It was 2007 and I was ready to go to college and find myself. I grew up in church but I hardly lived like it when my parents weren’t watching. I thought I was a Christian, but I didn’t understand anything about Lordship and what it meant to truly follow Jesus. Many high school students leave to college with this same foundation. Carrying our family’s faith without developing our own personal walk with Jesus.
However, Campus ministry was a game changer for me. It was the tool that God used to draw me near to him and bring me to repentance. I’m so thankful that I was able to find a ministry that allowed me to find my identity in Christ and develop me into the man that I am today. So much so that when I stopped going to college, I went to school for campus ministry and began raising support as a full time missionary. I was involved in the campus ministry world for about six years.
Sadly, I am a part of the minority and not the majority. Many high school students that regularly go to church end up not going to church when they get to college.
It was this reality that kept me so engaged with students and ministry on campus. There are so many things that campus ministry can do for the transitioning believer and also the unbeliever.
The Benefits of Campus Ministry
One of the main ways that God was able to draw me in was by showing me what community looked like. I remember being so shocked that there were other young people that were serious about serving God. I thought they were like me, where I would go to Bible study, then head to the club that night. Nope, they showed me something completely different. They became my brothers (and sisters) and helped me become a doer of the word instead of simply being a hearer.
Campus ministries have a unique opportunity to create a place of community for the college student that is trying to turn their life around and live for Jesus. It is almost like a safe haven full of encouragement. It is not easy to drop everything and follow Jesus — if you were like me and you were far from home, and far from the friends you grew up with. Campus ministries have the ability to help students grow past those worldly fears and develop a healthy fear of God instead.
Another thing that campus ministries can do is teach a healthy view of discipleship. In the consumeristic culture we live in, campus ministries have the ability to help students develop a sense of selflessness that is rare. Discipleship is not just about following Jesus alone. It is about following and knowing Jesus and helping others know him as well. It can be real easy to get consumed with self and all of your personal needs when you get saved. However, in campus ministry, when you serve and help others grow, you see how much God will do in you also.
What Discipleship is Not | Wade-O Radio
The Dangers of Campus Ministry
Just like any organization, being good at something doesn’t come easy. Sometimes an organization can be good at one thing but not the right thing. While I served in ministry, these are a few of the observations that I found to be potentially dangerous.
While I mentioned that community can be great for the young and new believer, it can also become a community of only believers. This is dangerous in the college setting because it can hinder the growth and impact that your ministry may be shooting for. Events can be targeted towards Christians even if they are meant to reach the unbeliever (example: Titles of events that only Christians will be attracted to).
It’s like when you live in the suburbs and all your friends are in the suburbs, but then you go and try to lead a church and outreach in the inner city. You will be sniffed out from a mile away. When you begin to focus solely on the Christians in your ministry, you will notice that you create a system that helps Christians become better Christians. Instead of a system that helps unbelievers come to know God and do life with other believers on mission for God.
When I say be on mission, I’m referring to Matthew 28:19-20. Going out and making disciples. I’ve seen it and even done it before. I thought I was “making disciples” when really, I was helping someone that got saved, grow in the Lord. There is nothing wrong with helping each other grow in the Lord, and that’s why it’s tricky. One of the fundamental ways we grow, is to simply, go!
Being a Christian and evangelizing should almost be synonymous. As a Christian, we should not hide this good news and just encourage those that already know it. We should be screaming from the mountain tops to those that don’t! Don’t allow yourself to forsake the mission of reaching new people because you are so consumed with growing the people that you already have in your ministry.
My last observation (for now) is how easy it is to simply create a Christian version of everything we see on campus that’s “worldly.” College life is almost automatically related to party life. It is real easy to try and sanctify everything that is fun in the world’s eyes and create your own “safe” version.
This is dangerous because it doesn’t help the believer learn how to operate in society when they leave college. Sure, it may save them from some drunken nights and bad decisions, but it may also, successfully create a socially awkward person that has no idea how to operate in an environment that’s not “saved”.
While this may not be the intent of most ministries, it teaches students to run from the world rather than be a Christian in it. I’ve seen it first hand, people that were super saved in college, leave and become a little more “worldly” or lax in their values. Why is that? It’s because if your ministry is not careful, people will have a foundation based on the Christian bubble you’ve created instead of the solid rock of Jesus that cannot be shaken.
Popping the Bubble
Now that we’ve talked about the good and the bad, how do we make sure we’ve burst the bubbles that so many campus ministries intentionally or unintentionally create?
It’s simple, but difficult. First, you should brainstorm ways to stay missional, while also nourishing the members you have. Maybe it’s something like attending sporting events and not sitting next to each other. Going out to an event with the purpose of engaging the culture while knowing your brothers and sisters in the faith are spread out all around you.
Also, find ways to re-cast vision and the mission of your ministry. If you believe that your campus ministry is on that campus to help reach the lost, make sure that your members know that. Don’t let your ministry become focused on just saving the saved. There is room to reach those that grew up in church while also reaching those that don’t want anything to do with church.
Lastly, do not be afraid of a mess. Helping equip students to be solid Christians in the real world may be a little tougher than creating students that only know how to survive by being with Christians, but it’s worth it. So worth it. Too many ministries create their own bubbles and don’t realize how damaging that is for the Christian that will one day have to leave that bubble.
The culture should help a new, young, and old believer be prepared to work amidst non-Christians and still be an influencer. As Christians, we should add value to our workplace. We should not be hermit crabs that hide from every conversation and only get vocal when the topic gets religious. That’s not repping Jesus. That’s shaming him. Be a light.
These are simply observations and I hope that you are encouraged and even challenged to be apart of a ministry that is engaged with culture and standing firm on Jesus Christ.