This weekend, a college ministry is bringing me out to Southern California to explore the campus, observe what’s taking place in their ministry, and brainstorm with them about walking forward. I don’t know everything I’ll find or what conclusions we might reach, but I will head into the weekend with some questions on my mind.

So this week, I thought I might share some of those questions with you. As we’re in the middle of November, it might be a good time to walk through changes you could make for 2014… whether you, like this ministry, are in the middle of an overhaul, or your campus ministry could just use a few tweaks.

Question #1: What makes this ministry worth its existence?

Unless you’re actually planting a brand-new college ministry, it’s easy to completely overlook this extremely important question. (And even when we we do plant new ministries, I’m not sure we ask this enough.)

But this question is indeed vital, and not simply to decide whether or not we should continue as a ministry.

By asking ourselves what about our ministry makes it “necessary” at this campus, in this time, we certainly do open ourselves to the possibility of “shutting ‘er down.” For us to truly have integrity in our calling as missionaries to campus tribes, I think we always have to be willing to stop – even though it’s terrifying for us (and a bummer for our students).

But it’s not just important to answer the binary Yes/No of continuing this college ministry. The “What” part of the above question matters, too. As we examine why our ministry should exist, we learn about the characteristics we should be emphasizing… maybe even “overemphasizing”. There’s no reason a college ministry shouldn’t play to its strengths, right?

Do you feel God wants your ministry here because it’s a really good spot for intellectual students to explore Big Questions? Awesome – why not play to that strength? Are you tied to a church that does a great job of integrating students into intergenerational relationships? Excellent; why not make that a clear pillar of your efforts? Have you found powerful inroads among the sororities and fraternities that other ministries haven’t found? Why not make that your major, main, or even sole focus?

Depending on where we fall on the spectrum of our individual answers to the Question, we may indeed end up in niche college ministry, which is one of the most impactful forms of collegiate ministry out there. But even if that’s not where we end up, answering the Question teaches us where we need to “put our chips” to play out the ministry we’ve received from the Lord.