The 5 Big Issues in Campus Ministry | Theological Foundations

Steve’s take is here, and below is his thesis for this issue in campus ministry:

Theological foundations are needed for the faithfulness and long-term fruitfulness of our ministries. We are running semester-long sprints when we need to be training students to run the marathon of the Christian life.

He then breaks the theological foundations important for campus ministry into 5 components:

  1. Practical Theology
  2. Biblical Theology
  3. Systematic Theology
  4. Church History
  5. Worldview/Apologetics

I’d love to write a post on each of these, but I’ll just chime in with a few tidbits, and let you read what he has to say.

Practical Theology

Practical theology, as Steve is terming it, is basically the fundamental disciplines and skills required for self leadership, missional community leadership, and ministry leadership.  We focus on three core areas of daily discipline for an individual – the reading of God’s word through the REAP tool, copious and passionate prayer using the ACTS model, and sharing your faith through declaration (evangelism) and demonstration (mercy and service).

These core personal disciplines are the same basics we use in our missional communities, as we try to continue to reinforce that you never move beyond the basic disciplines of obedience, and your community ought to reflect those disciplines in caring for one another (we call it “gospeling one another”) and in reaching out (“gospeling the world”).

Biblical Theology

The overall narrative of Scripture as creation, fall, redemption and restoration has been powerful for many of our students in understanding the story of God.  The second piece of biblical theology that we try to instill is God’s passion for His own glory, and that He is working all things toward the end of His supremacy.

This basic framework of Scripture has been an understanding that students crave, as they are often trained in basic verse-by-verse inductive study that often ignores context and the themes of larger chunks of Scripture.  Two great resources where students have encountered this has been through the ministry of Tim Keller and The Perspectives course.

Systematic Theology

We teach this using Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology through our equipping ministry every semester with several students engaging, and I have also used it personally as the basis for my discipleship of students.  In my experience, college students are longing for this kind of teaching, but it must be coupled with a passion to apply systematic theology into the fabric of their lives.  Why is the doctrine of special revelation foundational to understanding evangelism?  How does your soteriology influence the very core of your approach to ministry?  Why are we unashamed about the nature of God’s sovereignty over all things, and how is this a comfort?  These are the questions students long to have answered robustly and biblically.

The study of this discipline was hugely transformational for me, and am grateful for the teaching that I have received, and earnestly desire to share it with as many students as possible.

Church History

I would love to see a compiled history of campus ministry, as it would be tremendously beneficial.  Has anyone come across one that is good?


Tim Keller’s The Reason for God and many of his sermons have been tremendously helpful in understanding how to articulately answer the questions of this generation.  David Wells’ Above All Earthly Pow’rs was also an excellent survey of the streams of postmodern thought, their origins, and the response of the gospel to their major foundational questions.  It has informed me on how to effectively minister and understand many of the questions I am asked, and that I am prone to ask as a child of post-modern thought.

Developing knowledge in these particular areas is important for campus ministers to be effective, but I would take Steve’s conclusions one step farther in that we ought to be equipping students in our ministries in these particular disciplines as well as we can, and to the extent that we can.  Again, the local church is essential in contributing the infrastructure and resources necessary to accomplish this kind of training and development.



4 responses to “The 5 Big Issues in Campus Ministry | Theological Foundations”

  1. Just a couple of thoughts:

    First, thank you for sounding the call to application of theology (and Bible) to college students’ actual lives. I’m concerned that those college ministries (in churches or otherwise) that focus on biblical / theological exposition can often do little by way of integrating those truths with their college ministry attendees. If I’m not connecting Bible to Benson, then I’m not sure I’m really learning Bible.

    As for a college ministry history, I think it could be awhile before a strong one could be produced. Besides the fact that college ministry is undervalued so finding a publisher would be tough, the field is also so underdeveloped that it would take too much legwork to be accurate. And ultimately, I’m not sure we’ve left “Phase One” of college ministry – even if that phase is a century old – yet. It seems hard to write a history that has one major chapter. 🙂

    The day will come. For now, there are individual histories within organizations. My professor buddy David Setran from Wheaton wrote The College “Y,” which actually looks at one of the first college ministries in the U.S., the YMCA. (Yep, it was a college ministry!) And there are presumably historical records for any of the most major campus-based organizations (I know of a couple, but I bet they all have ’em somewhere.) Daws is probably the best-known college ministry biography (out of probably very few) – about Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators.

  2. Thanks so much for those resources…do you have anything linked online? I’ll go digging around when I return from vacation to find some of this material.

    Hope to connect with you at some point soon bro!

  3. I don’t think I do, although The College “Y” and Daws should be easy to find on Amazon. Same with Baptist Campus Ministry at Crossroads (a history of Southern Baptist campus-based ministry). InterVarsity has some books listed in the bibliography of its Wikipedia page. I’m guessing Crusade has a few good sources, but it’ll take some digging.

    I look forward to connecting, too.

  4. […] My thoughts are here: Missiology 1, Missiology 2, Missiology 3, and Theological Foundations. […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.