6 Essentials of College Ministry

Posted: September 15, 2009 in Ministry

This is a blog post by Justin Holcomb, the academic dean of re:Train. It was recently posted on the resurgence blog. The links are helpful as well, and serve to expound on some of his thoughts.

“I have served as a campus minister for five years and have taught at two universities for nine years. In that time, I’ve learned some lessons about doing campus ministry both the hard way and from great mentors. Here are the top six things you need to know if you’re doing college ministry:

1. Don’t confuse the gospel with religion
To prevent doing this, talk about Jesus (who he is and what he has done) all the time. If you don’t, students will think Christianity is really about something else, like morality, philosophy, piety, social justice, or a religious experience. If you start talking more about what they should do instead of what Jesus has done, you’re preaching another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9), which is to put heavy burdens on them (Matt. 23:2-4).

2. Learn about sexual assault
The prevalence of sexual assault is staggering. At least 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. And the numbers are much worse for college students. These young women and men feel crippling shame, deep guilt, and painfully alone because of what has been done to them.

3. Teach students how to read and interpret the Bible for themselves
This means being clear on the relationship between the law and the gospel. The law is “perfect, true, and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:7-9) and “holy, just, and good” (Rom. 7:12), but it does not effect what it demands (Gal. 3:21). The good news is that on the cross Jesus took our penalty of law-breaking and fulfilled the law, so he could give us his righteousness. God then works in us to will and to do his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). The very law that condemns us becomes the very thing that God fulfills in us through the power of his Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:18-23), not through our effort (Gal. 3:1-3).

4. Be prepared to comfort students because of divorce and death
College students are at a phase in life where their parents seem to get divorced, if they aren’t already, now that their children are leaving home. This is also the age when grandparents begin to die.

5. Study apologetics
Many students still have brain cells left, and they’ve been reading and thinking about their world. They have legitimate questions about who Jesus is and what he did and why he isn’t just a good example. They want to know why they should trust the Bible as reliable. The immense suffering in the world makes them doubt either the goodness or power of God or both. They think Christians are hypocrites and bigots, so why should they become one?

6. Be prepared to counsel students about what they’re really facing
You must be prepared to counsel about eating disorders, pornography, cutting, abusive relationships, and the lingering damage of sexual sin. College students tend to be the shock-absorbers of the myths our cultural sells. Idols are brutal slave masters.”

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