complementary requires openness

I talk occasionally about the role (and value) of complementary college ministries, and I covered those unique groups in Reaching the Campus Tribes, too. My hope is that eventually all those aspiring to “do college ministry” or to plant a ministry for a specific organization (like Cru, the Southern Baptists, or Chi Alpha) would consider the complementary route as a real possibility that can achieve amazing results.

In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s how I describe complementary college ministry in the ebook:

Some college ministry efforts will best help reach campuses by approaching those mission fields with an eye toward complementing. In fact, a fully complementary college ministry may focus on only one area of students’ discipleship, allowing for specialized impact in an important area. Other ministries may not limit their work to this extent, but complementing may still be a key component of their structures and activities. – Reaching the Campus Tribes, page 115

(You can see more on pages 115-116.)

If you’re already at the helm of a large, “classic” college ministry, it’s very possible you would rather a new ministry set up in this way – especially if there are already several healthy, impactful college ministries on your campus. Why simply recreate what everybody else is doing?

But here’s the question: How good are we at allowing our own work to be “complemented”? Would you be okay with some of your students learning leadership – if it was taught really well – from somebody else? What if your students were being discipled by a local church elder (instead of by your fellow staff)? Can you see the value in a “paraministry” with expertise in training students for life after college? Or a Christian fraternity that raises up Christian men in a way that complements their involvement and leadership in your ministry?

I’m a fan of complementary college ministry, and I hope you’ll consider being a fan, too. But we can’t just theoretically like the idea; it will require present ministries having a Kingdom mindset, a shepherd’s heart, a missional approach, and an openness to what God wants to do through those ministries.


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