Wednesday, August 27, 2014

College Ministry and Colleges

It seems that the most difficult ministry for modern churches to be successful in is the college ministry. I should know....I am the associate pastor of students at my church, encompassing everything from middle school to college. When I talk to my colleagues around the country, friends from college, seminary, and other ministry events and partnerships, they have a similar sentiment. We all have similar yet different struggles. One of my friends has a large college group, but very few students will commit to the church body and become leaders. The majority of my friends struggle just to get college students in the door. Another prominent problem is that many college students do not want to graduate to the next age bracket and prefer to stay in youth ministry.

Bill Bright has been quoted as saying, "If we can win the campus today, we will win the world tomorrow." We know that this is true as student ministers; otherwise, we would not be in the position that we are. We invest strategically in the future leaders of the world. Why then do our efforts have little to show for it. The Barna Group has asserted that on average 60% of high school students leave the church when they get to their twenties. As a student minister I feel this, and it affects me personally. I find it very emotional when students who were active in my youth group decided they have outgrown God and college group is not for them.

I believe this is in part because many college ministers do not know how to define success in their college ministry. Rupert Leary posted an article on The Gospel Coalition website called "5 Keys to Effective College Ministry." In his article, Leary outlined an intentional prayer plan, use a relational approach, recruit a team (he used term hire a team), wine the many by focusing on the few, and develop outreach projects and overseas trips as his five keys. These are all so important to college ministry but still does not answer my quest for what is a successful college ministry.

I do not use Rupert Leary, who is the campus outreach ministry at Campus Church in Raleigh, NC, to show his faults. I respect his work a lot as a disciple making minister to college students. I use his article as a good example of how I find lots of great resources for how to do college ministry and the principles of good ministry, but I still lack this intrinsic question of what makes for a successful college ministry. In other words, what is the goal of college ministry?

I believe this answer is found within the success of the church as a whole. A church is successful when it is providing relevant corporate worship, relationships with other Christians, outreach into the community and beyond through service ministries, evangelism, and church planting, and discipling of the saints through Bible study (Rick Warren via Acts 2:42-47). Furthermore, for the church to be healthy, it must be reproducing itself and continuing on into the next generation of believers.

This is what I want for my college ministry, which will just now be starting on Sept. 4. I want this for my college ministry, and to accomplish this goal I will employ all five of Leary's keys. Perhaps I am writing this blog today to flesh out what I know to be true, but also to be transparent in my apprehensions. I have never done college ministry directly until this position that I began in January of this year. I know that for my church to survive it needs a thriving student ministry, and I know that all church revitalization comes through the children, student, college, and young adult ministries. Perhaps the Lord will bless my feeble attempt to reach the throngs of college students in my city.

My new theme verse for campus ministry is Colossians 4:2-3, "Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door of the Messiah..."
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