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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Difference in Church Based College Ministry and Campus Based?

I spent 41 years doing campus based college ministry.  I recently started my second stint as an Interim Church Based College Minister.  One of the things I have believed in both positions is that a church based ministry should not look just like a campus based one.  There is and should be a difference in the two.  I would even go as far as to say that some churches are not doing a church based college ministry, but rather are doing their version of a campus based ministry.  The church I serve started the campus based BCM ministry on the local campus many years ago and continues to be one of it's leading financial supporters.  So, we want it to succeed and we do not want to do anything that might harm what it is doing.

One reason that churches often do what I would call a version of a campus based ministry is that the College Minister or volunteer leaders were active in a campus based ministry that blessed them and so they do what they saw and experienced. That is is a pretty natural happening.  One Campus Based College Minister complained to me recently that area churches hire his graduates and they then do all the same things that his ministry on campus is doing and students see all the same things by the different ministries.

So, what differences should there be in the two and how do we understand them better?

-Church based ministries have the great opportunity to expose students to and connect them to Christians of a wide range of ages, background and vocations.

-Campus based ministries should resist the temptation to become the students' church.  In fact, students will often see it that way even when the ministry does not intend it.  So, campus based ministries (that are not a campus based church) should always and in many different ways be pointing students toward local churches.

-Church based ministries must point students toward their church wide events...not just their student only events.  Why does this matter, if they get community and solid Bible teaching at student only events?  If we teach students that faith communities will always specialize in their needs and interests, we can be contributing to a "consumer only" view of church and faith.

-Both campus based and church based offer opportunities to serve.  But, the church usually can offer a wider variety of opportunities.  These in turn help prepare students for service in churches for their entire life time.

-It has been my experience that campus based ministries can be more specific and intentional in doing leadership training and it is one thing that churches should expect of their campus bases ministry partners.

-One difference in the two ministries I have observed is that church based ones tend to be more preaching centered and campus based ministries tend to be more teaching oriented.  A friend of mine recently said that campus based ministries are "more educational" and church ministries , particularly campus church plants tend to be "more prophetic". Campus based ministries often help students with issues like time management, study skills, etc.  These and other "school topics" usually are not part of a church based ministry.

-Campus based ministries often have more opportunity due to setting and location to do more one to one discipleship.  Churches due to facilities and staff can usually offer the much more quality large group experiences.

-Yet, the campus based ministries can give students the opportunities to sing, play, speak, etc in their large group events which prepares them for future service in churches.  The expectation at a campus event is not the same as one at a church wide worship event.

-An observation I made many years ago and still do not fully understand is that campus based college ministers and church based ones tend to be different personality types.  At a large national campus minister meeting I used to help plan and organize, church based college ministers wanted more preaching and campus based wanted more how to seminars/breakouts.  The personalities over-all are just different.  Obviously, this is a generalization with lots of exceptions.

It is my goal as Church Based College Minister to be supportive and helpful of our Campus Based College Minister and that ministry.  I think the ideal is they will reach some students we will not and cannot and we will reach some students they would not and cannot.  And, we will reach and work together with some students for the students' benefit.  And, I will continue to expect the Campus Based Minister to be an advocate and representative with school officials and administrators for all our ministries benefit.


  1. In the Emerging Regions part of the convention, church based ministries do not do the fund raising that the campus based ministries are required to do. Also the continuing relationship with alumni is a higher priority for campus based than the church based.

  2. I agree with the different personality thing. It may simply be a result of what a church looks for when hiring and what an area campus ministry leader/network looks for when hiring/assigning.