Back in 1997 campus ministers at the University of Texas met to talk about what it meant to work together to see the University of Texas transformed by the gospel. We, Campus Renewal Ministries, had been asking them to consider praying together weekly but the college pastors were reluctant to do this because they had some negative experiences with united efforts in the past. When we met to discuss their concerns and consider our future, three specific questions were raised and addressed.
Over the next few weeks, I will write about each of the questions raised 14 years ago. I believe they will be helpful, because they are the same questions being raised about campus ministry unity today.
Last week I addressed the question: “Will we all look alike?”
This week I will address the question” Will it all be about events?”
Is this all about events?
The college pastors tried united events in that past, but found that they did not make the impact that they promised. What made matters worse, the purpose of their meeting together was the event.
The usual scenario
This sounds sarcastic, but this really is the most common scenario for ministries working together on an event. Usually one ministry wants to host an evangelistic event, but they can’t afford it financially or are worried not enough people would participate to make the event worthwhile. The leaders of this ministry would then approach other ministry leaders to see if they would be interested in going in on the event together.
The event is why they meet
In the above scenario, the purpose for ministries coming together is the event itself. Therefore, when the event is over the leaders shake hands and likely to not gather again until the next time a ministry wants to host something they cannot afford.
In the above scenario, the time spent together is usually time in planning and administration rather than prayer and relationship building. This type of meeting does not give ministry leaders a chance to truly seek God together to hear His agenda, because the agenda is the event itself.
That day back in 1997, we agreed with the college pastors. We did not want to simply come together based on events. Instead, we wanted to come together to grow in vision and in relationship.
Vision is why we meet
We wanted to grow in vision. Meaning we wanted to gather to pray and ask God to do something bigger than any of our individual ministries. We did not have a master plan for reaching the campus, but we believed that God did and we each had a role in it. The purpose of our meeting was prayer.
We wanted to gather each week to worship Jesus and pray scriptural prayers for the campus. We were sure that if we just did this, God would eventually speak to us. He would reveal things for us to do, even events. But these plans would be the fruit of our prayers, not the reason for our meeting.
Relationships are why we meet
We wanted to grow in relationship with one another. In order to partner together in a deeper way (more than an occasional event), we needed to really trust one another. Trust can only be established through growing relationships.
We wanted to bring the college pastors together in prayer each week so that they could get to know one another. Face time together is so very important in developing our relationships. We wanted leaders to know each other and each others’ gifts and ministry philosophies so that our picture of God’s work on campus would be more complete.
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 missional community movement at the University of Texas.