With thousands of universities in the U.S., campus ministry is incredibly weak in the Churches of Christ. We have around 125 campus ministries. But, I don’t feel completely qualified to explain why. So, I asked seasoned veterans Milton Jones, Scott Lambert, and Chris Buxton to help me.
A Word About Churches
Many of the most successful ministries outside of our fellowship aren’t connected to local churches. They’re para-church organizations. But, in the C of C, the vast majority of campus ministries are local church ministries.
I’ve written before about the small number of campus ministries in the Churches of Christ. Scott says there are 12,500 C of C’s in the U.S. This means roughly 1% of churches are engaged in campus ministry.
Some ministries are financially supported by multiple churches so the numbers aren’t exact. But, the point is the same.
The vast majority of Churches of Christ aren’t involved in campus ministry.
I’m not saying, “The churches are to blame!” But, I am saying that churches play a huge role in the successes and failures of campus ministry in the Churches of Christ. This isn’t the case for ministries that aren’t church based.
These are the six reasons we came up with…
1. Many churches lack kingdom vision.
According to Chris, “Many churches lack kingdom vision. Most of the students aren’t ‘our kids,’ so they feel any investment in them would have little payoff for the local body.” In other words, there’s not much return on investment (Stephen Lutz has a great article about this).
But, even if students didn’t bring much value, Chris said, “I would hope our churches would have a much larger perspective that would lead them to invest in the future’s key societal leaders at the time when they’re most malleable.”
2. Churches are protecting what they have.
Churches of Christ are declining. And, as a result, Scott pointed out that it’s hard for churches to create something new when they’re protecting what they have. He summed it up this way: “We’re protecting what we have as we shrink.”
3. “The Boston Movement scared people.”
You need to know about the Boston Movement to understand the history of C of C campus ministries. This movement was born at the Crossroads C of C in Gainsville, FL. It grew rapidly and eventually became the International Church of Christ (ICOC).
The Boston Movement had some pretty serious issues. In C of C campus ministry circles, when you start talking about multiplying, many people are fearful about repeating the abuses of the Boston Movement. It’s unfortunate.
Scott said it simply, “The Boston Movement scared people.”
4. Too much division.
Division is definitely a part of our history. And, Milton has experienced it firsthand. He said…
“I think that churches got tired of us because we split the brotherhood too many times. It became easier not to deal with us than have the negative results that came from us.
“As a result, fewer people desired…to be campus ministers because of our reputation. And fewer churches wanted a group with a track record of splitting churches.”
5. The misperception that college students aren’t open.
Many people might think college students aren’t open to the gospel. This just isn’t true. College students are one of the most receptive people groups on the planet.[bctt tweet=”College students are one of the most receptive people groups on the planet.”]
According to Chris, some “believe Christian students who attend state universities will usually drift away from the church and faith during the college years but will return at some future time.”
I’m sure plenty of Christian students drift and return to the church later in life. I’m also sure that many drift and never return.
6. There aren’t many doing campus ministry well.
According to Chirs, “Many Christians’ experience of campus ministry…is of an odd little group out on the fringe of campus that is virtually irrelevant to students’ lives.”
With only 125 ministries in the nation, it’s clear that not many churches/ministries are doing campus ministry well. But, when it’s done well, campus ministry has the potential to change people’s lives.
Chris articulated it well, “When I think of campus ministry, I see a true disciple-making, life-altering force…I know of no other form of ministry in the contemporary church with more potential for disciple-making and life change than campus ministry.”
What did we miss? I’d love to hear your thoughts.