"Reaching the Campus Tribes" -- Reflections

Posted by tom | May 2, 2009

Yesterday while Lily napped, I read through the free e-book Reaching the Campus Tribes by Benson Hines. I'd encourage you to take the time to download, skim, enjoy the pics, and share your thoughts.  Some initial reflections:

  1. Yes, college prep & campus ministry is a largely neglected mission during the hinge of the life journey of many youth in the United States of America. The Church (and parental peer groups in particular) should give more attention to modeling/teaching/testifying to a life of following Christ which flows into youth discipleship and outreach.  In addition, youth must accept the costly counter-cultural call to follow Christ in the 'real world' and not serve themselves or the idols of our culture during Middle School/High School/College through young adulthood.  Below's some excellent quotes from the book.  Note:  For more of my own work in this area see Next steps for Next Steps.
    • Regardless of the reason for a church’s difficulties in keeping and serving college students, the presence of the Collegiate Attention Gap is devastating. For many Christian young people, there is no continuity in their church experience between high school and adulthood.  As youth, students may not yet know about the campus - based ministries ready to disciple them in college, but they do see that their church’s ministry to them basically stops after high school. And even if college students find helpful campus based ministries once they arrive at school, they often remain entirely unnoticed by churches during those years. We should not be surprised at reports that 70% or more of our “good youth group kids” are no longer connected to a church after a few years. (pp. 19-20)
    • We need parents to decide they want more for their children. We need pastors and other church leaders to look beyond their walls to the local campus tribes. We need many to remember the students we send to college each year, our youth group graduates who need us to finish the job of discipling them.  We need other heroes, too: Denominational leaders who advocate for college ministry and make the decisions needed to support this missionary venture. High school kids who push their leaders to prepare a future college ministry for them. Churches with no youth population who still support campus mission efforts.

      Present college ministers who champion using greater means within their organizations. Others who brilliantly work out new and better college ministry models.  Wise Christians who broker cooperation between college ministry efforts. College administration members, faculty, and staff who allow campus ministries to flourish. Generous Christians who give – perhaps even in field changing amounts. Others who set up a meeting with a leader in their church or community, simply to get the ball rolling for using greater means to reach college students (pp.94-95).  

  2. Yes, we must approach campuses as they are with a larger framework for contextual mission, not with a cookie-cutter formula.  Here's a great quote from the book
    • missions means contextualization. ... After visits to so many of our nation’s schools, one of the clearest realities that emerges about different college campuses is that they are, in fact, different. Each campus – from the community college down the street to the large state school – has its own context and culture, and these are fundamental elements that should influence how Christians reach each mission field.  In other words, college campuses are a lot like tribes. -- p.42
  3. In the next stage of inquiry, I'd encourage Hines to dig into how the Church must embrace redeeming and ministering to/in the whole campus, which includes grad students and faculty/admin. ... That's why InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has the tag-line Students and Faculty Transformed.  Campuses Renewed.  & World Changers Developed.  As members of my support team know, I've given my current energies to Gradute & Faculty Ministry and the Emerging Scholars Network
  4. As a member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship who was deeply impacted by InterVarsity Press and Urbana Student Missions Convention (and have met many others for other ministries/congregations which have been blessed by these resources offered to the larger Body of Christ), I'd recommend these be considered in the next stage of inquiry.  Note:  Other campus ministry organizations also have significant, formative publications and conferencing to be considered.
  5. Overall, I enjoyed the author's insights and the pics from his visits to 181 campuses in 44 states!

2 Comments & 0 Trackbacks of ""Reaching the Campus Tribes" -- Reflections"

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful review, Tom. I'm so glad the book made it up there! I'm excited to be heading that way myself this month.

    I wish you could have hung out with me today, because you would have had some great stuff to add in multiple conversations I had!

    First, I definitely agree that transforming the campus (as a whole) - I often refer to it as "building a campus mission" - is wide-open (and underdeveloped) opportunity. In a seminar I gave at a college ministers' conference this morning, that was actually "big idea #1," as I encouraged ministries to better think about how they might be a blessing in the midst of the campus.

    Second, I was just telling someone at lunch that I hope to make it to Urbana this year if at all possible. That's the "big daddy" of collegiate conferences, and I know it's had a profound impact on multiple generations of college students' lives.

    While my trip mostly focused on undergrad ministries, I kept an eye out for graduate / faculty / administration / staff / local community impact. It was awesome, for example, to get to connect with Pete Sommer at Stanford.

    Anyway, I could go on and on. But thanks for passing on the book to others, and I hope it's helpful for many. That's certainly the reason I wrote it!

    Posted by Benson Hines, May 2 2009, 16:50

    So good to connect Benson! Looking forward to further conversation. Pete Sommer has much to share, hope his thoughts reach future drafts.

    Posted by Tom Grosh, May 2 2009, 21:47
Add comment