Monday, November 9, 2015

Do You Have Some "Pretty People" in Your College Ministry?

I love College Minister meetings, workshops and seminars. There are always the connections with people who get the frustrations and pains I have. There is never the guarded and sometimes wariness I have felt in pastor meetings and conferences. Different methods, thoughts and philosophies are expressed which help me think through my own methods, convictions and practices. That is always a win.

At one such meeting, I had finished my responsibility and slipped into a seminar being led by a well known and very successful College Minister. I sat down between two veterans at the back and one leaned over and said, "He is talking about having a ministry to pretty people.". As I began to listen, the speaker was sharing his belief that to reach a campus you needed to reach the leaders of the campus...the Greeks, athletes, etc. Then, they would draw in and bring other students to your ministry. My back row friend felt it was only a ministry for pretty people. The seminar presenter called them "the Influencers".

Some ministries are often criticized as "just a ministry for pretty people". Other ministries are criticized for only reaching students that have no where else to go or to fit. And, leaders of those ministries can speak long and passionately about why their ministry is doing the right thing....reaching leaders....being the hands and feet of Christ to the least of these, etc.

I am all about leaders. No ministry can function without leaders. It must develop, attract, and train leaders. But, I would disagree with those who say all the leaders are Greeks or athletes or there are no leaders outside these two groups. However, if we are only reaching leader types, is our ministry what it is supposed to be? Every group needs some followers and servant types.

A few years back a non-denominational ministry on a well known deep south campus was having a once a week worship event aimed at fraternity and sorority members. It was attended by several hundred greeks each week. The decision was made by the leadership to open it up to all students on campus...not just Greeks. The attendance then fell to less than a hundred each week. The decision was made to go back to it being a "Greek event".
What happened there? I don't begin to know all the dynamics and local factors. A detailed study of that would fascinate a "College Ministry Geek" like me.

But, I have found Greeks and athletes to be pretty isolated groups from others....for one thing just because of time and schedule constraints. My caution would be that if your ministry is based on the idea of reaching Influencers that will reach others you should be looking all different places. There are Influencers all across campus in different places...not just Greek chapters and athletic teams. Beware of equating pretty and influential.

If your ministry is proud of the fact that you have no "pretty people", shame on you. The gifted and charismatic student has needs and struggles as well as being loved by God. They just are often more gifted in hiding their struggles and pain. I have the crazy notion that a College Ministry should have all kinds of students in it...pretty, not so pretty, out-going and shy, Jesus loving and Jesus doubting.

Many years ago I had a shaping experience. A student came to my office to tell me that
day she was moving out on her roommate. Her roommate had some physical disability and an angry personality. The friend cared for her, but could take it no more and said, "But,
I'm her last friend". That night I stood at the door visiting with students as they came in for our worship event. The young woman with the disability came in and sat down on the back row. I sat down beside her. As the music started, another young woman rushed in and sat down on the other side of me. She was a freshman...gorgeous, a talented singer, etc. Every group on campus was after her and she had shared with me her struggle with all of that. As the worship ended, the one leading asked us to all stand and join hands as we prayed.

As I stood between those two young women holding their hands, I became very emotional and had "a God moment". This is what College Ministry is supposed to look like.

Should we reach leaders...yes! Should we reach servants....yes! Should we reach those that lost their last friend that day, yes! We have to be intentional about reaching out to a variety of students. And we have to realize just reaching "pretty people" will not bring every one else. But, forgive us if we are proud that our ministry doesn't reach "pretty people".

A College Ministry Principle I strongly believe is, "Who we reach helps determine who we can and cannot reach". But, the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like all people. What are you doing to try to reach a mix of students?


  1. I think its possible you may have misinterpreted or misapplied what the workshop lead er was trying to communicate. I'm sure he would have appreciated the chance to respond to you or your friend's questions or concerns.

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