Monday, January 9, 2017

Balance: The proper perspective for ministry to college students

Balance. It’s a word we don’t think about often but are affected by every day. When we are young it comes with a price, usually a few bumps and bruises as we learn that critical skill needed to become a mobile human being. When we get old it is a treasure as those we love struggle to maintain it so they don’t become a victim to the troubles that come with a fall. It means to keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall.

I’ve been doing ministry with college students long enough to see a few things. I kind of feel like the Farmers Insurance commercial there. I know a few things, because I’ve seen a few things! The current trend seems to be to focus heavily on discipleship with college students. And that’s a great thing. We’ve seen resurgence in our discipleship at the BCM and the effects are awesome. However, this isn’t the first time the pendulum has swung in the discipleship direction in my lifetime. Early in my ministry and when I became a believer in Jesus it was the rage then. We all knew the chart that if we just did discipleship with two people every six months the world would be won to Christ by now. Well that is true in theory, just not very doable in practice!

Then the emphasis on large group meetings became the way to reach more college students. Fueled by the success of Louie Giglio and Pasion and Gregg Matte and Breakaway, the push became to make a dynamic large group teaching and music venue the driving force in ministries. Churches even began to have their own College Worship services. And that was good even great for a season. The majority of resources were committed to making the weekly meeting the best and brightest thing on campus. Campus ministers began to focus more on their communication skills in front of large groups. And that was a good thing until it began to produce fewer disciples and more attenders. Suddenly it was harder to attract them and more stressful to keep producing a better show each week. While there are still some awesome speakers who can handle the large crowds, the spaces to host those and people to lead them are limited, so the pendulum moved again.

The effort to reach out and share the gospel through programs like FAITH witness training gained traction in some areas of college life for a while. Teams were formed, contacts were generated, and lives were transformed by the witness of others. When FAITH was too long or too structured, college ministers turned to Share Jesus Without Fear or similar programs. We trained students in everything from gospel tracts to E-Cubes. And for a while there was great effort made in saturating the campus with witnesses. Cold call evangelism was prevalent through surveys and dramas depicting Heaven and Hell even made appearances on the college scene. And God used those efforts to bring thousands of students to Himself. But then the movement known as Post-Modernism began to form on the campus and the idea of apologetics and convincing someone of the truth of Jesus was made a bit more difficult. So the pendulum moved again.

It seems to me that the most effective long term ministries have always had a proper balance of those things and other programs. Sure they may not be the biggest, the brightest, or the most known. But over the years they have continued to produce solid disciples and have continued to make an impact on their campuses and local churches. Most of us who serve in collegiate ministries have egos and a desire to want to reach as many students as we can with the gospel. So we can be tempted to run after the latest hot method or strategy. But in the end, it’s those who maintain the course that the Lord gives them who produce lasting results. Their ministries seem to be on solid ground all the time. They have found the sense of balance that comes from operating from who they are and how God has gifted them. We need a solid balanced idea of ministry that includes discipleship, evangelism, a large group event, small group involvement, engagement in missions and a challenge to be a great commission fulfilling worldview! The emphasis might shift from time to time, but let’s keep a balanced approach to reaching, teaching and sending college students to help expand the kingdom of the Lord rather than our own.

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