college ministry

The 5 Big Issues in Campus Ministry | Missiology 2

For the first thought on missiology in a college context, click here.

Steve Lutz inspired these posts, so make sure you read what he is saying here.

We need a missiology of our context: Higher Education/Academia

Steve’s second assertion expands the vision of college ministries beyond simply thinking about students, but as the institution as a whole:

We should be asking, “What is it about Higher ed that makes it a particularly challenging, strategic, and exciting mission field? What are the common defeaters to belief here? What are the institutional, social, and cultural obstacles to the Gospel here? What would this sector of society look like if it was increasingly renewed by the Gospel?”

I am thoroughly excited about this kind of vision, which is thinking through the broader context of college ministry to include the whole institution, as well as the surrounding city.  Why is it important to think this way?  Because there are 16,500 faculty and staff at the University of Texas which means for every three students, there is one faculty or staff member who has a significant presence on campus.

The concept of campus missional communities will be instrumental in reaching the differing pockets of students around campus, but it will take the larger body of Christ to influence and reach into the entire spectrum of people on a campus.  We have a number of professors and staff who are connecting with our local church, and I’m hoping to foster connections both between them and with students to help foster the questions of “how can I best incarnate the gospel in this place?”.

Secondly, there are a number of classes on our campus that consistently challenge students in their faith (including one in particular – The Rise of Christianity).  It has been good practice to listen to students, and help them think biblically, critically and philosophically as the wrestle, often for the first time, with perspectives that challenge their long held assumptions.  We are also in the process of developing resources which will help students with appropriate responses to these challenges.

Thirdly, there are a number of world-class Christian thinkers on our campus (J. Budziszewski, Marvin Olasky, Dan Brinks, etc.), and making students aware of these individuals and encouraging interaction with them.  These are the most invested individuals in God’s movement on campus, and we’d be foolish to ignore interacting with them.

The largest barrier, I think, to engaging campus holistically tends to be the focus of personnel resources.  Most people who are pursuing college ministry have a specific reason they get involved: the students.  It’s difficult to prioritize meeting with professors and staff members at the university when you passion and expertise is with students.

The answer to the barrier is, in many ways, the local church.  The resources already exist, and often times in fact are connecting with campus leaders, it’s just that the worlds don’t tend to overlap.  We have the great blessing of having a local body that is reaching a growing diversity of ages and are connecting with students and professors alike, but for most campus ministries, a better strategy may be cooperating with existing churches and investigating where faculty and staff are engaging.

Engaging faculty and staff will give us a much broader understanding of the missiological setting of campuses, and the differing dynamics of reaching them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so chime in with a comment!

college ministry

The 5 Big Issues in Campus Ministry | Missiology 1


Steve Lutz is doing a great job of working through significant questions for campus ministries, and I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to think through these as well.

Click here for the overview of the issues.


Steve asserts that there are three major components that need development in college/campus ministry:

  1. We need a missiology of our people-group: college students.
  2. We need a missiology of our context: higher education/academia.
  3. We need to practically about what missional campus ministry looks like.

I’ll post my thoughts on each in a few posts.

Missiological perspective of the people group: College Students

From a purely missiological understanding, I think it is difficult to say that college students are a “people group” as it is traditionally defined – a group of people in which the gospel can travel without encountering a barrier in language or in culture.  There are certainly generational and cultural differences, but I would probably consider college students as a sub-category of a larger people group.

I think research studies on the broad scale (UnChristian, Lost and Found, etc.) are useful in understanding generalities and typical worldviews of this group of people, but the best research happens through listening to the many voices that swirl around your campus.  Localized, specific demography is far more important to the work you will be doing in campus reaching than general statistics and broad scale numbers.

Why is this?  Because campus ministry is by nature a fluid, dynamic, and rapidly changing environment which require incredible adaptability and flexibility in methodology.  Every year at the University of Texas, we have ~12,000 new freshmen entering each year, and a complete turnover of the campus population happens every 4 to 4.5 years.  From a missiological standpoint, this is an incredibly complex and difficult problem, as the “people group” is changing so rapidly.

So what are we to do?  I think in many ways the answer is to identify what I call “communities of continuity” on a campus.  Most people would define their strategy for reaching campus as a missionary by the typical college delineation (major, graduating class, dorm, etc.). Some of these are good choices, but are not necessarily places or environments that students are primarily engaging in community.

Perhaps a better alternative is to search for places on your campus that have continuity over the span of 3 to 4 years in relationships and identity.  Fraternities and Sororities are a great example of existing communities of continuity.  The are self-sustaining and perpetuating, and typically a primary place of relational engagement.  There are some clubs and academic programs similar to this, as well as most athletic teams.

From a strategic standpoint, this then is where the cultural exegesis needs to happen.  What does this particular grouping of students think about the gospel, and how can I incarnationally engage them as the church?  This is where the large scale studies can be helpful, but are often limited in accuracy.  Students are the best missionaries in this context, because they are already engaging in these communities, and we must learn to equip them to speak the gospel into their context well.

Hopefully I’ll write on this more soon…
college ministry

5 Big Issues in College Ministry | The Sentinel

Steve Lutz at The Sentinel has a great post on 5 major issues in campus ministry.  Below is a summary, and I’ll definitely be writing some responses to this soon.

1. MISSIOLOGY: We need more work on a missiology of our people-group, including information on sociology, demographics, psychology, and worldview of college students.

We also need a missiology of our context: higher ed/academia.

2. HISTORY: Campus ministry has an interesting history, and a rich one. A quick survey of the history of awakenings/revivals, and of world missions, reveals that college students have played vital roles in ALL of them. We need more critical interactions with the history of campus ministry, which can affirm the contributions of people like Bill Bright, yet also draw out the unhelpful trajectories they’ve put us on. 

3. ECCLESIOLOGY: What ought to be the relationship between church and parachurch? What’s our theology of each entity?  What do we all need to work together on, and what should we do separately? How can the local church most effectively serve and reach out to students? Do we aim for age-and-stage program, or full integration? Do we plant college churches, or bus them into regular ones? In the age of house churches, what IS a church, anyway? These are all ecclesiological questions, and people have many different ways of answering them. Will we get closer to a consensus?

4. INNOVATION: How can we foster innovation in campus ministry? The world is rapidly changing, and yet much of campus ministry seems stale and stultified.

5. SUSTAINABILITY: This quote from Tim Keller serves as a good statement for what we need to address:

“A looming crisis for all American evangelical churches [and campus ministries] is that they cannot thrive outside of the shrinking enclaves of conservative and traditional people and culture. We have not created the new ministry and communication… models that will flourish and grow in the coming post-Christian very secular Western world. Our vision should be to develop campus ministries, new churches, [and] Christian education/discipleship systems that are effective in those fields in North America.” – Tim Keller

Chime in on the conversation at The Sentinel, and check out my thoughts!

college ministry links

Hyperlinks – 7.2.09 (College Ministry Edition)

Below are some links for those who are interested in College Ministry:

As always, you can find out what’s going on with The Austin Stone College Ministry at our blog.

college ministry missional

Integration vs. Mission | Exploring College Ministry

Benson Hines has a great discussion about integration of college ministry relative to mission here.

This has been a consistent struggle for us in the College Ministry at The Austin Stone, but definitely one that has yielded great fruit in ministry.  To summarize where we have landed, we:

  1. Deliberately integrate our weekly worship service, and will NOT begin a separate service just for college students.
  2. Provide specific environments and a few events aimed at assimilating college students, including a worship service on campus once per semester (Austin Stone on Campus audio and review).
  3. Deliberately integrate students into ministry opportunities that serve the church and serve our city.  Any opportunity that exists in open for any college student to participate, and we encourage students in that direction.
  4. We contextualize our missional community structure to mobilize students onto campus, and therefore have a separate ministry that is under the leadership of our overall missional community structure, but operates relatively independently.
  5. We have both integration and separation in our equipping ministry and global missions ministry.  There are specific opportunities just for students that equip and mobilize based on their schedule and life stage, but also students are welcome to engage in any of our other course/seminar/training environments and global mission opportunities.

There is never a perfect answer, but this has been an effective solution that affords opportunities for students to connect with people outside their lifestage, but also keep them invested in their mission field.