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.