus ministry. I often get asked how many students “I have” pr do we do spring break trips or have worship. Well, the answer is 0 students, no mission trips, no worship. My job is to work with, support, help other groups and their students, not build a group of students.
    But the chance to think seriously with students about God’s calling to all Christians in general and to them, as an individual in particular is needed and rewarding work.
    Thanks for mentioning the non standard college ministries!

  2. That’s so great, Nancy! Thanks for providing a great example of what we need much more of!

    You’re right; collaborative ministry isn’t the norm. If I can ever help you or those ministers think through this stuff, let me know. Thanks for what you’re doing.

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