College Ministry/Campus Ministry...What's the Difference?

Picture in your mind’s eye what a campus ministry looks like. Got it? Good. Chances are, you pictured weekly worship opportunities with students your own age, small group studies, ongoing fellowship events, and annual mission trips to every corner of the country and globe.

Now, picture in your mind’s eye what a college ministry looks like. If the description forming in your head is the exact same as the one for campus ministry, we’ve got a problem. Being a part of a church-based college ministry is vastly different than being a part of a campus-based student ministry. Think I’m just splitting hairs? Just hear me out…

Too often, churches think that to be successful in ministering to college students, they must adopt the customs and traditions that campus ministries have owned for decades. Churches think that they have to spend big money to compete with campus ministries by hosting their own college-friendly worship services, mission trips, and small groups that are just for college students. However, if churches believe that, they’re terribly wrong.

For churches to be successful in their ministries to college students, they have to own up to what they can provide to students that campus ministries simply cannot. Churches are uniquely positioned to welcome students into a worship environment where one age group is not shown preference over another…all are equal in the worship of God. Churches are uniquely positioned to identify and build on the diverse skills and spiritual gifts that students are discovering during their time in college. Churches can facilitate relationships that go farther than shared majors and residence halls; they can build relationships that cross age, gender, and life experience.

At Forest Hills, I’d like to think we do a pretty good job of loving and including college students in the life of our faith community. We don’t put them up on a pedestal, we don’t force them to exist in a silo, and we don’t think that they can’t contribute to the Kingdom of God until after they graduate. We simply welcome them in and provide opportunities to grow and serve alongside and with the rest of the church.

A church-based college ministry can provide opportunities and relationships that a campus-based student ministry could never provide and vice versa. If you’re a college student, please be sure to find a home base for ministry and service during your time in school. Talk to friends, staff, and campus ministers to find a healthy, spiritually sound campus ministry to be a part of. Likewise, consult those same people in finding an equally healthy and sound local church to get plugged in to during your time at school.

No matter how you get plugged in, remember…it’s not about you. It’s about God and how you can grow in your love and service to Him during your time in college.

- Tyler Ward