For about the last fifteen years, I have worked to develop a campus-wide missional community movement at the University of Texas. While we’re still far away from our goal of planting missional communities in every college, club, residence, and culture at UT, we do have about 200 unique people groups being reached and the impact is obvious. Nearly twice as many students are putting their faith in Jesus every school year (600 or more) than there was before we started planting missional communities.
Here are a few of the things I believe made the most impact on our missional community movement.
Spiritually Map Your Campus
Nothing casts vision for missional communities better than making a list of all of the potential “people groups” on campus. One of the best things we ever did was make a list of every dorm (and how many floors), every department (and all the majors), every club (academic, social, educational, recreational), every sports team (varsity and club), every Greek House, and every ethnic student group (national and international).
Additionally, we went to every campus ministry and church to ask which of these “people groups” they were already targeting. Soon we had a fairly accurate list of what groups were being reached and which groups were not.
Group Students By Affinity
There is a third level of spiritual mapping too. We started to track where our students already are and then group them by affinity. Typically, newcomer cards students fill out only ask for their contact information (name, email, phone). We started encouraging ministry leaders to ask more demographic information too, like where they live, what department they’re in, and what clubs they may be a part of.
Missional communities can more easily be formed when students are connected based on common affinity. Instead of forming a group that happens to be free on Tuesday night, groups can be formed based on where they live, what they study, or what organizations they are involved in on campus.
Equip Students As Missionaries
This may be the most important piece. Students need to be reprogrammed. So many students come to universities and look for a church and ministry to plug into, but rarely do they look for a mission to reach out to. They do not have a missional identity, and they lack the practical skills needed to live like a missionary.
Most Christian students are familiar with traditional small groups and Bible studies, but missional communities are vastly different. We created the Spark Course to help students learn to be missionaries. Many of the UT campus ministries and churches started using it, while other developed similar training.
Partner With Other Ministries
When you start thinking about the campus like one giant mission field, you realize that you need to work with others if you ever have any hope of reaching every people group. Spiritual mapping is a great first way to partner together so everyone can have a clear picture of the Body of Christ and the mission field. The next step is to be willing to connect students across ministry lines to be missionaries where they have the same affinity group.
If two students from the Wesley United Methodist Campus Ministry and two students from Cru live on the same floor or are all on the rugby team, then why not connect them together? If ministries can humble themselves to this degree, the missional community movement can really explode.
One Ministry One Mission Mindset
One of the benefits to partnering together is you can stop the ministry hopping that is so common among students. You can also with one voice cast the same vision to all of your students. We started using this phrase at the University of Texas: “One Ministry. One Mission.”
We think we best make disciples and best reach the campus when each student commits themselves to one ministry and church for worship, fellowship, teaching, and discipleship and commits themselves to one mission for service, evangelism, and mission. I am convinced, if every student did this, the whole campus could be reached.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the 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.