What Contributes to a General Lack of Evangelistic Effectiveness Among Church of Christ Campus Ministries?

Let me begin by saying that I’m looking forward to this year’s Campus Ministry United Workshop!

If you haven’t heard of it, the CMUW is an annual event I help organize held the weekend after Independence Day on the campus of Harding University in Searcy, AR. This workshop places a high emphasis on practical evangelism, and speakers are chosen based upon their evangelistic experience. In other words, if a person doesn’t have an evangelistically effective ministry behind them, they will probably not be issued an invitation to speak at the CMUW (exceptions to this rule are made, but they’re rare).

The “less theory, more practicality” philosophy resonates with me, and the CMUW is focused primarily on serving the special needs of Church of Christ campus ministries. In addition to providing ministry enrichment resources, our mission also includes motivating students, campus ministers, and church leaders to get involved in campus ministry planting efforts around the country.

Most westcoastwitness.com readers are probably unaware of this, but over 95% of the colleges and universities in the United States lack an effective Church of Christ campus ministry. Those of us converted through CoC campus ministries are distressed by this. Where would we be if the ministries that reached us hadn’t been there? Most likely still lost. How many people are we missing today? Thousands? Millions? We need to do something about it – this is why I’m in San Francisco doing what I’m doing.

In addition to our needing new ministries, national studies conducted by CMU staff have shown the existing ones need major work. The majority of the current Church of Christ campus ministries are reaching very few people. It is unfortunate that many campus ministers along with the churches that hired them view the primary mission of their campus ministry in this way: keep the kids safe. In other words, “Church of Christ kids are graduating from high school and coming to college in our town. Their parents are making sure they attend church services here – campus minister, please babysit them, make sure they show up on Sunday mornings and don’t drink too much on the weekends.”

A few students having fun at last year's workshop ...

I know that description is a bit crass, but this mentality is a cancer we need to fight. Campus ministries must march, not maintain. Bill Bright used to say, “Change the campus today, change the world tomorrow.” He’s right – the future leaders of the world are on today’s university campuses. We should be going out of our way to reach them for Jesus. Church kids shouldn’t be our field of ministry – they ought to be our force for ministry. Don’t keep them safe from Satan, make them dangerous to Satan. We shouldn’t be babysitting to keep – we ought to be equipping to send. This is our real mission. If we really want to keep our kids safe, the best way to do that is to get them enagaged in real ministry. That’s what makes for longevity in faith, and that’s what makes for mature disciples. We’ll keep them safe by making them dangerous.

What also contributes to our general lack of evangelistic effectiveness in CoC campus ministry is this: most campus ministers never received adequate training before entering the field. A large percentage of current ministers fit this description: 1) They grew up in a Christian home and were active members of a CoC youth group that wasn’t evangelistic, 2) they went to a brotherhood Bible college, got a degree in Bible or Youth Ministry, may have gone on to get a Masters, and while in school were never trained in evangelism or even how to study the Bible one on one with someone, 3) after getting a Bible degree, they were hired by a church and worked for 2 to 3 years running their own youth ministry that served church kids having no evangelistic emphasis, and 4) they took over a campus ministry that mirrored their old youth ministry and was/is not evangelistic. This is fairly typical.

On the other side of the coin, we’ve also studied our few ministries that are effectively reaching people. We’ve termed these “Red Zone” ministries and on average they’re baptizing one or more per month (some are reaching many more than that doubling and tripling the numbers of the others – for your general information, those ministries leading the pack are made up of our CMU board members). A common thread exists among most of the ministers consistently in the Red Zone: the type of training they received before they entered the field is much the same. Most were either 1) part of an evangelistically effective campus ministry as a student, or 2) were individually mentored by a more experienced minister who was evangelistically effective. Before taking over their own ministry, they learned to share their faith with others, lead evangelistic Bible studies, and to structure their ministries in such a way as to keep a steady focus on reaching the lost. This is very telling.

Some believe being evangelistically effective is simply a matter of spiritual giftedness, but many of the Red Zone ministers we’ve studied would tell you that their gift isn’t evangelism – it’s something else. This tells me that evangelistic effectiveness is less a matter of giftedness and more a matter of skill – skill that was learned through the practical training they were privileged to have received.

More practical training and evangelistic emphasis is needed in the field of Church of Christ campus ministry. The CMUW is a small attempt to address some of these problems.

In my opinion, it is very important we listen to the guys that are reaching people. Their insight is invaluable to our movement if we wish to reach our goal of impacting college and university campuses for Christ on a large scale.

Our lineup of speakers at the CMUW is very good this year. I encourage you to checkout the Facebook event page if you’d like to get the details.

If the little bit I’ve shared with you in this post is interesting and you’d like to learn more, you might listen to this lesson presented at the 2008 CMUW. You will also want to follow along with the PowerPoint as much of the info referenced is displayed there.

Blessings to you – hope to see all of you passionate about campus ministry at the 2010 CMUW July 8-11 at Harding!

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19 thoughts on “What Contributes to a General Lack of Evangelistic Effectiveness Among Church of Christ Campus Ministries?

  1. Roger Pritchett says:

    One of the main reasons that we are not being evangelistic is that it is not a high priority. Perhaps we talk about it a lot (but I’m not sure about that anymore), but little real action.

    Wes, your comments are very good!

  2. WesWoodell says:

    Thanks for the comment, Roger. Real priorities are revealed in results – that’s for sure!

  3. Ana Walker says:

    Here is my little part:
    We are ineffective because we easily loose the focus.
    We are ineffective because we aren’t sold out.
    We are ineffective because we want instant disciples when we know it takes a minimum of three years :).

    HE is effective when we believe it.
    HE is effective when we live it.
    HE is effective when we let him do it through us.
    HE is effective when we recognize who the enemy is.
    HE is effective when we keep the message simple.
    HE is effective when we teach faith to kids who are used to getting formulas.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  4. G says:

    The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

  5. G says:

    Another reason why we’re not evangelistic is the problem you outlined above is accompanied by a lack of identity and a shame of a perceived identity. “You think you’re the only one’s going to Heaven” and all that rot, which I haven’t heard in years, but we fear it. Sure, some of our rhetoric in the past may have been way too abrasive, but at some point the only way to tell the truth is to tell the truth. With taking on any kind of judgmental tone, it’s quite clear that the bulk of so-called Christendom has taken a perceived easy way out in applying the “sinner’s prayer” model which goes against clear Biblical teaching. We’re apparently ashamed to ask someone to read their Bible and read plain and simple baptism as the entry point / ceremony to establish a new covenant. We would rather keep friends on this side of eternity than the other side. Baptism ain’t that hard to understand (i.e., that you need to do it; why God chose that, the big deal with water, that’s another story) and to accept that in humble obedience is a rather simple matter. If someone refuses that, then they are refusing Christ (not us), and if we don’t teach what He taught then we’re refusing Christ too. You can say that and still keep your friends. If not, then maybe they weren’t your friend in the first place. Either they accept it or they don’t, shake the foot dust and move on.

    • WesWoodell says:

      That could be part of the problem, G.

      I know in the past we’ve used our understanding of baptism as a weapon. I believe that understanding is a gift we have to give others, not a weapon to hit people over the head with.

      We most certainly should not be ashamed of our understanding of baptism, but we also must be humble regarding how we share it.

      • G says:

        Yeah, that’s one of the slight differences I have with our mutual buddy, Macky. He attended Madison Academy, and although he wasn’t truly practicing his faith at the time he would argue with the abundance of CoC kids there about baptism. So he is painstaking when it comes to presenting baptism. I’m like, that’s the easy part; convincing people to give their lives truly to Christ (not just try to avoid Hell) is the hard part. And it’s almost like saying, “don’t think of a pink elephant” in that “don’t think of baptism as a problem” accentuates the previous problems (which the current seeker may not have experienced or care about) and brings them to the foreground when they could have just been left alone.

        When you get a chance, go visit Bill Pile at Christ’s Church in the City (i.e., Los Angeles). I often remember him saying that if you throw a New Testament into “the theological vacuum that is the inner city” and people will come out asking to be baptized.

  6. Lynn says:

    Very good words Wes (Seems I’ve heard them somewhere before…LOL). Another reason we are NOT being effective at evangelism has to do with Authority. SOOOO many Campus Ministries and Churches have walked out from under the protection of God and are being eaten alive by Satan. When your Ministry (or Church) is not about the Mission of God you are without his protection. Believe it or not, Nowhere in the Great Comission did Jesus tell us to “Maintain”!

    • WesWoodell says:

      I think part of the reason this is true is what I referenced above: engaging in real ministry makes for mature disciples.

      Could it be that those who never engage in the ministry of reconciliation, regardless of how their gifts allow them to plug into it, never mature?

  7. Geraldine Woodell says:

    Amen, Amen, Amen!!! Keep standing on the Rock!
    “Lord you give light to my lamp,
    My God brightens the darkness around me.
    With your help I can attack an army,
    With God’s help I can jump over a wall.

    Who is God? Only the LORD.
    Who is the Rock? Only our God.” Ps. 18:28-32

  8. charles says:

    We are not evangelistic as a whole anymore, and the college students have learned the lesson well from their parents. I wonder if we, on a Sunday morning, asked every person to stand who has led another to Christ – outside of their own family – how many would stand. It would likely be deeply humbling and perhaps humiliating for the assembly.

    I remember hearing a person who was converted 35 years ago say one time when working with a new church plant, “It is so great to be evangelistic! I love telling people about Jesus. We’ve NEVER been an evangelistic people…”

    This individual had moved multiple times after their conversion to multiple states and multiple congregations.

    Their spouse and I both blanched at those words. I said, with a note of pain, ‘We used to evangelize, but we stopped for some reason right about the time when you were converted.’

    When our priorities change to Jesus first, last, and always – and we seek His Kingdom first again, we will once again be on fire with evangelism.

  9. Seth says:

    I believe there maybe several reasons, but from what I have learned in mentoring others is that they want someone to write it out for them, or they want the situation set up to where those being reached out to will just come with all the questions of which we know the answers and then they just walk right into the water.
    From what I have seen of most college ministry events of which large crowds gather, a speaker is brought in, a great praise band is there jamming the latest Chris Tomlin, and then someone gets up and closes it out in prayer. Then the moment they’ve all been waiting for…free food. Tell me that isn’t giving a college kid the impression of ministry is that its just a performance, but not even interactive at all either.
    The #1 thing to me(what follows is strictly opinion) is that who does anything with purpose anymore? Are the studies that we do with students even targeted or are they just like dropping rain and hoping it hits someone in the head or the heart? Is it so generalized that it only hits a certain demographic, or do we come to know the needs of the student and bring it to life from their suffering? Are the things that we decide to do as a group more because this is what is expected, fills a calendar, or satisfies out guilt? Or is there a reason for every single minute of everything we do on our campus?
    Take the pattern of the C o C and their Wed night gatherings. Less than 30% of the Body shows up, and the ones that do are filling that routine, guilt, tradition, expectation, etc…you name it. It’s become a burden in the lives of every Church I have been a part of. Finally, we sit down this week and decide that we are going to get some purpose into it or do away with it. Guarantee there will be a drastic change in attendance and in visitors!
    You add purpose and you’ve got the megaphone! People want to be apart of it, and they want to hear what it is that changes their life and how.

  10. Macky Shedd says:

    Not sure about the reference to me in one of these posts regarding baptism, but I will offer my two cents. I agree that baptism is the easy part. Repentance is the tough part. However, both are a part of God’s beautiful covenant with man. We do tend to have to talk about baptism a good bit being in the bible belt where we are inundated with all sorts of teaching regarding baptism. We just try to get people to know Jesus through His word and call them to enter covenant with the lover of their souls. Sorry just felt like I needed to answer that comment that seemed to paint a bad picture of what I stand for and how I operate. In answer to the question regarding the lack of evangelism among campus ministries, I will say a couple things. I have the pleasure of working in campus ministry where the elders and other leaders support and expect evangelism. I have spoken with some campus ministers that express frustration due to pressure put on them to “baby sit” Christians. This pressure comes from elders, parents, and former youth ministers of those entering college. Leadership must decide if they are going to have what I call a “college ministry” or a “campus ministry”. I refer to churches that simply have classes and events for college students as a “college ministry”. I refer to those that go to the campuses with the purpose of saving the lost as “campus ministries”. That’s just the way I make the distinction. It is so important that leadership see our college campuses as God’s ripe harvest fields that need more workers to reap the harvest. Another biggie is that we need to recognize that we are just the ones that plant and water. God causes growth. We have seen lots of baptisms over the last couple years, but if you were to ask me how many, I couldn’t tell you. I get people complimenting me all the time on how great I am doing with our campus ministry. My only comment is, give glory to God who is allowing us to be a part of what He is doing. The point is we should not be focused on the numbers, but just making sure we are doing everything we can to get the gospel message to everyone we can. Also, discipleship is critical. There is nothing better than seeing college students baptizing college students into Christ. We must make sure as campus ministers that we are duplicating ourselves and our efforts. I also think there is something to be said for a supportive wife. My wife is so special! She completely supports me in my late night-early morning bible studies, and understands the schedule of an evangelistic campus minister. It helps also, that both my wife and I were converted through the efforts of an evangelistic campus ministry. In fact we serve with the same church where we were converted. So the two factors I would add in addition to others mentioned in other posts are: 1. Evangelistic Focused Leadership 2. Discipleship and 3. Supportive Wife 🙂 By the way, this is my first time actually hearing from anyone involved in COC campus ministry that seemed to share my passion for seeing campus ministries get back to the mission of God. I am interested in helping with this if I can. Praying for us all!

    • WesWoodell says:

      Thanks for the comment, Macky. It was good talking with you today 🙂

    • G says:

      my apologies if i misstated or misrepresented anything, i emphasized it was a slight difference, and i stick by my pink elephant analogy, yeah, take whatever time is needed, answer any questions that come up, but don’t presume a problem or anticipate antipathy, somehow i just can’t see peter going thru all the machinations we do, he told them to be baptized in a single sentence… and before we try to justify that he didn’t have the problems we have… well, he had more… and infant baptism (for example) was introduce barely a generation after the apostles died and was almost universal by the 300’s, anyway, enough on that, i’m being a huge hypocrite talking about it as much as i have…

      again, apologies if i mis-characterized anything, you know i’m constantly bragging on you! who do you think told wes to call you? 🙂 you gonna be in harding in july? my funds are getting way tight, but i’m gonna try to make it

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