Protecting Your Investment: Partnering with Campus Ministries

When I started doing young adult ministry, things were going great. Our Sunday school class was growing and students were wanting to have a mid-week gathering. As I started to talk with students to gather a census on when would be a good time to meet, I started to notice a trend. As much as my students wanted to have a midweek gathering none of them could commit to one, because they were already committed to a campus ministry that met during the week. In fact, I was learning that these campus ministries had something happening every single night of the week, making it impossible for my church to even start a midweek gathering because of how involved my students were. We ended up settling to meet on a Sunday night.

It was exciting to be able to start a new bible study time, but it was frustrating to no end that I couldn’t meet during the week because of campus ministries  The love/hate relationship our churches have with any campus ministry, whether youth or college, can be unsettling. And the truth is, we have the Church to blame for this relationship. We developed campus ministries as another way of reaching students for Christ, which is great! Yet, instead of the Church stepping up and discipling these students, we let the campus ministries take the discipleship role they never should of had in the first place. The Church created this culture, and I believe one of the reasons why churches don’t have young adult ministries is because they believe the campus ministries will take care of it for them.

Now hear me, I am not against campus ministries. I understand their purpose and I’m thankful they can be an on going presence for Christ on campus, however,  instead of being upset over the paradigm we’ve inherited, I’ve chosen to partner with campus ministries. They are not our enemy, they are our friends, and both sides need to start playing nice. I believe if the Church is the one who created this culture, then it needs to be the Church to take the first steps in bridging the gap. Here is how you can begin partnering with campus ministries, and what you should share with your students about them:

  • Meet with their leaders: I’ve learned many on campus ministers feel like they are on an island all by themselves. They have all these churches that can be a potential lifeline, but none of them seem to be throwing one to them. In all honesty, its a lot easier for us to find them, than it is for them to find us. Find their leader and invite them out to lunch. Find out  why they work with their organization and what ministries they already have established. Let them know you’re there for them and want to help out as much as you can.
  • Go to their events: Make time to visit the events they have on campus. Not only does this show you actually want to partner with them, but this is a great opportunity to meet with students, who are not going to a church. Furthermore, the more you show up to these events, the more students will recognize you when you visit their campus. Leaders for campus ministries cannot promote one church over the other, but they can share with their students who you are and you can promote your church all you want. Show up and be a presence!
  • Share with your students the purpose of campus ministries: Ministries on campus are an extension of the Church, not the Church. Church leaders and campus leaders understand that, students who participate in these ministries don’t. Share with your students the purpose of a campus ministry and how they can use them as tools to meet students who don’t go to church.
  • Teach your students the difference between a church and an organization: It’s unfortunate that we have embraced the idea, just because we hang out with a fellow believer, we have been the Church. This is a flat out lie. Even though Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (ESV), we forget that this verse is at the end of an entire passage about what the Church does in the name of Christ. Church is intentional, and there are elements we participate in that make a church, a church, i.e, baptism, communion, elders and deacons, using of gifts, calling and sending believers to ministry, church discipline, etc. Most students don’t know there’s a difference, and teaching them about what makes a church will help them distinguish between the two.

In the end, we all have the same goal in mind. We want to see students come to know Christ as their Savior, and move them to being the body of believers Christ has called us to be. We will never be able to do that effectively if we are not working together. If you are a minister at a church or the leader of a campus ministry, make plans to meet with one or the other this week. Take the time to start open dialogue about how a partnership can begin.

If you partner with a campus ministries what have you done to create an open dialogue?

If you are a leader for a campus ministry, what would you like ministers at a church to know about campus ministry?

 

22 Comments

  1. "Church leaders and campus leaders understand that, students who participate in these ministries don’t." This is a great line and is applicable to a hundred different settings. We can't blame students for getting things like this WRONG if we don't take a few minutes to explain to them what is RIGHT.
    • I couldn't agree with you more Aaron. Too often we assume people know things they really don't, and instead of talking about, we just go off of faith and hope someone has already told them. If we wouldn't assume so much we probably wouldn't have so many breakdowns in communication.
  2. "Church leaders and campus leaders understand that, students who participate in these ministries don’t." This is a great line and is applicable to a hundred different settings. We can't blame students for getting things like this WRONG if we don't take a few minutes to explain to them what is RIGHT.
    • I couldn't agree with you more Aaron. Too often we assume people know things they really don't, and instead of talking about, we just go off of faith and hope someone has already told them. If we wouldn't assume so much we probably wouldn't have so many breakdowns in communication.
  3. Another great post in this series. Loved your first point, that we need to meet with their leaders. Young Life and Campus Crusade are just getting established in one or two schools in the greater Boston Area, and I'd love to meet with them more, and have a bit, but its so easy to get consumed in our schedules and move to the silo ministry, that our ministry is the only one trying to do anything. We need to stay Kingdom minded, and I fully believe Campus Ministries work better in partnership with the church, and the church is more effective in partnership with Campus Ministries.
    • I couldn't agree with you more Ben. Great things happen when a church works with any organization. I will admit, sometimes it can be hard trying to establish a partnership due to scheduling conflicts. I have a good relationship with the BSM director at the college in my city, but the young life director for one of our local high schools is a different story. I could only meet with him for lunch, but could never make it to any of his events because they always happened during a youth or college time. There's a lot of work to be done on both sides, but I believe a partnership can work if both parties are willing to figure out a way to.
  4. Another great post in this series. Loved your first point, that we need to meet with their leaders. Young Life and Campus Crusade are just getting established in one or two schools in the greater Boston Area, and I'd love to meet with them more, and have a bit, but its so easy to get consumed in our schedules and move to the silo ministry, that our ministry is the only one trying to do anything. We need to stay Kingdom minded, and I fully believe Campus Ministries work better in partnership with the church, and the church is more effective in partnership with Campus Ministries.
    • I couldn't agree with you more Ben. Great things happen when a church works with any organization. I will admit, sometimes it can be hard trying to establish a partnership due to scheduling conflicts. I have a good relationship with the BSM director at the college in my city, but the young life director for one of our local high schools is a different story. I could only meet with him for lunch, but could never make it to any of his events because they always happened during a youth or college time. There's a lot of work to be done on both sides, but I believe a partnership can work if both parties are willing to figure out a way to.
  5. In the article, are we referring to college/university (campus) or are we talking about high school campuses. I think that I got confused reading the article and reading the comments. I think that there is a difference in how I would respond to the article if I knew about a church in a college town or if we are talking about high school campus ministry.
      • I am currently serving as a campus pastor at a public university & as a youth coordinator at a local church. So, I think that I could probably engage from both sides of the aisle. I am on my phone though, so I may wait till I am on the comp. I think there are slight difference and on university side a difference from "denomination " ministry and parachurch ministry on campuses. The students perspectives
  6. In the article, are we referring to college/university (campus) or are we talking about high school campuses. I think that I got confused reading the article and reading the comments. I think that there is a difference in how I would respond to the article if I knew about a church in a college town or if we are talking about high school campus ministry.
    • The article is referring to college/university campus ministries, but I believe the points can be applied to middle school and high school campus ministries as well.
      • I am currently serving as a campus pastor at a public university & as a youth coordinator at a local church. So, I think that I could probably engage from both sides of the aisle. I am on my phone though, so I may wait till I am on the comp. I think there are slight difference and on university side a difference from "denomination " ministry and parachurch ministry on campuses. The students perspectives
  7. Great post friend. What about those young adults who don't go to college? I know that's not the point of this post, but I'd love to see a post on in it! PS I kinda love the banner/graphic for this post. I wish I had skillz.
    • Yea I thought the graphic was legit too. One day I'll be able to do cool stuff like that. As for young adults who don't go to college, my future post don't say much about them, however, I believe young adults who do and do not go to college are still working through the same issues, i.e., grappling with adulthood. So ministering to them is the same as ministering to those who do attend school.
  8. Great post friend. What about those young adults who don't go to college? I know that's not the point of this post, but I'd love to see a post on in it! PS I kinda love the banner/graphic for this post. I wish I had skillz.
    • Yea I thought the graphic was legit too. One day I'll be able to do cool stuff like that. As for young adults who don't go to college, my future post don't say much about them, however, I believe young adults who do and do not go to college are still working through the same issues, i.e., grappling with adulthood. So ministering to them is the same as ministering to those who do attend school.
  9. What do you do when that relationship breaks down? I have been in fulltime ministry for over a decade and I have never been able to build a successful partnership with a campus ministry. In fact these relationships have often been contentious.
    • I feel your pain. Sometimes the relationship feels like a give and take. I have to give some of my resources so I can have full access to their ministry. Almost like campus ministries are the gate keepers and I have to pay "taxes" to get in. Maybe not the best analogy, but I think it gets the point across. The idea here is that we try to build a relationship with campus organizations. It may not always work out, but you tried and that's what matters. And in all honesty, the relationship we have with campus organizations may always be contentious. The leader's organization has their own "quotas" they have to meet, and sometimes those "quotas" don't match up with trying to move students into a church setting. The system is flawed, but that shouldn't stop you from trying to make a relationship work.
  10. What do you do when that relationship breaks down? I have been in fulltime ministry for over a decade and I have never been able to build a successful partnership with a campus ministry. In fact these relationships have often been contentious.
    • I feel your pain. Sometimes the relationship feels like a give and take. I have to give some of my resources so I can have full access to their ministry. Almost like campus ministries are the gate keepers and I have to pay "taxes" to get in. Maybe not the best analogy, but I think it gets the point across. The idea here is that we try to build a relationship with campus organizations. It may not always work out, but you tried and that's what matters. And in all honesty, the relationship we have with campus organizations may always be contentious. The leader's organization has their own "quotas" they have to meet, and sometimes those "quotas" don't match up with trying to move students into a church setting. The system is flawed, but that shouldn't stop you from trying to make a relationship work.

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