I love a good metaphor. There’s something beautiful about the way a metaphor can draw out meaning with more clarity. When I share about the importance of engaging college campuses with the gospel, I used to describe them as a dandelion. For a moment God has gathered a variety of students in one location. When that moment is over, they are carried away to different places to land, take root, and multiply. I like the poetry of that.
This metaphor works, I think, to describe the general context of the college campus. With a little intentionality, I think we can change the metaphor to an airport.
We are preparing students for launch. The campus will be their home for a while, but it is not their destination. From the moment someone walks into an airport, they are already bound for their destination. Our students arrive on campus with a destination, likely unknown, already ahead of them. The long term strategy is graduating students who are equipped to make disciples with a vision for reaching the place they are called to. We will send most of our students away. Some will join a plant team bound for a new campus or city. A few will even lead those teams or pack up their lives to go abroad. College students are the most sendable people on earth, but we need to expect this of them and prepare for it with intentionality.
Sometimes I don’t know what to call myself or how to identify my work on campus. In collegiate ministry, we can often become program directors. Success can often be confused with empire-building. It’s empire-building-with-a-purpose, but there is often an overabundance of production and promotion. The invitation most commonly given is to an event.
Jesus invited people in to relationship and then sent them out on mission. His ministry with the masses was a filtering point. Anytime he had a sizable crowd, he said something ridiculous to scare most people away. It always worked too. But the true disciples kept coming back. And he kept discipling them and sending them out on mission.
Jesus’ disciples multiply themselves. That’s the only kind of true fruit we see in the parable of the 4 Soils. The more I think and pray over that, the more I want to work to cut out anything I do that might keep the gospel from multiplying.
If it’s not going to make disciples, we’re not going to do it. –Jeff Sundell quoting Jimmy Scroggins (Family Church, West Palm Beach, FL)
This focus on disciple-making is key. What will help us make disciples? What is preventing us from multiplying ourselves?
Our developing guidelines for our ministry look something like this:
It can be hard to stay focused and keep from becoming a Christian program director. Programs aren’t bad. But programs don’t make disciples; disciples make disciples.
Do: Disciple students to disciple others; don’t distract them from mission.
Don’t: Monopolize relationships; not everyone needs to know you.
Great advice from the No Campus Left team on what to do and what to avoid in collegiate ministry. We strive to mirror all 10, but these 2 are critical for us.
If you spend much time around me in the right contexts, you would probably catch on pretty quickly that I ask a lot of “What if?” questions. I do it because I can’t help but do it. I’m a Maximizer by nature. That means I’m always on the lookout for things that I can improve. Nothing drains me more than having to take something awful and make it mediocre. Nothing energizes me more than taking something good and making it great. I also really don’t like doing anything just to do it. Especially if I don’t feel like I have a good reason for doing it in the first place.
One question I started asking while I was serving as a College Pastor / BCM Starter in Northeast Ohio related to the overlap of what I was doing in my two roles. How much of what I’m trying to do in my campus-based ministry is the same thing that my church is trying to do? It became vividly obvious to me one semester while I was still the one to lead the campus small groups (5 to be exact – I could talk all day about why that was a terrible decision) and I was still teaching Sunday School at my church. In order to manage that many groups (some were as large as 12, others were 1–4) I used the same material for each one. One thing to prepare, 5 times to teach/facilitate it. It was exhausting (again, bad decision) but I made it work, at least somewhat. The trouble was when I had students showing up to both a campus small group and to the church Sunday School class. I never invited many students to the Sunday School class because they were already in a campus group. All things considered, it wasn’t that big of an issue. But it did cause me to think more clearly about my roles and the points of friction between them if I didn’t give close enough consideration to each role and the objectives that went with them.
I still believe in collegiate ministry. And I still believe that students need to be committed to a local church. But as campus ministry people, I think it would be wise for us to think more clearly about what we are doing on campus to unintentionally compete with local churches and what we are doing to complement the local churches?
The preliminary answer I would give is taken right out of my previous blog post (Breaking Twitter with Collegiate Innovation). We need to shift from making students our mission to developing students to BE the missionaries. HOW we do that is up for debate. I for one love this conversation and I believe our ministries are better for it.