We started a discussion a while ago on University Ministry – a discussion I would like to continue today. And I think the initial question to shape thinking is quite simple:
What is the purpose or aim of a College or University Ministries? Is the aim discipleship? Evangelism? Both? Something else? Is the aim the same or different for local churches and parachurch organizations?
Church based and parachurch ministries fill an important need on our campuses. The fellowship, mentorship, and peer support provided are invaluable to many students and the evangelical outreach has impacted many. Yet there is room for improvement and there are some important issues we need to address in the future.
I referred in the last post to John Stackhouse and his article on University Ministry. Some of what I reflect on here comes from his article – which helped to shape and crystallize my thinking. Some of the wording and organization will seem familiar to those who also read his article (i.e. I “borrowed” and am here giving credit to the source).
Campus ministries often seem to replicate or try to replicate church – they segregate students and emphasize church experiences of worship and small group devotion and community. But I suggest that this misses the true opportunity and power of University ministry. Campus ministry is or should be the church in action in a different mode than the local congregation. The University is a unique environment and campus ministry should recognize this and step up to the challenge.
So what is the call of God to the church deployed in campus ministry? What is it not?
A campus ministry is not a church – it is a branch of the church. So the first thing that campus ministries should do is to encourage student involvement in a local church – not to be served, but to serve and worship. Help students become mature committed Christian adults. Student churches – such as one I know that proudly bills itself as “not your parents church” – miss the point. Churches are and need to be multi-generational, multi-vocational communities of believers.
A campus ministry is not an affinity group to provide community and protection from the world. Let me be provocative. Campus ministries that take a culture warrior approach, circling the wagons to preserve the purity of the elect, satisfied to interact only with “safe” thinking, do as much harm as they do good.
A campus ministry is a unique branch of the church and should focus on the special, intrinsic challenges and opportunities of the university for students and for university graduates. This is one of the major points in Stackhouse’s article. These considerations should get priority, even exclusive attention, in University ministry.
Stackhouse suggests that University Ministries should:
- Explain the university from a Christian point of view
- Explain the vocations of Christians in the university
- Explain how to get the most out of the university experience
- Teach students how to respond to university challenges and opportunities
- Offer opportunities and resources for mission
- Foster Christian ecumenism and mutual edification
More specifics are included in his post for each of the above points.
I will add one to his list
University ministries should provide a resource for students – undergraduates, but especially graduate students and scholars – to approach the Christian faith with the same intellectual integrity and rigor with which they are learning to approach their various academic disciplines. To grow the “Evangelical Mind” (or more generally the Christian Mind) and remove the scandal we need academic sodalities on our secular University campuses to train and disciple the next generation.
What do you think?
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