BY: MIKE RONALDSON
What are the requirements to get started? Do people need to have a college degree to be able to do campus ministry? What are the best techniques presently used to do campus ministry?
To get started in campus ministry, the necessary ingredients are not all that different from other areas of outreach. One way to approach a new effort is as follows:
A.) Pray and fast about your local campus. B.) Talk to your spiritual leadership. C.) Research your campus. D.) Designate a leader.
E.) Get organized and choose an approach. F.) Go ye therefore…
Note: “Choose someone with a college degree” is not included in the above requirements. Students will listen to somebody who genuinely cares for them. While previous experience at a college or university is an obvious advantage, it is not necessary. Also, do not be overly concerned that you might not “know as much” as you may perceive the students do. Just as an art history major is not expected to know anything about microbiology, the person representing themselves as “majoring” in Jesus Christ is only expected to know about Him. With the Holy Spirit in our lives, we in-fact are the experts in our field.
Let’s discuss each of these a little bit more.
A. Pray and fast about your local campus. This is absolutely vital. No matter how organized we get, no spiritual endeavor will succeed without God’s help. This was clearly taught by Jesus and remains true today. “… If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” ( Matthew 17:20-21).
B. Talk to your spiritual leadership. The support of a local church is also vital to the success of campus outreach. Students need to be provided with a church framework
that is able to address their spiritual and social needs. It is also important for students to understand their role and responsibilities to the local church in whatever area in which they will eventually live and work after graduation.
As in all matters of outreach and ministries within the church, campus ministry must by done “decently and in order.” “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
C. Research your campus. There is a wide variation in the type and character of college and university campuses. The characteristics of a local community college varies widely from that of a large state college. Ways to gather information include asking students who attend the school, calling the school public relations office, visiting their home page on the Internet, or simply walking around the campus to have a look for yourself. If nothing else, take a class! Following are a few questions that may help to define the target:
1. How many students are enrolled?
2. How big is the campus itself?
3. What are the busiest months of the school year?
4. What are the best days of the week and the best hours in the day to
conduct campus outreach?
5. Are the students mainly commuters or residents?
6. Are the buildings scattered or clustered?
The answers to these questions will help to determine how many campus workers are needed, what kind of method would be best in reaching students, what the best times of the year and of the day would be most effective for campus ministry, and how much time should be allotted per visit. With this knowledge, wasted time and effort can be avoided.
This is consistent with the approach the apostle Paul took in Acts 17:1-2. Paul chose the place and time of his outreach in accord with the habits of the Jews, his evangelistic targets. Simply put, he went where most of the people would be at the time of his visit.
D. Designate a leader. Every successful organization has somebody in charge; campus ministry is no different. This individual will serve as the focal point for the effort, and is also accountable to the local pastor. In addition, this is an excellent opportunity to develop spiritual responsibility in the leader and their co-workers.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians. 4:11-12).
E. Get organized and choose an approach. Experience from successful ministries around North America indicates that there is really no one particular “best” method or approach to use in campus outreach. A variety of possibilities will be described later, and a basic plan should be identified as part of the getting started process. As experience is gained, the best way to do outreach at your particular campus will become clear.
In a practical sense, it will be very helpful to keep in mind the strength of the local church base in starting your ministry. It would make the job much easier if there are several people interested in the ministry and if the church has a high level of commitment to campus evangelism. (Financial backing also may be helpful, but not necessary.) Campus ministry can work without these resources, but if they are available, the campus minister should use them wisely and coordinate them effectively.
College students in the local church provide the best source of help. They are on campus several times a week, know their way around, have contacts with other students on a peer level, and understand the attitudes of college students. In fact, older persons who are students may be more effective than younger persons who are not.
Most college students enjoy and respect talent of any kind. If the local church has a talent base in music, art, dramatics, or literature, it should be channeled into campus ministry. Instrumental and vocal music is especially helpful in leading worship in on-campus meetings, if that is the approach which is taken. It also may serve as a drawing card in special, music-oriented services. A broad talent base in the church can be imaginatively used to enhance outreach and ministry on campus in a variety of ways.
Leadership potential among the ministry team must be sought out and actively trained. Many groups mistakenly concentrate all or most leadership functions in one person. This is not always intentional. Many times it happens because people who promise to help do not show up, or because no one else is capable of doing the job. Whenever possible, however, it is better to share these responsibilities, not only for practical purposes, but also so that the fate of the ministry will not be tied to a single leader. Moreover, when more people are involved, the capacity for multiple forms of outreach increases as well.
The organizer should break the ministry down into manageable tasks that individuals can handle and continue to teach the ministry team about the spiritual responsibility involved in each task. Training is not easy, but as the example of Jesus Himself shows, placing the work into the hands of others is richly rewarding.
F.) Go ye therefore… “Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:31).
The most important part of any campus ministry effort is the “doing.” While being organized is obviously necessary, nothing is accomplished if the plan is never actually implemented. The ideal church which can supply all of the suggested attributes of a campus outreach effort probably does not exist. Take whatever tools God has provided, and let Him work in and through your team.
2.0 General Considerations
Whatever style of ministry is planned, experience has indicated a few considerations to keep in mind:
A. The Bible – Students are quite used to having a text book for every class. Keeping as many of the activities as possible based on sound Biblical teaching is quite consistent with normal expectations.
B. The Language Barrier – Terms used routinely in church, while completely appropriate coming over the pulpit, may not be well understood on-campus. The unfortunate fact is that many students are not familiar with any sort of church culture in a real way, much less one that is Biblically based. Showing in scripture where Jesus died for each of our sins is probably preferable to asking someone if they have been “washed in the blood.”
C. Creativity in ministry – Novel approaches to campus ministry keep people refreshed and the work interesting. While some people may be more resourceful than others, every worker should be encouraged to continually try new ideas to reach people. They can take advantage of holidays, seasons, campus events, special interests, and even news stories in order to make them vehicles for getting out the gospel. Newspaper ads, radio spots, flyers, posters, displays, personalized tracts, concerts, banquets, picnics, parties, prayer meetings, trips, dinners, and many other kinds of campus ministry tools all await a new touch of imagination.
D. Resisting discouragement – Campus workers need to be aware that flat, unproductive periods occur in all ministries. No one fully understands why. We just know it happens. Sometimes, however, we can pinpoint reasons such as rebuilding years, flagging interest, personal failures, or shifts in spiritual direction. A ministry team must be trained to meet these situations with prayer, fasting, and a willingness to engage in healthy, honest self-criticism. Of course, wrong attitudes must be corrected, and necessary changes must be made, but the team must maintain a determined resistance against discouragement.
E. Let God be God – The path of any evangelism effort is impossible to predict. Remaining sensitive to the Spirit, and allowing God to work through us is always the way to achieve the best long-term results. Remember, every soul that is brought into the Kingdom is o living miracle, and worth every bit of effort. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worth in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Effusions. 3:20-21).