I work with college students at a local church. I’m the college guy. Aside from Bible studies and coffee shop conversations with local students, my job is prepping those who head off to college for a life of faith of their own. Can I say just how much I appreciate upon their return, hearing about the wonderful campus ministries they’ve gotten involved in? I love the great parachurch ministries like Campus Crusade, or FCA, or Navigators that shepherd and disciple our students while they’re away. I love the campus life ministries on Christian campuses that get our students involved in studies and missions. I love the summers of deep growth that happen when a student goes off to work at a Christian camp.
But if I’m honest, I have one significant issue with these ministries: all too often they are unintentionally setting our students up to fail in the local church.
See, in a lot of ways, ministries like this are better than church in their eyes. I mean, here, you have a lot of people your same age, asking all the same questions, and struggling with all the same issues. They’re all worshipping to the same G, C, D chord anthems, sold out for the same causes, excited, ready to go, full of life, and earnest. Special speakers who specialize in dynamically communicating to their niche segment are brought in for chapels or special events. The leaders’ sole interest is the spiritual life and vitality of 18-20-somethings and the meeting hours are designed around college students’ schedules. It’s beautiful. It’s what I call Christian Wonderland. It’s a magical place to visit, but doesn’t entirely reflect the reality of commitment to the church.
Over at Lifeway Christian Leaders Blog I talk about how parachurch ministries can turn that around and really prepare our students for life in the real church. You can read it here.
Soli Deo Gloria
Some of those campus ministries have terrible, self-focused theologies. I have seen many messed up by them.
Now, can God work through their terrible theology? Of course. It’s just that there is a more excellent way and that is to get people to forget about their holiness project and lead them to true freedom in trusting in the finished work of Christ…alone.