This was first posted on the yearlong road trip, but it still holds true. I’ve updated it, too.

What do you get when ministry to college students is organized within the “Halls of Academia”? What does that particular branch of collegiate ministry – “institutional college ministry,” or the University Ministry offices within Christian colleges – offer to the rest of us?

I’ve had the chance to explore quite a few major Christian colleges throughout the country, including meeting with staff members and directors in the spiritual life departments at many – whether those directors are known as “Campus Pastor,” “Chaplain,” “University Minister,” or otherwise.

Those have been some great meetings.

Probably the biggest thing that has jumped out to me from this branch of Collegiate Ministry is this: Many in these positions have thinking and learning as part of their ministry DNA.

These Campus Pastors are the college ministers most likely to talk to me about some new journal article that has helped them do ministry better. These people point me to books – and not necessarily college ministry books (which are in short supply), but to books on Spiritual Development or Organizational Management or Higher Education or some other field where principles can still inform what they do. They tell me about conferences they attend, questions they ask of others in their field, and papers they read (or write) that discuss even small details of their jobs.

Plenty, for instance, have mentioned the works of Fowler and Erickson from the world of psychology. Some have read Good to Great to streamline their operations or a book like Generation Me to better understand their audience. They might be keenly interested in the best ways to package (and encourage) Chapel services – often a key part of their school – and dutifully learn from others about good options.

No, not every secular or Christian resource that informs Collegiate Ministry work gets everything right – but these Campus Pastors know that. They eat the fish, throw away the bones, and build impactful ministries in the process.

For us outside this branch of Collegiate Ministry, let me tell you: There really is a whole world of contribution and collaboration there for helping us impact students. If you’re within sight of a Christian college, you might just wanna sit down with some of those ministers, because they may have really brilliant thoughts, resources, and ideas to offer.

I think being enveloped in an academic setting very naturally provides this focus. Of all the ministers I’ve encountered, these guys and gals treat this as normal, as expected, as simply part of what they do. That’s something the rest of us need to see.