Last weekend’s Chalmers Center conference shared – among other things – some principles for effective ministry design. And one of many is working with a “target” audience as we develop our ministries/missions to them.

This principle has a lot to offer college ministry, largely because it doesn’t seem to be widespread.

On the one hand, many college ministries enter a campus with a blueprint in mind already. Maybe it derives from (or is copied directly from) a national organization’s time-tested approach. Maybe it’s simply in the head of the lead staffer, based on his previous experiences in college ministry. It might be a mix of these things and others, but the point is it’s developed without much – or any – input from present members of the campus tribe.

Other times – though more rarely – campus ministries are simply student-directed from the beginning. Maybe a group of students start a Bible study, and over time it gets big (and formalized). Or perhaps a larger organization – a church, a regional version of a campus-based ministry, etc. – “commissions” students to basically start and run their “site” of that ministry on their own campus. There are other ways this may begin or evolve. The point is, this approach is at the other end of the spectrum; students are entirely (or almost entirely) overseeing the initiation and development of their college ministry.

What I think is worth considering is an approach to starting college ministries that truly incorporates present students in figuring out how best to reach their peculiar tribe. I don’t know yet what all this entails, but it certainly means lots of groundwork, months of preparation before starting.And that presents the first barrier: few campus-based ministries and even fewer churches would be patient enough to wait for launch, in this particularly missiological approach.

(And that presents the first barrier: few campus-based ministries and even fewer churches would be patient enough to wait for such a ministry to launch, despite the fact that it’s a particularly missiological approach.)