Monday, February 8, 2016

The Silent Issue in College Ministry

The "silent issue" that is affecting College Ministry is salaries. The majority of my movement and contacts are within the Southern Baptist World. Yet, I imagine with the decline in giving generally, this is not just an SBC issue. In Southern Baptist life there have been a variety of staff cuts that some say have been proportionate in College Ministry. Others feel that College Ministry has experienced deeper cuts than the whole. There are two issues here. While these cuts have meant the loss of positions, it is even more quietly affecting salaries for those positions being maintained. That in turn is affecting the experience, if not the quality, of those serving in College Ministry positions.

One of the things we know is that most of the larger, more stable College Ministries are led by older, experienced College Ministers. This is due to a variety of reasons. But, today as we see many younger College Ministers moving to other areas of ministry, will there be the wise old pros to lead and grow larger ministries in the years to come? Will there be the quality of mentors for younger College Ministers that is needed?

An issue that has made salaries a more sensitive issue has been insurance or the lack there of. Where many Denominational College ministers formally received insurance for them and all of their family, now that is often just provided for the employee. This is becoming true universally. However, the rub comes when the College Minister's salary was low in the beginning. One young ministry wife (not a College Minister wife) illustrated the issue on Facebook recently when she posted her frustration with their family paying $600 per month for insurance for their children and her. Taking $7,200 annually out of a meager salary is a blow to a family. Also, due to salary being low, some are putting little into retirement funds.

Some argue that the answer is for College Ministers to raise their own salaries. Yet, within Southern Baptist life there is disagreement over this. Others are concerned that this will hurt Baptists overall plan of unified giving. But, a few are experimenting with the idea of providing a salary for a Lead Campus Minister and developing a multiple staff of young "Intern types" who raise their own salaries and serve for one or two years under the Lead Campus Minister. It will be a while before we see how this concept develops and if it will be widely accepted.

It has been my experience that for some reason Non-denominational College Ministers seem to fare better at raising their own salaries than those tied to a denomination. I am aware of two established Baptist ministries with Centers on or near campus who have been looking for a College Minister who would succeed the current ones and raise their own salaries. But, so far the result is zero.

The salary issue also plays out with some significant differences between what campus based and church based are paid. Church based tend to be paid more than campus based. Yet, in Southern Baptist life the campus based College Minister is expected to be a leader among all Baptists doing College Ministry for that campus. But, he or she may be the younger, more inexperienced one. One College Ministry leader when asked why he was hiring so many with no experience, he said that was all he could afford.

One bright, very successful young College Minister who moved to a different ministry position said his frustration was no matter how well he did, the salary was always the same. He indicated it was not about the money but just a sense of lack of appreciation. We all want to feel that our efforts are appreciated.

So, what's the bottom line? What's the answer? We must begin to have a very open discussion about College Ministry salaries (and insurance/benefits) and how to have multiple staff. It is disingenuous to talk about our concern about losing the twenty something generation to the church and not be talking about how to have the best people we can have working in College Ministry. Experience counts in everything. If those with experience cannot afford to stay in College Ministry, then reaching the twenty something generation is not a priority for us.


  1. This is a very interesting article. And sad in too many ways. I found this while doing research for a book I'm writing about a young man from the middle 70's on who God leads into a BSU position during and after graduating from the Seminary. I was searching to find out when the name changed from BSU to BCM when I stumbled onto this article. Bless you for your commitment to College Ministries. The BSU will always hold a dear place in my heart for the two years I was active in Junior College. For the friendships and ministry opportunities it afforded me. And it is prominent in the series of books I'm writing. But I also remember our Director was part time. His other job was as the Tennis Coach at a 4 year school across town.