Yet another academic year approaches – yet another set of fresh new faces on campus. As we approach a the start of term I would like to renew the conversation on campus ministry we began last spring (You can find my initial salvo here).
As many here know I am a professor, at a large secular University, not a Christian college, and have been involved in academia for some 28 years as a graduate student, post-doc and professor. There is no doubt that the modern University is a mission field in many different ways – and a challenging mission field at that. This year opens a new window on the situation however, as I am also a parent sending my eldest off to college with her friends dispersing to a wide range of campuses and contexts.
Over the course of several posts – one or two a week – we will consider several aspects of University ministry. I intend to look at Chuck Bomar’s new book College Ministry 101: A Guide to Working with 18-25 Year Olds
and Benson Hines’s e-book (free on his site) Reaching the Campus Tribes. I will also point to some useful on-line blogs and discussions beginning with Steve Lutz and The SENTinel (good thoughts and good discussion on this site). I am open to suggestions for other good resources as well.
Before digging in however, I would like to open with some questions.
What are the biggest challenges in Campus Ministry today?
What should a missional campus ministry look like?
The answers to these questions will not be the same in all locations or situations. A state college in the midwest will have somewhat different concerns than one in the south or the pacific northwest. Primarily local state universities and undergraduate institutions will have different concerns than Global Universities – those identified worldwide by one or two words. Small private liberal arts colleges and Universities also span a wide range of situations and environments.
Steve Lutz has a series of posts this summer on The 5 Big Issues in Campus Ministry. I found the one on Missiology particularly good reading.
MISSIOLOGY is the theology and study of missions. It acknowledges that campus ministry is a missions endeavor, and that North America is one of the biggest mission fields in the world.
Steve lists three specific concerns in missional campus ministry:
1. We need a missiology of our people-group, college students. This must include sociology, demographics, psychology, and worldview of college students. Who ARE we trying to reach, anyway?
2. We need a missiology of our context: higher ed/academia. This is a failure in my opinion of the old guard campus ministries, who tended to just look at reaching students without much interest in redeeming & renewing places and institutions.
3. We must also talk about what missional campus ministry looks like.
On this last I will include some highlights from Steve’s discussion:
Missional Campus Ministry orients everything towards reaching students with the Gospel of Christ, and equipping them for the missio Dei.
Missional outreach engages the “Defeaters” of the Gospel. Several culturally-based beliefs regularly combine to make Christianity appear implausible and literally unbelievable to non-Christians. … Missional ministry takes these objections seriously, and humbly interacts with those who hold them. Dealing with Defeaters simultaneously engages unbelievers, and models to believers how to engage in these conversations in informed, winsome, courageous, and most of all, loving ways.
Missional outreach doesn’t view evangelism as merely a program or activity. Missional is an adjective for everything that a church or organization does.
Missional outreach speaks in a language that the unchurched can understand.
Missional outreach is familiar with, and engages the various “gospels” proclaimed in culture, particularly through movies, music, etc.
And from his resources, especially Missional Campus Ministry & the Global University, Part 2
Missional Campus ministry will avoid “the compartmentalization and relativization of faith to but one, private area of life, integrate Faith with all of life.”
[Tim] Keller notes: There is a surprising amount of anti-intellectualism within the evangelical world. People have noticed for years that campus fellowships at Ivy League schools are very anti-intellectual and pietistic (A-I-P). In general, however, such A-I-P will not reach the people who tend to “make it” and stay put in city centers.
A-I-P is not limited to Ivy League schools. Missional approaches to campus ministry need to be unashamedly, rigorously intellectual.
Unfortunately, much campus ministry focuses only on the inner, “spiritual” life, and does not take seriously the need to shepherd students through the faith/intellect crises common to the college years. In fact, in the absence of counsel and discipleship, students often create a false dichotomy between faith and intellect. This is a disservice to them, and a “defeater” of Christian belief to nonChristians.
Missional campus ministry will …” hunger for things to be made right, be actively engaged in ministries of Mercy & Justice.”
Here Steve and I part company ever so slightly. Steve is somewhat concerned with an overemphasis of mercy and justice – but I think that we need a balanced approach. A faith that is not manifest in love; concern for justice and mercy is not the faith that either Jesus or Paul proclaimed (not to mention James). We need to engage minds and souls, actions and lives. The hunger for things to be made right is not simply or primarily a means to evangelize, to bring people to God – it is participation in the missio Dei and as such it will bring people to God (accompanied, of course, by a proclamation of the gospel).
What do you think – what should a missional campus ministry look like in our largely post-Christian world?
If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.