when a mission becomes a church

This week (and maybe next week?), I’m looking at major shifts college ministries might consider making. In the last post, I examined an important consideration: narrowing our focus to become either a complementary college ministry or a niche-based one.

Today, though, I want to note a different sort of possibility. It’s also one that may have some momentum behind it: campus ministries becoming collegiate churches.

“Collegiate Churches” are probably the least known of the four branches of collegiate ministry I’ve classified (alongside campus-based, church-based, and institutional). Yet if you’re at one of the American campuses served by a campus-based church, you’re probably well-aware they exist… especially if attendance reaches into the hundreds, like several collegiate churches see.

In light of all this (and some ecclesiological ruminations), I’ve heard multiple discussions about campus-based college ministries considering becoming become a church. This would be more than a simple “rebranding” (at least according to the New Testament), and yet it certainly seems possible from a missiological standpoint: how often have planted “missions” eventually become autonomous churches, even in North America?

And this isn’t reserved for campus-based college ministers, either. For church-based college ministers, either leaving to plant a church OR being ordained as a pastor of a multi-site church’s campus location are both possibilities. (Mars Hill and Louisville’s Highview Baptist have tried that, for instance.)

There are all sort of ecclesiological issues that arise when thinking about this shift, as well as practical considerations and submission to our overseers (be they parachurch leaders, supporters, a board of directors, or church staff). But this is the week to mention such things, and even as a consideration it provides value.

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