Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Top Three: Ways We're Doing Campus Ministry Wrong

I realize that I should talk about all the benefits of campus ministry, and maybe sometime I will. But I think before I can talk about the upside of my experiences, I need a bit of catharsis. I have chosen to leave the name of my university, and the particular organization against which I have a beef, to the dust of history - if you're curious, go ahead and ask me.

1. We are not asking how our particular campus ministry furthers the efforts of the Kingdom of God. On a micro-level, this means there are tons of retreats, meetings, prayer groups, etc., but no vision at the leadership level of how this fits into a broader mission. At the macro-level, our major campus ministry organizations are at each others' throats, actively defending campus "territories," almost like a para-church gang war. I've seen it go down, and it made me sad to watch a committed Christian put his back more into the organization he works for than the mission of the Kingdom.

2. We are not providing good staff support for local chapters, especially at small colleges. Again - saw this first-hand. It is almost impossible for staff to afford being full-time, especially in their younger days. Later, they have a hard time connecting with youth. And, across the board, national organizations are not providing staff who understand local campuses. The disconnect between my local campus and the regional office was palpable, and founded largely on the fact that the regional director could not bring himself to believe that our group was truly student-led. His style may have worked at other colleges, but the way he talked over the heads of our leaders to speak to volunteer staff, as if we could not really be decision-makers, still puts my teeth on edge now.

3. We are not adequately expressing the fact that campus ministry is not church. While I was on leadership, we said it consistently, but even now, it hasn't quite sunk in. "I'll go to large group, and skip church on Sunday." This is disastrous for the spiritual formation of young people - I would much rather have folk go to church and be connected to God than have them go to large group, and connect some with God, but more with other people. Campus ministry is not sacramental, and the sacraments are too important to me to elide that way (yes, Barkeep, I'm affirming sacramentalism as being as important as preaching. I'll talk to you about it later).

So. Solutions?

1. Make campus ministry an attractive option for more young people (easier to find funding, etc.).
2. Provide real theological and prophetic training for staff, so that they can guide students with real zeal.
3. Get the word out - our campus organization is fine - church is better.

Those are preliminary thoughts...still in process...

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