The Future of College Ministry

Here is an article I wrote for Youthworker Journal about the future of college ministry. It’s all about the need to shift relational paradigms from the 21st Century back to the 1st Century in order to continue making an impact in the ever-changing world of college campuses.

What do you think about the philosophy change I sketched?

Much love.

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  • Jack Harris

    As someone who works directly with college students on a college campus, often in counseling/crisis situations, there is much I can agree with here. The challenge for evangelical christian campus ministers will not only be the ability to accept the shift in paradigms, but the willingness to understand that students are no longer interested in a highly filtered, hierarchical–message “handed down from on high” theology.

    Attitudes and religious beliefs regarding issues such as abortion, gay rights, death penalty and even The Bible as a source of knowledge have radically changed.

    I serve on a campus crisis response team and it’s not unusual, a few times of year, to find that what has been at the heart of a crisis situation for a student has been connected to a negative experience at a campus ministry. In many of those cases, those have been evangelical campus ministry experiences. Many of these groups insist upon ultimate allegiance with respect to theology in order to receive conditional support from them. Anything less, results in ostracism from the group.

    When you infuse the issues that many college students go through, and when there is a disconnect between the questioning college youth and the very narrow theology that is being shared with them–the results some times in potential suicide, dropping out of school and, at the very least, ending up in our college counseling centers.

    Ultimately, it is left to college to intervene and help the student get back on track. The tragedy for the church is that, often times the window of opportunity to reach out to that college student in an “incarnational” way is lost. I do not want to give the impression that ALL evangelical christian campus ministries are highly dysfunctional and unhealthy. On the contrary, some of the best collaborations I have had have been Baptist Student Union and Reformed University Fellowship.

    So from my side of the fence, I would really implore campus ministers to work closely with student affairs and counseling folks so that we can find some common ground and common knowledge about how we can work together to best help students we serve.

  • Jack – I couldn’t agree with you more! Of the multitude of campuses I’ve been on over the last few years the one thing that I see as such a huge lack is that the campus ministers, for whatever reason, don’t always partner and work with the student affairs, res hall, and counseling departments. And the campus ministers that I know who do… their ability to gain credibility and influence in all areas of campus life are dramatically more positive and efficient! And those students at your university better be thanking their lucky stars you’re around!!! 🙂