How important is full-time college campus ministry? Is it merely an avenue for relatively inexperienced ministers to get their feet wet in ministry—something that should be viewed as an automatic stepping stone into something truly important? Or, is it an area of ministry of such high importance that it actually warrants experienced, long-term, high-quality leadership?
I’ve had friends who started out with me in campus ministry, who then moved on into overseas missions work, church planting in North America, and other opportunities. Some of them are now senior pastors, leading their own local congregations. This is great!
These are all important ministries and I’m still close friends with many of these individuals to this day. I know that many of those who start out in campus ministry, will later transition into other things. In fact, one of the reasons that college campus ministry is so important is the role that it can play in developing leaders.
However, as I continue to serve in ministry leadership, I’m concerned by another factor that I sometimes see influencing people to exit campus ministry. Sometimes college ministry can be seen as Junior Varsity—a place to start out when no one really wants you, or believes in you (at least not enough to hire you). In this faulty way of thinking, it’s a role to graduate from once you get sufficient experience to move on.
On recent survey I conducted among young college ministry leaders, I asked anonymous participants to give one word that described how they feel about their ministry. Many of these responses were fascinating. The saddest was the one which described their campus ministry as a “step-child”. I don’t know all the details of that situation, but clearly this individual didn’t feel that their ministry had much value in the eyes of others. This is heartbreaking.
Campus Ministry Is a Great Place to Gain Experience
For college students getting ready to graduate and serve in full-time ministry, campus ministry is a great place to start. I agree that campus ministry is a good opportunity to gain experience and to grow in leadership. But I disagree that it’s of lesser value or importance than any other ministry opportunity. (Even if it may have lesser status in the eyes of some.)
When did reaching the next generation of global leaders become unimportant? When did pursuing young adults at a critical turning point in their lives become insignificant? College ministry matters. It’s a big deal, and needs to be valued as such.
My encouragement to my brothers and sisters currently serving in campus ministry is this: Don’t lose your vision. Remember what a wreck you were when you were in college and how badly you needed the Gospel. Remember all the strategic reasons why you got into this in the first place. Remember the calling that God gave you.[shareable]My encouragement to my brothers and sisters in campus ministry is this: Don’t lose your vision.[/shareable]
We Need Old Campus Ministers
As Tim Casteel, a leader with Cru, effectively argues here, “we need old campus ministers.” We need seasoned leaders in campus ministries to wisely lead a younger generation of students and leaders. Though some will move on into other things, we need some campus ministers need to stay in this for the long haul. Who will lead the next generation of students to Christ? Who will coach a new generation of campus ministers? We need some seasoned leaders to effectively reach university campuses with the Gospel.
No Guilt Trips Here
If God leads you to transition into another form of ministry then, by all means, go for it! I have no plans to transition out of college ministry myself, but I’m certainly open to whatever God wants me to do. He can can redirect me whenever he chooses. What I’ve said here isn’t intended to be a guilt trip for those who have transitioned, or those praying through a possible transition.
My aim is to encourage you to never allow your own fears, insecurities, or anyone else to convince you that college ministry is less-than any other calling or ministry opportunity. It isn’t.