Last week was the first week of class at the University of Texas.
As I’m sure it is on other campuses, campus ministries are tabling, hosting parties, bringing in bands, passing out flyers, helping with move-in, and more. Campus ministers and students work tirelessly to connect with students, primarily the incoming freshman class.
The nature of the first few weeks of the semester, if we’re honest, can create competition between ministries. It made me think this week of a few things campus ministries can do to deflate the temptation to compete for the incoming freshman.
Create a United Flyer
Don’t do this at the expense of your own campus ministry flyers, but in addition to it. What if freshman walked on campus and received the same flyer from all ministries over and over again? Ministries could create a united flyer that has websites of each campus ministry and encourages students to plug into just one of these many great ministries.
You could even have every ministry design an individual flyer for their ministry, but have the same information on the back of each individual flyer.
Host a United Ministry Fair
Most campuses have some official student organization fair, a day where hundreds of student organizations table on campus.
What if campus ministries participated in the campus-wide organizational fair, but then also set aside a day for a Christian organizational fair?
Ministries could even share resources and cater the event so that students get a free lunch that day in the middle of campus where the campus ministry fair is.
Host a United Freshman Retreat
Several campuses in Texas already do this. Two weekends before classes start, they host a retreat for incoming freshman. No single ministry is in charge of the retreat. In fact, older students who plan and run the retreat have rules about not promoting their ministry over the others.
Instead they host a ministry fair at the retreat and encourage the students to plug into one ministry. The Ignite retreat at UT has really helped create a great sense of Christian community among freshman before they even arrive on campus.
Focus on the Lost
Finally, it’s helpful to remember that ministries do not simply exist to create a safe place for incoming freshman who are already walking with Jesus. If campus ministries remember that they are also called to set their hearts and attention on students who are far from Jesus, there is naturally far less competition.
At the University of Texas we have 66 campus ministries. When focusing on the 500-100 incoming freshman at UT who are already following Christ and plan to connect with campus ministries, it really becomes a competition.
But when we focus instead on the 7500-8000 new students who did not come to UT planning to follow Jesus, there is far less need for competition because, as Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission.He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the misssonal community movement at the University of Texas.