fishing for complements (not compliments)

An oldie but goodie, updated and important to ponder…

Since first exploring college ministries, I’ve discussed the role (and value) of complementary college ministries, and I covered those unique efforts in Reaching the Campus Tribes, too. My hope is that eventually all the individuals aspiring to “do college ministry” or to plant a ministry for a specific organization (such as Cru, the Southern Baptists, Chi Alpha, or the church starting a college ministry) would consider the complementary route as a real possibility that can achieve amazing results.

In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s how I describe complementary college ministry in the book:

Some college ministry efforts will best help reach campuses by approaching those mission fields with an eye toward complementing. In fact, a fully complementary college ministry may focus on only one area of students’ discipleship, allowing for specialized impact in an important area. Other ministries may not limit their work to this extent, but complementing may still be a key component of their structures and activities. – Reaching the Campus Tribes, page 115

(You can see more there on pages 115-116.)

But here’s something to consider: If you’re already at the helm of a large, “classic” college ministry, how do you feel about a new ministry coming to town? Wouldn’t it sometimes be preferable for a new ministry to get set up in this way – complementary – especially if there are already several healthy, impactful college ministries on your campus? Why simply recreate what everybody else is doing?

So the question for the launcher (whether an individual college minister or a supporting organization) whether you’ve considered complementary college ministry.

But here’s the question for those with established ministries: How good are you at allowing our own work to be “complemented”? Would you be okay with some of your students learning top-level leadership – if it was taught really well – from somebody else? What if your students were being discipled by a local church elder (instead of by your fellow staff members)? Can you see the value in a “paraministry” with specific expertise in training students for young adult life after college? Or a Christian fraternity that raises up Christian men in a way that complements their involvement and leadership in your ministry?

It’s not that I believe that every possible complementary college ministry effort is needed. Not at all. But I’m a big fan of the approach itself, and I hope you’ll consider being a fan, too. But for this to work, it will require current, more “traditional” campus ministries having a Kingdom mindset, a shepherd’s heart, a missional approach, and an openness to what God wants to do through other works.

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