Last week at the University of Texas we hosted our 18th annual Rez Week.
If you were there, you heard me say something from the stage every night. I kept saying, “Rez Week is a celebration of our unity. It is not what unifies us.” It’s an important distinction to make.
Many campuses have something like Rez Week or at the very least they plan an evangelistic event such as a Veritas Forum or The Maze. These events are wonderful in and of themselves and can be a catalyst to deeper unity, but a successful event does not mean the Body is unified.
I have one question for those planning events: Will the students or ministers who planned the event continue to gather together after the event is over? If not, then I suspect there is not a movement toward true unity. Events are a great starting place, but if leaders in the Body of Christ stop meeting together after the event then unity was, in effect, based on the event, not something bigger.
True United Events
Here is another important diagnostic question: Who decided to sponsor the event? Normally one ministry decides that they want to host an event, then they go to the other ministry leaders and ask them to participate. Sometimes they invite others to join them because they want to maximize the impact on students. Though sometimes (to be honest) the desire to “partner” comes from the fact that the ministry hosting the event cannot afford to host it alone. Sad but true.
So what is the starting point? Is it one ministry calling others to join them? Or is it, like we’re trying to develop at the University of Texas, a number of ministry leaders praying together and collectively feeling led to host an event and unite in some specific venture or campaign? The difference is the starting point – one ministry or multiple ministries. For the starting point to be multiple ministries, college pastors and/or student leaders need to be meeting together in regularly for reasons beyond mere events.
The Family of Christ
My hope is that campuses that have united events will soon see the need to work together year round and grow to function less like a committee working on an event and more like a family working together to see their campus transformed. This means leaders meet together with no agenda other than to pray for the campus and get to know one another. This means when leaders do plan events, they fit into a larger vision that the ministry leaders have grown to share.
This morning, the Wednesday after Rez Week, 15-25 college pastors will meet together to pray in our Campus House of Prayer like we do every week. Then we will have our “campus minister council” meeting, like we do every month. There we share what we believe God is doing on campus and discuss ways the Body of Christ can partner to expand God’s Kingdom at UT. We’ll end the day by creating a “Partnership Menu” – a short list of events, campaigns, and strategies we will employ during the for the 2012-2013 school year.
This, to me, is the heart of our united movement at UT. Rez Week is simply a great way to celebrate the unity we already share.
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.