I mentioned last week that I have recently been more aware of some challenges facing the campus-reaching movement at the University of Texas. Last week I shared specifically about the challenges that come with the constant turnover and addition of new college pastors. There are many new ministries at UT (about 20 new ones the last 10 years), and there are even more new pastors (few with much history together).
It’s awesome that there are now more ministries at UT than there were 10 years ago. Praise God for that! Though most of the pastors who helped shape our united vision are now gone, I also believe the right people are at the table today but something has tangibly changed with the addition of these new pastors: They see Campus Renewal Ministries differently now.
Challenges of Growth
When we first started CRM back in 1995 we really were a ministry to the ministries. I jokingly used to call us a “parapara church,” meaning we were not a church or a parachurch but a support to both. We did not have an agenda other than to call the ministries to seek God for a common plan to reach the campus together.
After a few years of praying together we (leaders from 10-15 ministries) developed a model of ministry that we called “campus-reaching.” By 2001 we had committed ourselves to a five part strategy, and the campus-reaching movement really took off.
- Leadership prayer groups
- Prayer Mobilization
- Spiritual Mapping
- Missional Communities
- Catalytic Events
Challenges of Having a Ministry Model
I’m deeply committed to these five strategies. I believe they are Biblical and practical. I believe we need to continue to develop each of these strategies at UT. I don’t believe we need to scrap it all and start over where we did 16 years ago, but the fact that we have a concrete vision has created some problems. Mainly, it is much more difficult to create ownership.
When pastors began praying and planning together in 1995 we could honestly say, “We don’t have an agenda.” We were trying to figure out what God was calling us to do together. Now we say, “We are trying to do these five strategies.” There is room each year to seek God about how to develop each strategy, but not as much room to create something new all together. You can see how this makes creating ownership a bit more difficult.
Challenges of Having Student Leaders
Early on in our movement CRM did not have our own leadership team. Truthfully, it was my job to administer everything. When we planned a catalytic event, launched a new prayer initiative, or trained missional community leaders, I did most of the work. Thankfully, since that time we’ve really grown. We’re not just hosting one event a year or focusing on one initiative a year. There are lots of plates spinning, and each plate is full!
As things like Rez Week and the missional community movement have grown, we have needed additional support to administer these united efforts. That’s why we now have a small but active leadership team of 14 students. Additionally, we are coaching 20 missional communities and have more than 200 students involved in our Campus House of Prayer (CHOP).
We used to tell students, “You cannot be involved with CRM alone, but need to be part of another campus ministry because we are only a ministry to the other ministries.” Now, however, we tell students on our leadership team that they cannot be involved in leadership of another ministry. As a result, we function more like a true parachurch ministry.
Challenges of Having a Building
It may sound silly, but the fact that we have a building really changes things. The churches and parachurch groups that we work with now see us differently. While it is a shared space, since 200 students from 30 different campus ministries come in and out of the Campus House of Prayer on a weekly basis, it is still “our” building.
We’ve had the CHOP since 2006. I would estimate that 65% of the college pastors at UT were not here before 2006. Therefore, they have only known CRM since we have had a building and the CHOP. I’ve even heard newer pastors and UT students refer to our ministry as the CHOP, not as Campus Renewal Ministries. As simple as it seems, having a building has caused us to be seen differently… as a “real” ministry, not a supporting ministry.
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.