The university is one of the most strategic mission fields in existence. The culture that will exist fifteen to twenty years hence exists in germinal form in the university. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders in the fields of business, law, medicine, and education. Ministry on the university campus may seem optional, a nice extra to be pursued if the money allows. However, in reality while it isn’t always urgent–at least in the same sense as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless–it is important and we neglect it to our detriment.
That university ministry is important, doesn’t guarantee that it will be done well. All too often the large, historic denominations have viewed collegiate ministry as a way to “keep young adults in the denomination.” Shepherding students through their four years of college is important, but it cannot and should not be the end or purpose or goal of a college ministry.
There are at least five purposes or goals that I think are critical to effective college ministry:
1. To enable college students to develop a faith of sufficient quality to meet the tests and challenges of an enriched mind.
2. To prepare students–both spiritually and mentally–to employ their gifts in the service of the body of Christ.
3. To help students to understand God’s redemptive purpose in the world and take their part in this mission.
4. To appropriately relate their vocation to this mission and understand how a vocation both honors and glorifies God and can further God’s mission.
5. To bear witness in word and deed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the end, I don’t care how many times a student changes his or her denomination as long as their commitment to Jesus in an orthodox expression of the Christian faith persists.