One day soon, I think outside groups – parachurch ministries, publishers, local churches, conferences, others – will catch on. They’ll catch on to the fact that yes, they can find lots of success and impact and even revenue if they involve themselves with college ministry. There are thousands of students and hundreds of college ministers, ready to use and love and buy.
Plenty of those outside groups, I’m guessing, have already attempted to target collegians. It is, after all, a valuable target. Maybe a few have even tried to sell to college ministers, too.
But there’s a big difference when sales doesn’t involve enough market research. And so far, many of the offers thrown our way (or the books, the curriculum, the resources, the events) clearly don’t come from a clear knowledge of the field of college ministry. College ministry is weird. It’s not like youth ministry, it’s not like young adult ministry, it’s not like what your church or ministry is already doing.
The creators, publishers, pastors, and marketers mean well – and even have a lot to offer us. But somewhere along the line, the end products aren’t actually what we need. Even many of the books written about college ministry and by college ministers aren’t done from the perspective of the field as a whole. Even many of the college ministries planted by outside groups don’t take into account the context very well before they plant. It’s a weird world, but it’s not usually engaged as such.
There are, of course, some awesome exceptions. This isn’t a rant against these outside ministries – after all, they wouldn’t be reading this anyway (and that’s probably part of the problem!). Instead, this is a call for us who are college ministers to work to change this, to help outside groups recognize both the potential AND the correct, contextual approach to take.
I don’t know what might be required of us to help this happen – maybe I’ll offer some suggestions later this week. But I do believe, as I’ve written before, that the “early bird gets the worm” here: The first few outside organizations that really connect well with the broad spectrum of college ministers will find impact (and revenue) they never imagined. From getting to know so many of you (and from my own experiences as a college minister), I know we’re waiting… waiting… waiting for someone to notice us and offer us something useful.
The ones that do – first – will find us open to what they have to offer. A few already have.