Last weekend I was invited to Jefferson City, Missouri to speak to campus minsters and student leaders from the Baptist Student Ministries across their state. I was asked to speak to about the missional community movement at UT and what they would need to do in order to start a similar movement on their campus.
While preparing my messages, I was reminded of some of the changes the campus ministries at UT had to make in order to see our missional community movement get off the ground. Truth be told, we wrote the following vision statement in 2001: “To see a viable Christian community in every college, club, residence, and culture.” But it was not until 2004 that we launched missional communities.
Why the delay? The dreaded word: Change.
Change in Thinking
Back in 2001 we gave verbal consent to the vision, but it was not yet a deep conviction. We read about the need to become a “go-to church instead of a come-to church” and believed we needed to make changes, but it took time for God to really change our thinking.
Several things contributed to our change of thinking. We (ministry leaders at UT) read books together like City Reaching and The Present Future. We invited speakers like Jaeson Ma and Neil Cole to come speak to us about missional communities. Mostly, we prayed together and dreamt of a day when every student at UT could see and hear the gospel from a trusted friend in their community.
Change in Structure
It took about two or three years for our thinking to significantly change. Once it had, we found ourselves stuck again because we did not move on to make the systematic changes in our structures that were needed to support a missional community movement. We thought we could simply make changes to our programs to allow the movement to grow, but we soon realized we needed more meaningful changes in the way we allocated our time, money, and people. Several ministries responded with dramatic structural changes.
The Texas Wesley reorganized their leadership structure, creating an “outreach council” made up of 10-15 students whose only “job” with Wesley was to lead a missional community. They met weekly for training and accountability.
Hill Country Bible Church UT initially recruited nine interns who were assigned to fairly common internship positions (tech, worship, small groups, hospitality, etc.). They changed their roles, however, and made them the first nine missional community leaders for their church. They put all of their eggs in one basket by paying these students to work part-time, not in the church but on campus.
These are the kind of systematic changes of time, money, and people that are needed to really build a missional community movement.
Change in Programs
This is the final piece of the puzzle, but sadly it is where most of us start because it is the easiest to change. Starting a movement requires the deeper change in our thinking and structures, not just tweaking a program or two. Once the thinking and structures change, programmatic changes will naturally follow and they will not seem forced or out of place.
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.