1/29/13

Campus Ministry Done Dumb

A very FULL and LOUD room of  awesome kids
at Campus Life 

I've been doing Campus Ministry since I was old enough to raise my hand and say "Yup, I'll do it." I was a 9th grader. A brand spank-in new freshman, who just flapped my Eagle wings. The overly busy and burnt out high school seniors called it quits on leading the "Christian Club" at my local public high school.  Short, young, and not the most hip kid on the block, but willing, was me. 15 year old, 5'0 me who was now in charge of a fledgling campus ministry. In less than a month, the club went from 5 to 105, with kids standing in door ways, listening through windows, and sitting on the floor and in the aisles of Mr. Houston's US History class at Granite Hills High. It was back in the days of "Guilt See You At the Pole" and "lets sue the school for violation of equal access laws."  It was Campus Ministry done dumb. I doubt there was a single non-Christian in the room.

Campus Ministry done right is completely different than the "bully my school for my rights" style of the early 90's. The high school seniors I had mentioned earlier, had actually sued the school for their "right" to have a Christian club. Lets just say, the school district didn't like us too much. Nope, it was totally not a Jesus way to start an effective campus ministry. I've learned a lot since then. I've found myself (now a bit older!) standing in an after school campus ministry, with more kids than I can handle, and tons of un-churched kids asking about Jesus.  Much more fruitful. Much more fun. Much more like Jesus. How do we do Campus Ministry right? Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind before you launch full speed ahead into campus ministry.

1) How can I serve you?
With assistance from Youth For Christ (my FAVORITE campus based ministry organization) I was put in touch with a Christian teacher at a local middle school. My only question. The only thing I asked this Christian teacher was...How can I best help you here at this school? His answer? He runs the drug and alcohol free club, and would love help. So I helped. They had dances I chaperoned, and Halloween carnivals my interns and I helped staff. We didn't run a Bible study or hand out tracts. We didn't guilt trip our youth group kids to "See You at the Pole" or force them to walk around carrying their Bibles tucked under their arm. We simply encouraged them to serve their school and help with things like cakewalks, and sponge tosses. We met students on their turf and they got to know me and my staff. Our Jr. High pastor was there week in and week out helping with lunch duty, and I was there every Tuesday helping with the Drug free club.  We are still there.

2) How can I serve you, STILL?
(Some) youth workers are notorious for being unreliable, late, flaky  and for never finishing what they start. So it's really important when you start campus ministry and put yourself out there to serve, you keep it up. Your public school front desk receptionist shouldn't roll her eyes at ANOTHER youth pastor coming to convert kids. She should instead be wowed and dazzled by your faithful, weekly, consistent commitment to actually helping the school, not making the administration nervous by hidden agendas.

3) When the foundation has been laid, build.
After a few years of helping with the drug free club and numerous other school events, I finally began an outreach club.  Relationships had been well established, trust had been earned, and the Christian teacher was more than willing to be our teacher sponsor after all the help I've given him the past few years. It was time to start a Campus Life club through Youth For Christ. The principle signed off on it, and we launched a club with over 80 un-churched students attending our "Bacon Day" kick off and 60 of them at our Christmas party two months later. 10 accepted Christ. 6 months in, and our club is still going strong, and I haven't stopped helping with the Drug Free club or school dances.

Campus Ministry done right. No guilt trips, no "Look at me, I am such a great Christian because my youth pastor guilt-ed me into praying in front of my school flag pole." Nope. Prayer is done often, and privately behind the scenes with our staff and student leaders. Nothing showy. No making school administrators nervous. Simply serve like Jesus did, and gently share His love and truth without losing the trust and respect of public school principals.
Yup. 12 Pounds of Bacon for "Bacon Day" at Campus Life!
Thankfully a friend helped me cook half of it. It was a big job! 
Do you have any tips for effective campus ministry? Any "done it dumb" stories of the past?

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