Last week I started blogging about a unique road trip I had after the yearlong exploration. On that trip (also nationwide), I got the “inside scoop” on 10 Chi Alpha chapters, since I’d been commissioned by the national office to do just that. But when you explore one college ministry, you might just learn things that apply to all. I did, at least. (See the first posts here and here.)
College Ministry Can Take a Variety of Forms (Believe It or Not!)
In the course of those ten visits, I certainly saw several ministries that took a pretty “classic” form. But even in that relatively small number of chapters (one-thirtieth of Chi Alpha’s 300+ sites), I found some less common forms that seemed to be working well.
The first was the large North Dakota State XA… which just happened to be multi-site, with the other site situated across state lines! Minnesota State Moorhead held the other “half” of this chapter. But not only was this chapter multi-site, it was anchored deeply in a local church, Fargo First Assembly. While this sort of “church anchoring” is the norm for some groups (I’m thinking of the Churches of Christ campus ministries and some expressions of the CCO), it’s certainly not standard across most campus-based ministry organizations.
Second, I ran into the Chi Alpha at Winona State in Winona, Minnesota. (Because that visit took place over a weekend, that’s one of those handful of schools I couldn’t get a T-shirt for.) In Winona State’s case, XA had grown in connection with a collegiate church plant called The Edge – the church is pastored by Chuck, and his wife Stephanie is the Chi Alpha campus pastor. This Chi Alpha chapter also has a student center building, something pretty widespread in some denominations (Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Wesley Foundation, etc.), but not really in Chi Alpha.
The point of this lil’ recollection isn’t to encourage church-anchoring or buildings or multi-site college ministries; it’s to celebrate variety. I’ve long argued for more variety, and I’ll keep right on doing that. Because sadly, we often thing college ministry should – or at least will – look a certain way.
Planting Where We Get Less Press
Another really fun aspect of that long-ago trip was seeing just how “out of the way” those campuses ended up being. Name the campuses you’re truly familiar with in this list:
- Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
- University of California Davis
- Winona State University
- Minnesota State University Moorhead
- Rowan University
Nearly half of the campuses I visited on that trip – designed to exemplify the Chi Alpha story to a national audience, remember – weren’t flagship state schools or prestigious scholarly institutions.
And yet Chi Alpha chose to celebrate the work in those places. Of course, we know that isn’t always the case; college ministry at places like Rowan University doesn’t get as much attention or funding or hoorahs from back home. But at some point we need to work to convince Christians – especially the supporters, overseers, and other “sponsors” of collegiate ministry – that going to the “unknown” (and often “unreached”) campus tribes is an awesome call.