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!