There’s something special about college ministry.
The season of life. The time of transition. All of the factors that come together in the context of the university campus…
I love what I do!
Late last week I was contacted by a colleague who was getting ready to take some student leaders on retreat who were strongly considering coming on board with their ministry for a one-year intern experience in college ministry.
He said he had been poking around on my blog, looking for a “conversation starter” or something that might help to guide a time of reflection with these students who were trying to discern a call into ministry.
As we talked, and as I started to poke around in my archives, I realized that I had never posted on why I do what I do.
I’m in my 15th year of college ministry… and have only been blogging for a little over 2 years now.
In most of my posts I make reference to the “formative nature of the college years” or ” the significant nature of these formative years…” And that is definitely a part of the equation — for me.
But if I were the one leading a conversation with young leaders who were trying to discern a call into college ministry I would want to focus our conversation around two questions:
Why college ministry?
Why the campus?
Why college ministry?
For me, this question gets at this issue of demographic. Specifically, age-group or season of life. The college years are very unique… unlike the high school, middle school or even the “young professional” years. For most students this is the first time they are “living on their own.” They are moving away from home (some further than others) and starting the process (most of them… at some point…) of trying to figure out who they are, what they believe and what they’re going to do with their life. It is a time of asking big questions and partaking in new experiences. It is a time of exposure to new people and new ideas. It can be a highly catalytic (and for some… combustible) time for students.
For me, these were highly formative years. I was a new believer when I went off to a Christian college. I was so excited for the opportunity to be with a community of young people who were of similar heart and mind. I was excited to learn and grow in my faith. And I was significantly impacted by a couple of campus pastors who made time for me.
When I sensed God calling me into full-time ministry of some sort I began to volunteer at a local church — while remaining actively involved with the ministry on campus — both as a participant and a leader. By the end of my college career I knew that I didn’t want work in a local church — I found it incredibly challenging to worship and work in the same place. But somehow a career in campus ministry had never dawned on me… at least not until one of my campus pastors told me about an opening they knew of… and suggested that I look into it.
As I begin to explore the opportunity, while reflecting on my on campus ministry experience, I could see “the stars aligning.”
I got my feet wet in campus ministry as a student leader… and then, as I entered the world of full-time college ministry, God seemed to confirm this decision in a number of different ways. It honestly felt like I was doing what I was created to do. It’s hard to fully explain the feeling unless you’ve been there and experienced it for yourself.
So that’s they why — for me.
Why the Campus?
The next important question for me is: why the campus? This question gets at the specific context. Just like all “young people” are not alike (middle schoolers, high schoolers and “young professionals”), all contexts are not alike. Above I talked about my own struggles to worship and work in the same place. I learned this as I volunteered at a local church during my college years… and had it confirmed during a very painful — but formative — 6 month stint at a local church.
I was in between campuses and the ONLY door God seemed to be opening was at the church my new bride and I had been attending. I didn’t want to go… but after a few weeks of unemployment I chose to believe that God must have wanted me there… for some reason. I’ll confess that my attitude going in may not have set me up well, but from day one it was a struggle — a constant struggle.
In many ways I felt like a fish out of water. I spent most of my days working in an office complex — rarely seeing anyone besides the other staff. I was working with middle school, high school and singles (most of whom were 40+). Given my context, I’m not sure how much my attitude and/or experience would have been different had I at least been working with college students… but I wasn’t. So I was QUITE thankful I had established a “probationary period” in my contract with the church and as it was about to expire, a new opportunity on a campus came my way.
I am very thankful for those colleagues who feel called to the local church — whether they work with college students, youth or adults. My students benefit from your ministry. My family and I are blessed by the way you uniquely provide opportunities for us to learn, grow, worship and serve. Because you do what you do, I can do what I do — on the campus.
Aside from the formative position of students, the opportunity to partner with other staff and faculty are a major element to what I find exciting about working on campus. Couple that with the fact that I work right work college students live, study, work, recreate, relate, etc…. well, that just makes for the ideal context to do what I believe God has called and equipped me to do.
This post has gotten long. So let me stop here and turn it over to you.
How do you answer the questions:
Why college ministry?
Why the campus?
And maybe one more…
How do you help college students to discern a potential call into (college) ministry?
I’d love to hear some of your story. Please take a moment to share in the comment section below!