Big Ideas & 'Best Of'

A College Ministry Epiphany (?)


Maybe it wasn’t an epiphany…

It could have just been an odd combination of the early spring pollen kicking up, my head clogging up and my getting just a little too much sun during the first mow of the season this past weekend…

But maybe it was something more like an epiphany.

All I know is that over the course of a few hours on Saturday, as I traversed the wild onion patch that is my lawn, I found myself daydreaming about a gathering of college ministers that spanned the spectrum of theology, praxis and geography.

And it was beautiful!

It would bring together campus and college pastors from all of the different traditions, denominations and para-church organizations; from both campuses and churches, far and wide.

Somewhat in the spirit of Richard Foster‘s Streams of Living Water or Benson Hines’ Reaching the Campus Tribes (free e-book) —  we’d have the chance to celebrate, and learn from, the richness found in each of our collective approaches to, and experiences with, reaching college students for Christ.

Imagine the kinds of cross-pollination, collaboration, networking and fun that could be had.

Now, it could very well be that there’s something like this already going on out there… and I’m just out of the loop.

If so, PLEASE let me know about it, because I’d love to be a part of the kinds of conversations — and celebrations — that I can only imagine taking place at such a gathering.

But if it’s not…

  • What might a gathering of this magnitude look like?
  • What would make it a rich experience for you?
  • What would it take to get you there?

So there’s my wild onion, pollen-induced daydream about college ministry from my first mow of the season…

What do you think?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below, or send me an email at guy.chmieleski@gmail[dot]com.



  • Hey Guy,

    I had a similar thought/epiphany a couple of weeks ago…however mine is directly related to the campus ministers of the Independent Christian Churches. Ideally, I would like to move toward what you are describing, but I think, for me, God needs me to start with my own “tribe” (as we seldom are given the opportunity to get together to collaborate).

    My idea involves a significant amount of time spent together, working on a project together that has implications for all of us in ministry. It also involves “getting our hands dirty” in ministry–together.

    There is also the cost factor. I calculate that my “vision” will cost about $120,000 to get off the ground, but I am quickly finding that where God plants His desires, funding will follow.

    So…to answer your question…I think such an opportunity would require significant time together, working on a shared vision, which takes us away from the normal routine of life in order to enable us to see more broadly.

    I’m with ya…can’t wait to see what God might be doing!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for sharing this Bill!

      I’m curious, what does you $120K price tag include?

      • Well, it involves providing funds in order to get 40 guys on a plane together, travel together, minister together, think together, pray together, as the start of an ongoing program designed for students who will do the same after these 40 guys develop the finer points of the program together. I have an outline for the program, but would like to have the input of a bunch of other experienced campus ministers. I’m way excited about it, and would love to tell you more.

        • Anonymous

          Hey Bill!

          I’d love to hear more about this.

          My one big question for you is this… would those 40 campus ministers be able to find the funding themselves, in order to be a part of the initial catalyzing experience, if they were able to catch the vision you have for it? I know being able to invite them to an “all-expense paid” kind of experience makes it a lot easier to “buy in” to the initial meeting… but is it more realistic to ask them to fund that first experience themselves?

          What do you think?

          • Great questions. Yes, I have thought about asking the 40 to provide the funding, but there are a couple of issues. First, I know it is extremely difficult for most of us in the support-based campus ministry field to come up with adequate funding as it is, so I hate to put an undue burden on people. However, I would ask them to fund a portion of the trip…perhaps up to 25%, just to be sure we have buy-in.

            Also, Impact Campus Ministries (my organization) is trying to rebuild. A part of that rebuilding is communicating with other campus ministries in our “tribe” that we have a long-term goal of being generous, and working in cooperation with others. I think this trip will go a long ways to communicate ideals that are important to us.

            Finally…I just want to build excitement! What better way than to find funding for others…to give them something nice?

          • Anonymous

            Hey Bill!

            Yes, I like the way you think. I don’t suppose you have any “deep-pocketed” friends or acquaintances — advocates of campus ministry and the work that you’re doing — who might be able to catch the vision you have for this and then be willing to put down some of the necessary funds to make it possible???

            Outside of big donors, what kind of “doors” might you be willing to knock on?

          • Hey Guy,

            Sorry to be so slow in responding to this…I was fortunate to have a week of vacation last week, and took full opportunity to avoid blogging, emailing, tweeting, and such. I did have a lot of fun with Gowalla though! 🙂

            Yes, in fact, we are working with a donor who may be interested in underwriting this project. Time will tell. I truly believe it is an idea from God, and that He will provide the way. As with your “epiphany,” keep believing and trusting that God will bring things together as you step out in faith.

            Other doors? The hurdle to overcome (beyond funding) is participants. It is critical, I believe, to have the RIGHT people on board. My prayers are for funding, but also for doors of opportunity into the lives of the other campus ministers who need to be a part of this experience.

            I’ll keep you posted!

  • Benson Hines

    College ministers and college ministry advocates bring this idea up pretty often. Generally I’d say it would probably look like Ivy Jungle’s conferences. They did these really well for over a decade (and became one of the best-respected and best-known names across the world of college ministry as a result).

    As far as I know, they plan to continue them.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Benson!

      I just sent off an email to Evan Hunter to see what the future of the Ivy Jungle is… but it seems to me that over the past few years, the activity of the Ivy Jungle has significantly dropped off. And the last conference I went to, possibly 4 or 5 years ago, seemed to be much more populated by para-church organizational leaders than church or campus-based leaders.

      The first college ministry conference I ever attended was the Ivy Jungle — probably back in the late 90s — and there definitely felt like more of a broad (campus, church, para-church) representation during the first few years of that conference…

      I also know that attendance was much larger during those early years than it was in the mid-late 2000s… and I’m not sure what that was.

      Any insights from others out there???

  • Anonymous

    Guy–great brainstorm, and you’re not the first. As Benson and Bill mention, the idea is out there. Lately I’ve been thinking about one that would be for church-based college ministry staff. Not to leave out you chaplain types, but it seems to me that church-based are most independent and therefore most disconnected. I would love to see something like this come to fruition.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Steve!

      Is there really nothing out there for the churched-based college ministries? That seems almost impossible given some of the mega-churches out there! If you’re right, then providing a gathering specifically for church-based college ministers seems like a necessary undertaking… for someone! It might be worth talking with Brad Baker, the college pastor at Saddleback, about possibly getting a larger church to back an initial gathering of this kind.

      Just a thought.

      • Benson Hines

        There are definitely church-based gatherings. I’ll be at one next week that may be the most established (College Metro), and then at one in NY for a statewide church-based group called BASIC in May. There are others, too.

        Some denoms have training for both together, especially if they generally take a campus-based approach. But within those gatherings, they may have sessions especially for church-based people.

        I generally feel like what we share (across the branches of college ministry) is much greater than our differences, although as a longtime church-based guy I do recognize the unique needs of that crowd. So I tend to appreciate times we can learn from each other the most, especially ’cause getting college ministers to a conference is a bit of an uphill battle anyway.

        • Anonymous

          So Benson… besides the Ivy Jungle (which doesn’t seem to be functioning in the ways that it once did), is there anything else out there that functions in similar fashion? Bringing all (or as many as will come) of the branches of college ministry together?

          You’ve seen a lot, and have an incredible network of connections… what’s the closest thing out there that resembles what we’re talking about?

          • Benson Hines

            Definitely, they tend to be formed within circles – but there are quite a few within the various circles. As you know, I’m a big fan of cross-pollination – it’s something we need a lot more of – but the tricky thing is asking college ministers now to go to (at least) two conferences in a year. (For some college ministers, their in-circle conferences are mandatory, too.) It’s also very tricky to do this well, because of the inherent differences not only in groups but also in contexts.

            To answer your question: I used the College Ministers Cohort to do this a little bit at Catalyst last year (and may have the chance to do that again), but there really isn’t anything out there like Ivy Jungle is / was.

            It is exciting, though, when college ministers jump into a conference that’s outside their own circle – and conference organizers seem very open to that. I’ve seen “outsiders” at some of the SBC conferences, College Union’s yearly thing, and probably others. That’s always really helpful and fun.

          • Anonymous


            What if there was something like this offered once every 5 years? A “College Ministry Summit” of sorts… This would allow for years of intentional planning for a uniquely-designed event (by a team of campus, para-church and church-based leaders) and it would also mean that college ministers would only be faced with the choice of going to this kind of conference instead of, or in addition to, whatever other conferences they might desire (or be required) to attend, once every 5 years.

            What do you think???

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, I wasn’t saying there aren’t ANY church-based gatherings, but they’re often denominationally based. They don’t cross lines often enough. Then there’s all the folks who are independent (or function that way). It would be great to get more folks like that in the same room for cross-pollination.

          • Benson Hines

            Amen and amen to the cross-pollination. 🙂 Although what’s interesting is that churches (even within denominations) tend to be more independent / isolated from each other than comparable campus-based ministries are, and they tend to have had less access to training, too. So even getting church-based people together from within the same denom usually results in a high level of new ideas, simply because it might be very rare for ideas to be shared except at a gathering like that.

  • Steve Rankin

    I’ve long been frustrated by the way conferences get divided topically and organizationally. In my former life I was both a professor and a campus minister. Now I’m a Chaplain. I belong to academic organizations and to campus ministry organizations and, now that I’m a Chaplain at a university, a chaplain’s organization. Each group understandably has its primary focus and mission. What if…

    1. We made a try at a joint meeting of already-established groups (I know, lots of kick back from members who don’t like joint meetings)?
    2. We picked a few officers of the various groups and had a meeting (conference call or face to face) and brainstormed about ways to interact and cross pollenate (to stick, Guy, with your Spring allergy metaphor)?

    • Anonymous


      This is exactly the kind of next step(s) I was thinking about… especially if we cannot identify a pre-existing gathering that already takes on this kind of form and focus.

      You sound like the kind of resource that a think-tank formed around this idea could really utilize. 😉

  • Curt Sparkman

    College Leader (Chuck Bomar heads this up) typically does a conference every year in California for college ministry leaders. They just started this year with some regional one day training sessions. I attended one in Dallas and it was a great opportunity to get the mix of ideas and processing together that you guys are talking about.

    But other than that, I have not seen other conferences with a full emphasis on collegiate ministry.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Curt!

      I know a little about Chuck, and College Leader, and even the regional trainings that Chuck has done… but are you telling me there is also a College Leader conference designed to bring together campus, para-church and church based college ministers? If so, please let me know where to find more information on it.

      What were the highlights from the regional training you attended in Dallas? What ways could you see campus, para-church and church-based ministry leaders benefiting from coming together at one of these sessions?