Last week 77 campus ministers from 43 different campus ministries met for half the day get to know each other, discuss what God is doing on campus, and consider what God has for us in the future. The day consisted of three large conversations which I will very briefly summarize here.
What is God doing in our ministries?
We spent time discussing the ups and downs of campus ministry and the things that impact us all: changing staff, losing student leaders, lack of funding, difficulty keeping visitors after September, and more. Some ministries are growing. Some ministries are losing students. We had a humble conversation about the nature of these challenges.
At one point we had two pastors who previously ministers on other campuses share about the unique challenges they see at UT compared to other campuses. They shared about the busyness and high involvement of students in multiple communities and activities and about the higher degree of restrictions and regulations for campus ministries on UT’s campus. They same two pastors also mentioned positive differences at UT compared to other campuses. Here they mentioned the high degree of unity and partnership and the high number of students who stay in Austin to join campus ministries on staff or as volunteers.
What is God doing in our students?
We spoke about the various things we have seen God doing in our students lives. We spoke of the positive things like transparency, community, boldness, evangelism, compassion, and intimacy with God. We spoke too of the negative things like busyness, overcommitment, stress, conflict, unforgiveness, rebellion, depression, sexual sin, consumerism, and apathy. There are clear signs of growth and life in our students, but there are also alarming signs of brokenness and distraction.
College pastors ultimately want to make disciples, but teaching students to follow Jesus can be a difficult task at UT. Students often remain on the fringe of our ministries, busying themselves with many other activities including too many ministries. We sense that this is a hungry but distracted generation.
Finally, multiple ministries spoke about how they are reaching lost communities of students. This is what brings us together. Our primary goal is not to simply gather the Christians in each incoming freshman class. If it was, we’d constantly be in competition for the same small number of students. Instead we’re focused on reaching the 45,000 students who are not yet connected with any of our ministries, and we’re going about it in many different ways.
Some ministries have great events and/or venues where seeking students can come and safely investigate Jesus. Other are fantastic at hospitality and have buildings, free food, and welcoming students that draw lonely students into their Christian communities. Others are deploying their students to lead missional communities (each calling them different things) in order to reach specific dorms, fraternities, sports teams, and ethnic groups. There is not a right or wrong way to reach those not connected in our ministries. Rather there are multiple ways to reach the lost and we all have a lot to learn from one another, and while sharing this day with one another we did just that.
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.