I served as a collegiate minister on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Monticello for 8 years. They were precious years of enduring ministry. Both of our kids were born during that time, and I’m convinced that there is no better environment in which to raise your children than around college students who are passionate about Christ.
This series looks at the state of collegiate ministry and asks the question, “Where should collegiate ministry begin?”
Each fall in our collegiate ministry, we geared up our student leaders up for “Welcome Week.” The first few days of school are incredibly influential on a student’s collegiate destiny. Imagine: a freshman arrives on campus and is in the first few hours invited to several parties, most sponsored by fraternities. That first night on campus, a lifestyle is established that may persist through four or more years of college and then influence a career and family.
And so our collegiate ministry sponsored as many high impact events as possible in the first several days of school. We not only wanted to offer an alternative, but we actually wanted to save students from themselves. A student’s destiny is measured heavily by how he spends his first 10 days on campus. Heavy stuff, huh? Welcome Week was immensely important to us, but that is not where collegiate ministry begins. It’s not even close. Collegiate ministry must begin before a student reaches college, and it must begin in our churches.
As we talk about where collegiate ministry must begin, please understand that it isn’t as simple as revising our generational ministry strategy. It’s not the Net Gen that we aren’t reaching. It’s not even Gen X or the Mil Gen. Simply put, the church is missing people. The church spends so much time trying to reclaim what it’s lost that it spends minimal time trying to proclaim to those it’s never found. It makes it all the more difficult when those the church hasn’t reached yet don’t want to be reached. They are actively avoiding the American church (specifically, people age 15-30) like one would swerve to miss roadkill.
If collegiate ministry is going to become more effective, then we must honestly address some problems in the place it must begin – the church. They include the segregation of youth groups, the lack of an adulthood transition, low expectation, and the disappearance of “testimonies.” Remember, we are only dealing with those who have been impacted by church growing up (a teeny minority these days). This series will not deal with the staggering challenges of reaching the never-churched people in our society.
To be continued…