Saturday, August 27, 2011

Campus church Plants vs Traditional Baptist Campus Ministries

One of the hot topics in collegiate ministry for Baptists is the idea of Campus church plants. Some seem to advocate this as the new and only way to go for Baptists. While others say it is appropriate in some situations, but is not best in many others. Part of this discussion has develeloped as a result of the budget changes at the North American Mission Board that has resulted in many well known and successful campus ministers losing their funding and the move of NAMB toward funding more campus church plants.

A compelling argument for a campus church is when there is no evangelical or specific Baptist church close to the campus. Or, no Baptist church is making an attempt to minister to the campus. But, for a Baptist agency to sponsor a church plant on a campus where there are local churches reading out to the campus or an existing BCM ministry seems inappropriate.

Some argue that campus church plants have been more successful than traditional BCM models. Yet, some of the examples cited are of campus church plants sponsored by larger churches that have put large amounts of money into their plant which far exceeds the amount of money the BCM has to operate on. That points to the value of resources, not which model is most effective.

One BCM director being de-funded by a shift in philosophy, says after his years of investment on this campus of national significance, that the doors that are now open to him likely will not remain open to a possible future church plant. There is some question as to whether
campus administrations will relate as willingly to campus church plants as they do a more traditional campus ministry.

Another question to consider in this discussion, does a BCM ministry and a campus church plant do the same things? Early observations would tend to say no. A BCM ministry tends to be more involved in the everyday life of a college student helping them answer the particular life stage questions they face. A church campus plants tends to focus on worship and the related areas.

There is a definitely a right place for campus church plants, but like most things, it is not a one thing fits all answer. A friend of mine who is a college administrator says, "For every difficult question, there is an obvious and easy answer.....that is usually wrong!"

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great topic!

    Before I read this post, the only thoughts I had on the subject were based on a couple conversations with some people involved in a church plant, and one conversation with a person who was affected by a church plant.

    The people who were involved were very excited. They would talk about their role in the plant and how they hoped it would be a place for traditional, nontraditional, and international students who cannot travel to a surrounding church to attend. That sounds great to me.

    The person who was affected by a church plant gave me an interesting perspective. He lives very close to the original church that is sponsoring the church plant. He said that everyone he had relationships with had left the original church to be involved with the church plant. He also said that the church plant was too far for him to drive and that he was looking for a new church to attend. Now obviously there are still people at the original church, but the impact of everyone that he knew suddenly leaving was enough to make him look for a new church.

    You had a lot of good discussions in your post. One of the things you said was, “for a Baptist agency to sponsor a church plant on a campus where there are local churches reading outto the campus or an existing BCM ministry seems inappropriate.” I like this statement. However I think the inappropriateness level can vary from campus to campus. I think if a campus has a very large student body then the inappropriateness level would be low. But if a campus were smaller and did have local churches or a BCM reaching out to students then I think the inappropriateness level would be high. Just like the guy I mentioned earlier didn’t want to travel far to attend the church plant where everyone he knew was; if there is a church right outside of your dorm with people you know, why would you want to travel to another local church? It could cause the local churches at a smaller college to lose their campus influence. Also, one of the BCM’s roles which is to connect students to local church might become more difficult.

    I guess the hard thing to determine is what campus is big enough or too small?