6 Healthy Campus Ministry Questions
As students return to colleges and universities around the country, an infinite number of campus ministries will vie for their participation and involvement over the coming year. On campuses large and small, dedicated Christian leaders are praying and preparing for how to impact their campuses for Christ.
Most of these campus ministries go about ministering to their students in a Christ-honoring way: by building authentic relationships, speaking the truth in love, and by offering engaging worship and service opportunities.
While most campus ministries follow these biblical methods of ministry, there are some so-called “ministries” on campuses large and small which go about ministry in a less than healthy way. They identify, isolate, and indoctrinate students not in the hopes of making disciples of Christ, but disciples of dogma, doctrine, and division. Such ministries have the ability to not only ruin the college experience for Christians and non-Christians alike, but they have the ability to pollute the Christian witness on campus and pervert the spiritual lives of those that their ministries touch.
I wish I could say that I’m exaggerating here, but I’m not. And because the danger is real, I think it’s important for college students to ask the following questions about the campus ministries they’re considering becoming involved in. After all, it’s better to ask these questions now than to end up months down the road asking yourself, “How’d I get mixed up with these people?”
1. Are my parents concerned by what they’ve heard and seen about this ministry?
The last thing that students want to do is seek Mom and Dad’s approval for every decision they make in college. For most students, they brush off parental concerns and throw caution to the wind as they try to make a life of their own. While such behavior is normal (and healthy) for college students, let me encourage you to listen when your parents raise questions and concerns about the ministry that you’re getting involved in. Chances are, they’re able to pick up on warning signs that you’ve missed because everything is different and new for you as a college student.
2. Are the ministry’s leaders trying to monopolize my time?
A surefire sign that something’s not right is when a particular ministry keeps asking for more and more of your time. Don’t get me wrong, commitment to a ministry takes time. But there’s a difference between asking for your involvement and demanding it. If a ministry doesn’t support and enable you to focus on the reason you’re at college in the first place (to study and learn!), then don’t pay them any mind.
3. Am I being asked to question the validity of my salvation?
Sadly, this is one of the most common signs of an unhealthy campus ministry. Often times, these ministries and their leaders have a very narrow view of what it means to be a Christian, and unless you’ve come to faith in the way they think you should, then guess what, you’re not really a Christian. Friends, if you confess Christ as Lord and believe in the power of the resurrection, then you’re saved! Don’t let anybody cause you to doubt that – even if they’re fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
4. Is this ministry supportive of women in leadership roles?
As Paul reminds in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In God’s eyes, each person is capable of being used by God for the glory of His Kingdom. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female – if God is calling and equipping you to be the presence of Christ, then you’re qualified! Sadly, there are many ministries that exist even today which prohibit women from being taking on leadership roles. For all young Christians, not just women, find ministries that are supportive of all the people that God has raised up for leadership in ministry – not just those that a small group of leaders, or a denominational body, think are qualified.
5. Do leaders openly question and doubt my major?
It’s not uncommon for unhealthy campus ministries to try and steer students into majors and life decisions that help their ministry in the short-term while hurting the students in the long-term. If leaders are openly questioning your major/vocational calling, be wary of their motives. Weigh the influence and opinions of your ministry leaders against the influence and opinions of people like friends, family, and academic advisors - people who know what they’re talking about.
6. How do those involved in this ministry treat those who walk away from it?
You can see the true character of a Christian ministry by how it’s members act towards those who leave their ranks. In many cases, if a person decides to leave an unhealthy campus ministry, they become shunned from those who remain in the ministry. Not only that, but in some cases, these ministries become hostile towards ex-members, spreading falsehoods and lies about them on social media and at group meetings in order to discourage others from jumping ship as well.
These are but a few of the questions that college students need to be entertaining as they consider which ministries they want to be involved with during their time in college. That’s because being involved means more than showing up once a week for worship. It involves allowing certain voices and perspectives to have a place of influence in your life. It involves considering spiritual truths in a new and different way. And ultimately, how you come to understand and live out your relationship with God during your college years will impact that relationship for years to come.
So don’t take it lightly. Ask questions. Get answers. Find a healthy place to grow in the knowledge of God’s love and find a supportive place where you can put that love into action!