more like missions: presence

As almost the flip-side of yesterday’s exhortation to have a comprehensive goal, today I want to encourage you to consider how you might increase your “ministry of presence” this semester. Isn’t this what our own international missionary friends attend to, even in the midst of overarching plans and fundamental tasks? They connect relationally with various people in their town, even if that’s not their primary “reason” for the mission.

I wouldn’t usually re-post content from only a month earlier, but in this case, the topic fits too well. So in case you missed it – or because you not have the chance to build your presence on campus this semester – here’s what I wrote last month, edited for a new semester:

Having a “ministry of presence” means simply sitting, being around, connecting with people organically as an adopted member of their campus tribe. It means hours or whole days regularly spent in the student center or in some other well-trafficked area. It means visiting campus events or various other happenings, too, like athletics or orientation or organization fairs. Maybe even attending class on occasion, or auditing a class for a semester. In any case, you know your campus and where a ministry of presence could be a ministry indeed.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the activities and rhythms of “Doing College Ministry” that we neglect being there. We might even make the excuse that we’re always “here” for students – meaning they can contact us when needed – but “here” is not the same as being there, “on their turf and on their terms,” which is the handy, shorthand, practical definition I use for the widely ballyhooed term “missional.”

It’s amazing what you can learn from time spent there, too: the campus culture you pick up on, the students and types of students you meet that (probably) won’t ever come to your ministry, the understanding you gain of the administration and staff and how they’re actually running the school. You talk to students you know, of course, and can even encourage them to come by your “office hours” on campus. It’s not wasted time, if you’re doing it right. You get work done, catch up on reading, pray for the campus you’re looking at, even have your own devotional time with the Lord… all while you wait to see who He might drop into your booth in the student center, or who you might bump into (student or staff) at a sports event or campus party.

I’m well aware that this sort of thing “makes sense” at some schools more than others. But I would also guess that it would be impactful at a lot more schools than we’d imagine. Even a day on campus every week or two might work wonders for your job as a missionary to that campus.

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