these books are written for college ministry (they just don’t know it)

Yesterday, I posted about the kinds of books college ministers need more of. But another theme I’ve always trumpeted is learning about our trade from books that aren’t specifically written for our field. Taken from a post I wrote while on the yearlong research trip, below you’ll find many of the books that have most impacted my own theories about campus work.

Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. Rainer and Geiger focus on churches, but most anything they say can also be applied to collegiate ministries. Reading this in combination with Good to Great helped me immensely in Spring of 2007 as I was pondering next steps for my church’s college ministry. This book is widely heralded – and as a result is often, like Good to Great, handled clumsily. But when handled with wisdom, this is a classic for our field. (I’d love to see a collegiate version someday.)

Good to Great and the companion “Good to Great in the Social Sectors” monograph by Jim Collins. While it has become almost cliche to mention this book because of its outrageous popularity, it still should be a go-to book within Collegiate Ministry. I know for me, at least, it spoke directly to my hopes for a purposeful, effective, efficient college ministry.

But, a caution: it’s tempting to read this book, remove its “easily-remembered concepts” from the context and wisdom of the book, and think you’re truly applying Good to Great principles (I’ve seen it happen). This is best read for understanding and not just for “tips,” followed by time in prayer and thought about applying these concepts contextually.

Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King. I actually went through the workbook (which I like better), but the book and workbook have fundamentally the same concepts. While this is a (classic) book on knowing and doing God’s will, it’s discussion of knowing God’s will for a church (in the later chapters) easily applies to college ministries, too.

Disciples are Made, Not Born by Walter Henrichsen. Much of my own view of disciplemaking comes from people who have adopted this book’s blueprint. It’s a classic for a reason, and it presents a strong case for basic, one-on-one disciplemaking.

Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson. Peterson here urges long-term faithfulness to our callings, including loving and working the soil we have been given. (This set the stage for my focus on the necessary contextualization of college ministry.) While his focus is pastors, I long ago was dramatically impacted in college ministry work by his outlook on ministry and people. It’s also an excellent resource to deepen your understanding of a “ministry of presence,” which many of us strive to have on our campuses.

Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This secular book on helping people remember messages has obvious application for any teacher, advocate for college ministry, support-raiser, etc. Very helpful for helping any messages “stick.”

And the Word Came with Power by Joanne Shetler with Patricia Purvis. This may be true of other missions biographies, but this simple, profound, and powerful book by a Wycliffe Bible translator pushed forward my understanding of Collegiate Ministry-as-Missions. You can finish And the Word in one sitting – and once you start reading, it may be hard not to do that!


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