A College Ministry veteran called me recently to express his concern about the discussion in College Ministry circles about the best way to do it. Some even seem to be arguing their way is the only way. Obviously, this discussion is as old as the ministry itself. Usually what prompts the re-energizing of these discussions is someone has a remarkable degree of success somewhere and immediately others begin to copy it. So, is this the arrival of the perfect method?
Our discussion caused me to think about how to categorize the different methods that are used throughout the country and all with some shining examples of success and God's movement in their midst.
1. CAMPUS BASED PROGRAM CENTERED
This model is tied to large events such as a weekly Worship event, Outreach Lunch Programs, and even specialized Freshmen Nights. Those who practice this style believe that a wide variety of students can be touched at one time. These large group events offer non-threatening environments for both immature Christians as well as non-believers. These large group events are not all they do, but they drive and affect everything else.
2. CAMPUS BASED SMALL GROUP
This model is based around the belief that discipleship best happens in the midst of a smaller, committed group that shares life and faith on a regular basis. The Campus Ministry leader pours into the small group leaders who in turn pour into their small group. In recent times, this method has been adopted by some who were doing Program Centered, but found they could not "compete" with some other ministries large group experience, band etc. Or, that they simply did not have enough students, proper space, etc to do a quality large group experience.
3. ONE TO ONE DISCIPLESHIP
Obviously, there is no greater way to grow a new believer in Christ or to share the claims of Christ than in regular one to one meetings. Those who advocate this method believe that while touching fewer students it makes a great impact on those touched for lifelong discipleship. Some believe this is the best way to start a ministry on a campus.
4. CONGREGATION CENTERED CHURCH MINISTRY
This is the most traditional and long practiced style done by Collegiate Churches. Students are ministered to just as other groups in the church are. They all attend the same worship services and then break out into age group Bible study groups and for special events. After practicing other methods, some churches are returning to this style with the belief that it best prepares students for involvement and service after college in churches that are not college centered.
5. CHURCH ATTACHED COLLEGE MINISTRY
This is the church ministry that focuses around a separate large group event for students. This revolves around the
belief that more students can be reached and touched by aiming events especially at them with style, time and night. Proponents of this method indicate that it solves the issue of collegiates being exposed to church squabbles, etc. Many of the largest Church College Ministries practice this style.
6. CAMPUS CHURCH PLANT
A Campus Church Plant is the newest of the models practiced somewhat widely. It simply is built around the idea that we will start a church for college students on or near campus. It can be done time and style wise in a way that best accommodates students. The first use of this model came in areas where there were no churches either equipped or disposed to College Ministry. It is now being practiced in a variety of settings.
Obviously, there are hybrids where a ministry is trying to take and practice the strengths of more than one method. Yet, I would still maintain they fall into one of these categories. That style is their central driving force. So, which is THE BEST WAY? That is easy....the one I prefer and do best!
Seriously, it depends on each situation, their resources, size of staff, and the individual gifts and strengths of the ministry leader. But, I think being aware of the different styles helps us be more intentional about our style and why we are practicing it. When considering switching to another model, one of the questions to consider is how much budget and staff went into this model and is that the defining difference? Plus, I just think we cannot always explain or define why God moved in a big way in some situations.