I was leading a seminar on College Ministry with both full time professionals and volunteers. One of the sweet volunteer ladies raised her hand and said,"Why don't campus based and church based ministries work together better?". I paused and stuttered around for a minute.
She then said, "How come every time I ask that question people pause and stutter around?". I looked at a Church based College Minister friend of mine in the group and said, "You want to answer that question?". He quickly said, "No.".
Ok, so here goes. This is in Baptist circles; I don't know about other groups. For many years I was considered an "expert in working with churches". We had great communication, joint projects and monthly meetings. Then, personnel changed and I was not an expert anymore! What happened?
-Part of it is personalities. Our first group all liked each other and enjoyed being together. That was not true of the later group.
-With increasing budget cuts these days, College Ministers in both situations feel increasing pressure to produce numbers.
-Somewhere along the way the rules changed in Baptist life...and not everyone got the memo that the rules had changed. It used to be that the Baptist Campus Minister was considered the "Gatekeeper" to the campus for Baptists. Everything went through his or her office. In fact, he/she was told they were to help coordinate what the churches did. Some churches became their own recognized student organization and felt they didn't need or want a "Gatekeeper". Part of this developed as churches went from more part time College Ministers to full time College Ministers.
-Under "the old rules" the BSU/BCM//BSM/whatever didn't do anything Sunday or Wednesday night and the churches didn't do anything weeknights (except Wednesday). Sunday was the main emphasis of the churches. In recent years, many Collegiate Church Ministries have emphasized their week night meeting as much or more than their Sunday events. So, now everybody is meeting on whatever night. Scheduling got more difficult and therefore, competitive.
-One Campus Based Minister said, "I give the names of all the incoming freshmen I have gathered all summer to this church and they use my list to advertise their event that is the same time as my weekly event.".
-One Church based College Minister said he felt our campus based ministry offered so much it kept the students too busy to do all he wanted to do.
-A common statement is, "There are plenty of students not being reached...so, what's the problem?". The problem comes in that there are not plenty of Christian student leaders and these students feel pulled or drop out of one so, they can do more or serve in the other or....oh yeah...study some.
-A well known Pastor whose church is immensely popular with college students wrote an article where he said something like, "Students should be active in their campus based ministry their first year or two and then just their church their last couple of years.". His idea was based on the fact that campus based ministries usually do an excellent job with freshmen. I said to him, "If we went with that plan who would be the upper class mentors and discipleship leaders with these freshmen?". He said, "I didn't think of that.".
-I've had Church College Ministers who enhanced our ministry and we theirs and I had a College Minister in my own church who wouldn't even return my calls. So, I've seen both sides.
There are no magic answers... but, here are a few suggestions.
-Communication is huge. Communicate..,even if it is one way....even if they don't communicate back, you communicate.
--Look for something you can do together that at least is a benefit to students, if not a benefit to both ministries.
-Work with those who want to work together. Sometimes, we make it an all or nothing deal. Dance with those whom will dance with you!
-Try to never speak ill of another ministry (unless it's a basic theological issue and then just speak to the issue.).
-Never think you are so big you don't need anybody else with whom to partner.
-Never forget that conflict between Christian ministries is a huge turn off to students.
-Occasionally, attend a main event of the other ministry....not when you speak or are supposed to be there....just show up. Make sure all others feel invited to your events. Yes; sometimes, its very uncomfortable.