Campus Ministry

There’s this belief rampant among churches that State Colleges and Universities are the devil’s lair.  We hear statistics that tell us that only one in four Christians graduate still holding on to Christ and we panic!  Now that I am busy wrapping up my third semester of college, I would like to address this issue. (You have to admit, of all the ways to put off studying for finals, this is a good one!) 

First of all, don’t put your faith in statistics.  They’re all skewed. 

Second–and more importantly– trust God.  Our fear of losing faith in college has led us down some paths that I’m afraid are even more damaging than the original problem.

There are three ways I have seen the Christian community attempt to combat what they view as satan’s hold on college students:  Campus Ministries, Christian Universities, and condemning (and not attending) higher education.

Campus Ministries: This is usually in the form of church-suppported groups that lead Bible studies or worship services on a regular basis somewhere on the college campus.  While they have good intentions (and many have good results), I am personally very leery of such organizations.  Their intent is to spread the gospel of Christ, but what usually happens is they are responsible for keeping all the Christian kids in a “click” or club.  They also tend to feed on a victim mindset, giving many young Christians the idea that they are unjustly being persecuted in college.  This does not encourage students, nor will it strengthen their faith.  It’s merely a biased plug that ministry leaders use their platforms to present.  Campus Ministries are also used as witnessing tools, giving Christian kids something to invite their unsaved classmates to.  To me, that is missing the point of witnessing.  No one wants to sit in your small Bible study, nor do they want to attend a worship service with you.  If they don’t believe God exists or if they are struggling in their faith, what makes you think that would do anything other than annoy or frighten them?  Witnessing isn’t about trying to pull people into your world; it’s about you going into theirs.  Jesus helped people right where they were at.  He didn’t invite them to the synagogue!

Christian Universities: This is nothing more than Christian segregation.  Jesus taught that we were to go out into the world, baptizing in the name of the Holy Spirit.  Surrounding yourself with people who believe everything you do is not fulfilling that goal.  It is doing the opposite.  There may be the idea that college is a training grounds before thrusting oneself out in the world, but I do not find that to be biblical.  The apostle Paul shared his testimony with people as soon as the blindness fell from his eyes.   Keeping yourself in a Christian community hinders spiritual growth.  If everyone there believes as you do, where is the challenge?  If I trusted that everything coming from my professors’ mouths was accurate, how would I learn to think for myself?  Also, I fear these institutions help the problem of State Universities being anti-faith.  If most strong Christians are off at the Christian college, who is left to teach and attend the secular ones?  There is no reason for State Universities to feel the pressure of being open to Christianity when they can safely assume that most strong Christians aren’t attending their classes.  Thirdly, I know of Christian colleges that are not-so-Christian.  The only difference between them and State Universities is the name on the door and the tuition fees.  That is the most harmful thing of all.  When your Christian colleges stop acting like Christians, heavy damage is done to the witness of Christ.  I don’t approve of Christian segregation, but if you’re gonna put the name on the door, you have a heavy responsibility to live up to it!

Condemnation:  I do not think going to college is a necessity.  If you  don’t need a degree for the job you desire, then don’t go.  Now, I LOVE college and I support Higher Education, but I’m realistic.  It’s not for everyone and no one should feel they must go.  However, if the only reason you are refusing this great opportunity is because someone has told you it is ungodly to attend…then I have a problem with your absence in our schools.   It’s not that you are denying yourself an education.  You can buy your own books and study everything you please without attending college.  But you are denying your faith the chance to grow.  If you don’t think that your faith can stand up under the pressure of college then what does that say about it?  Personally, you’re giving me the impression that you have a small, frail relationship with God.  I don’t want to see Christians living in fear.  It’s okay to allow yourself to be challenged and I sincerely hope that college does that for you!    

I’ve become really negative in this post, so let me end with what I do believe in, instead of just hitting everyone over the head with my disagreements.  I believe in living your life for Christ.  To me, a college ministry shouldn’t be an organization; instead it is what each individual Christian attending college lives out.  Let me tell you a personal story.  This semester I took a class called  “Archaeology and the Bible.”  Now, I attend a secular University.  The Bible isn’t discussed here in a good way.  I knew going into the class that it would be difficult.  Was it?  Yes.  But I have grown more in my faith than I ever dreamed.  And God was faithful to me.  Hebrews says that when things become too much for us to bear, God will provide a way out for us.  God  didn’t get me out of it, but He led me through it with the help of two teachers.

The first was a music teacher.  It just so happens that this man is a Christian who loves (and has studied) biblical archaeology.  (coincidental, huh?)  My lessons with him were scheduled once a week and just happened to land immediately after my archaeology class.  I got to go right from the stress and confusion of this class to having a fun, relaxing time playing music.  He always asked me how my archaeology class was going and he was very open when I’d ask him questions. 

The other influential person was an English teacher.  One day our class discussed literature and writing.  We talked about how hard it is to trust every word that someone writes as absolute truth.  How is one to know if they’ve embellished at all?  This was similar to what my archaeology class was wondering about the Bible, so I took the liberty of sending this teacher an e-mail after that class, asking him to explain the issue deeper for me.  I also explained my concerns regarding the Bible.  He could have ignored the Bible part, not wanting to touch a controversial subject, but he didn’t.  It turns out that he is a Christian.  Not only was he open about the fact that he personally did trust the Bible, but his witness throughout the semester was a huge relief for me.  He was a good professor who cared about the individuals in his class, not just their grades. 

Those two men have college ministries.  They may not realize it, but they do.  They aren’t at college with a hidden agenda, out to convert everyone.  They are simply using the talents God gave them to make a living and feed their families.  Yet in the process of doing so, they continue to impact people for the sake of Christ.  That is not something only professors should do.  It is something students should do, as well.  Not get together in little clubs.  Get involved where their talents deem is a good spot for them and SHINE.


3 Responses

  1. Emily:

    I very much enjoy you opinions in this article about “Campus Ministry”. I do agree with many of your points and I do disagree with just as many based on what my campus ministry does.

    Our ministry is attended mostly by non-Christians who are interested in learning about our beliefs. They do want to sit in on our Bible study and they have asked to attend a worship service just for the experience and to satisfy their quest for knowledge. Our Campus Ministry mission is to share our understanding with those who are curious. We offer any support the student may need. I acknowledge the fact that there are many agencies offering support to students and that they are not religion based, we just happen to be. I offer no apology for that. The fact is though that we have been doing this ministry for many years longer than those agencies. Longer than the hospitals, longer than the social services and longer in fact than the university itself.

    Like Christ’s ministry, our ministry does not cater just to Christians. He did not perform miracles for Christians. (We have supplied wine for parties.) Christ did not heal Christians. (Our hospitals are for everyone.) He did not feed only Christians. (Our kitchen is always open for the hungry.) We serve those who ask and those who cannot ask. (Our efforts in social justice.)

    The Christians who do attend Bible studies are matter-of-factly sharing their faith-strengths or just looking for an hour and a half break from the secular world they are immersed in.

    I whole heartedly agree with your opinion about the necessity for a university education. Not everyone should pursue a post-secondary degree. Here in Canada 70% of high school students enroll in colleges and universities. Is a degree really necessary to flip burgers at a burger joint or to drive a taxi?

    On your point about Christian Universities….
    The first Christian university had one teacher and twelve students. The teacher was hung from a cross and one student, realizing that he failed, hung himself from a tree. All of the other students were persecuted and killed.
    Many state run universities in North America owe their existence due to the efforts of local Christian churches and their teachers.
    As for Christians living in fear on campus, I totally disagree. It is my opinion that there is more fear of Christianity on campus. If you read or listen to Richard Dawkins he makes my point.

    Thank you, Emily, for your “Campus Ministry” article. I really do appreciate your opinion and your work. You may not wish to post my “rant” but with your permission I would like to post your article on our website. You certainly are not alone in your observations but you have articulated those thoughts wonderfully.

    In His service,
    Dwight Upton,
    Program Coordinator,
    Lutheran Campus Ministry-London,
    Ontario, Canada

  2. Dwight,

    Thank you so much for you comment! I am MORE THAN HAPPY to post comments of people who disagree with me. I greatly appreciate your words and the challenge you gave me to look deeper into what certain campus ministries do compared to others. While I am not currently a supporter of campus ministries, I have no doubt that they can do good. Some of my closest friends are involved in such organizations. Also, thank you for the work you do with LSS-London. Knowing there are Christians reaching out to the unsaved, not just catering to other Christians, is a huge encouragement to me.

    As for publishing my article on your website, you have my full permission. I appreciate you being honest enough to ask, when you could have published it without my knowledge.

    Emily Grace

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