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We opened this series with a look as Campus ministry as mission.  This is a theme that is repeated and elaborated by Benson Hines in his blog and book.

Hines spent a year touring College and University campuses and talking with campus ministers and others. In 2007-2008 he spent 370 days and visited 181 campuses in 44 states, Canada and the District of Columbia. He has self-published an e-book (free on his site) Reaching the Campus Tribes describing his observations and some of his conclusions and vision. He visited Vintage Church in Santa Cruz (p. 29), North Park University (with good words p. 44) and the University of Michigan (p. 52) among many many others.

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Among the interesting features of Hines’s book are his observations on Campus ministry as mission.  This follows nicely on the post from Tuesday. Campus ministries should be approached with much the same concern and planning as any mission endeavor. He puts his hypothesis like this:

The practice of college ministry is far more like Missions than like Christian Education.

So ministering to a college campus is in many ways more like Missions in Mozambique than it is even like Youth Ministry.

Obviously, that’s not the way most Christian pastors, church members, parents, or opinion leaders think about college ministry yet. Even college ministers themselves don’t always realize that their work really is a form of missions. But in some places this idea – of missiological college ministry – is already clarifying and fueling college ministry practice. Hopefully this book can spread the idea even further. (p. 8)

Ben Hines has visited many campuses to try to get a vision for missional campus ministry, but it is still only a sparse view – even of what is going on at many of the individual campuses. A short visit can hardly see all.  And communication between groups is spotty.

Here is a great question posed by a reader: Who is enjoying wild success on college campuses and what are they doing?

As you ponder this question – I will highlight a bit of the discussion in Reaching the Campus Tribes. When Hines suggests that we need to see campus ministry as mission he is thinking of the following nine attributes: (Ch. 4 pp. 41-60)

Missions means contextualization – every campus is different, every situation is different. There is no one-size fits all approach to campus ministry.  The mission must adapt to the local environment – and this means preparation.

Missions means difficulty – there are obstacles to overcome. Hines cites “difficult school administrations, disinterested students, uncommitted students, moral failures, lack of resources, lack of help, a short time frame in which to impact students, weariness among ministers, slow growth, unhealthy ministries, other religions and cults, difficulty raising awareness of the ministry, and so on.” (p. 44)  Campus ministry is not a walk in the park, it is work – kingdom work.

Missions means strategy – effort needs to be put into studying the situation, “learning the language,” prayerfully plotting a course.

Missions means patience – many good campus ministries will take time to grow yet fast growth and large numbers are often expected, with jobs on the line.

The assumption is often that a good ministry attempt will begin to draw people immediately. But understanding college ministry as missions means recognizing that a strong mission to a campus will probably take time to develop and bear obvious fruit. Expecting quick growth – including numerical growth – is a big (but common) error. (p. 49)

Hines suggests that a good campus ministry will require at least 2 to 3 years to make connections and form an identity and workable strategy.  He also finds that many college ministries don’t make it this far – the plug is pulled before a base is formed.

Missions means aggressive progress – campus ministries should always consider how they can increase effectiveness, engage better, reach new groups (even faculty!), improve discipleship and so on.

Missions means aiming for longevity – a ministry built to last will be able build on success, reputation, and relationships.  Such a ministry has the opportunity to impact not just the transient students (important I admit) but the institution itself.

Missions means investment (for the kingdom) – usually churches staff positions as a need arises, a mission however preloads staff and resource to reach a people group.  How many churches though are willing to invest in this transient and somewhat ephemeral group? After all they are unlikely to enjoy the fruits of their labors as students graduate and move on and the financial cost involved will not be recouped from the students or their parent.  They are not “ours.” Yet for the good of the church, country and Kingdom campus ministries need support and resource.

Missions means specialization those in college ministry need to be trained and equipped for the job.  They need to learn to appreciate the university and its culture, they need intellectual rigor in their theology and understanding, and they need to approach their job as professionals.

Missions means cooperation – no one form of ministry will be all things to all people.  We need church-based ministries, parachurch ministries and multiple denominations and views.

What do you think – is Campus Ministry missions? And have you seen  (or been a part of) any particularly effective church-based or campus-based
approaches at missional campus ministry? What makes them shine?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail [at] att.net.

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