I’ve mentioned that I had the amazing chance to meet with some international and national collegiate ministry team members while in England a few weeks ago. One thing they asked – it’s a question I get fairly regularly – is what kinds of things I’ve been most impressed by in my study of our ministry field.
My answer isn’t usually what people are looking for, but it is my answer: I probably get more excited about contextualization than anything else.
This is certainly a cornerstone of what I’ve learned from exploring so many college ministries. Just as a missionary must determine his or her approach and methodology based on the “tribe” encountered, so we should approach, perform, and evaluate our ministry based on the specific facets of our campus. This doesn’t mean being “different for difference’s sake.” But it does mean our methodology is heavily influenced by our campus, which may lead our ministry to be different indeed.
I don’t know how long you’ve been reaching your particular campus. But summer is a good time to ask yourself, “How contextual is our ministry really?”
I have no doubt we can achieve plenty of apparent success without doing much contextualization; I’ve seen lots of chapters of national college ministry organizations that fit that description. And God is doing lots of amazing things through these groups.
But I still suggest that our best measure of impact will come with contextualization. We’ll reach people we wouldn’t have reached, impact sectors of campus we wouldn’t have impacted, change systems we wouldn’t have changed, and love like we wouldn’t have loved.
Because, after all, love tailors, doesn’t it? Hospitality adjusts to its audience, right? If your campus was your kid (a strange metaphor, I know), would you be one of those parents who never changes his parenting style based on the unique characteristics of the child?