Monday and yesterday, I posted some thoughts on collegiate ministry contextualization, one of the most important ingredients in achieving the best possible “mission to the campus tribe” to which God has called any college minister. To continue the line of thought, I want to offer a few “riffs” on just what this might look like – not simply so someone on a campus with certain characteristics can have a guide, but to get each of us thinking about our own campus’s “quirks” (and how we can contextualize accordingly).
The Land of Achievement
As I discussed with a local college minister last week, SMU here in Dallas has fostered a strong focus on achievement within its student body. For example, there’s a very high percentage of students who have chosen to double-major, which is something you notice right off as you ask the normal, “Where are you from? What’s your major?” questions at the beginning of a school year. An interesting sort of academic ambition is definitely a part of the Mustang tribe culture. The education is certainly strong at SMU, but the college ministers would probably say that achievement, even more than academics, is a focus for students.
So what questions or thoughts might a new college minister weigh at a place like this? If you were suddenly transplanted here and had to begin a ministry, how might you contextualize? The goal isn’t to coddle students in their weaknesses, but to meet them where they are… and to draw students who may not (at first) be interested in our Jesus at all.
Welcome to my brainstorm.
I’d immediately start paying attention to how this “bent” could affect our schedule. If students are consistently busy (or at least think they are), do biweekly or monthly gatherings make more sense than weekly ones? Especially if I want these busy students to learn the value of church involvement on the weekends, too?
Is there a day of the week that’s preferable – even Friday nights, as I’ve seen some ministries on more academic-concerned campuses adopt?
Should we avoid summertime involvement (like mission trips), but double-down on winter or Spring Break?
Dovetailing with their Focus
If they’re already thinking a lot about their majors, future careers, and “achievement” opportunities, are there ways we can tie in to that?
Occasional career-oriented seminars for the student body might be a major opportunity. I’d look into bringing Veritas Forum and other outside orgs / speakers. And right off the bat, I might want to present a “Student Success Seminar” during orientation week – followed by several weeks of freshman discipleship (so God, not “the cultural focus,” determines their steps from the outset).
What if, instead of a “large group meeting,” we formed “medium group meetings,” organized within majors or colleges/sections of our university?
What if we helped our students find valuable, Christian-connected internships during the summer or after they graduate? IJM, Chick-fil-A, Growing Leaders, and other organizations would help with career goals and continuing to handle those goals “Christianly.”
I’d help students find Christian mentors from the community, too, who have excelled in their own fields but also in living out their faith.
Can we create missions opportunities that fit with various callings, tie in to the school’s “Alternative Spring Break” options, or otherwise go beyond the norm?
Of course, teaching on all sorts of related topics will likely happen a lot. Academics as a Christian. The Christian, Career, and Calling. Time Stewardship. I’d have to become an absolute expert on this – it’s a new topic for most of us, right? And then out of the overflow of what I learn, I’d teach.