Are “families” the future of collegiate ministry?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 | 5 yrs old

Evan Blackerby shares his opinion on how “families” are the future of collegiate ministry. 

Fifteen years from now, maybe less, your ministry will most likely not exist as you currently know it.  You probably won’t recognize it. Even if the principles survive, your current model, methodology, strategy, and structure will be outdated. (So will your clothes.)

The Supreme Court will make decisions. Laws will change. Money will flow in. Money will dry up. Some schools will close. Some will grow by leaps and bounds.

You may not even survive the transition to this new paradigm, whatever it is.

Thankfully, God has given us a promise that His mission will march on. But what will that look like in the collegiate world?

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Enter Jesus.

Jesus had a tight-knit pocket of sacrificial vagabonds following him around. Eating. Sleeping. Boats. Parties. Crying. Laughing. Wine. Lies. Fighting. Changing. Serving. Sharing. Staying up late. Kicking authority in the mouth. Betrayal. Leaving.

It’s like a music video with more clothing.

In Mark 10, James and John actually asked Jesus if one of them could sit on his left and another on his right.  Jesus said, “You have no clue.”

In Mark 14, Jesus tells Peter he will deny him. Peter says, “No way. I’ll die with you. I could never deny you.” Then all the disciples agreed.

What had Jesus done?

Arguments and brutal conversations like these can only happen in deeply connected small communities of people. Think Christmas and Thanksgiving. Think stupid arguments. Think people literally coming to blows over a ball-game or who made the best food.

Jesus had created a family centered around the Gospel of Himself.

A family.

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A family. A community. A gospel community. A missional community. A church.

Jesus is known. Community is cultivated.  Worship is pervasive and unstoppable. More Jesus. People go. Moving into the lives of the skeptics and non-believers. As a group. Together. Jesus is known even more. Until the whole world knows and bows at the feet of Jesus.

Stunning. Breathtaking. Chills up the spine.

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If we are to be on the right side of this movement, we should remember these four truths and let them shape the way we lead our churches and ministries.

1. We will be irrelevant unless we give them Jesus.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves. Students don’t really need to leave campus or their “worlds.” They have everything they need. Shopping.  Laundry. Food. Friends. Purposes. Goals.

They just don’t need what they think we have. We cannot attract a majority to us with superficial needs being met. The only thing that can make us relevant to them is Jesus.

If we believe that they are important to Jesus, we will move beyond expecting them to leave their worlds to hang out with us. We, as a family, must go to them.

2. Our ministries will not connect an entire collegiate population with Jesus.

I have heard many friends express the same sentiment that I expressed a few years ago when I was a leading an ever-changing campus ministry at a large state school. We all said, in different ways, that our strategies were not good enough to reach the entire campus.

How simple! How true!

There must be more churches, missionaries, groups, students with permission, associations, and multipliers. As Seth Godin says, we must “keep making a ruckus.” Lead creatively and less competitively. You are competing with the Enemy, not the evangelicals.

3. We must not become complacent.

If we aren’t careful, we can look around our ministries, see a handful of big wins, and be fooled into thinking we’ve arrived.

What a shame for the Gospel.

Let’s do some simple math: On a campus of 10,000 students, if there are 1,000 students engaged in evangelical ministries, how many students are left that probably don’t know Jesus?

(Snark: For those without a calculator, the answer is 9,000)

9,000 skeptics. 9,000 deniers of Jesus. 9,000 individuals that God cares for and is inviting into the family.

Let our hearts break with a very holy discontent. Let our willingness to set the bar so low, break our hearts. Let our excitement of large crowds and the ego that they can create, break our hearts. Be satisfied in God, of course, but be unsatisfied with how you’ve seen God work through you. He can do more.

4. Students are completely capable.

Right doctrine is important. Right methodology is slightly less important.

A student with a missionary identity moving out on a Gospel mission with others is exponentially more important than anything else.

Jesus is capable of fixing all of our errors. If we don’t empower and send out students to live out their missionary identity, then we risk many souls not hearing the Gospel or experiencing the power of God’s family. The fear that doctrine will go awry and students will form a cult is utterly misguided. We must send students with confidence not with us as “helicopter leaders” who don’t have faith in what God can do through them.

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Recently, I asked a friend, who happens to be a missiologist, how we would introduce the entirety of our state and country to the Gospel of Jesus. It was clear to me that our current strategy wouldn’t cut it.

His response?

“Missional communities.”

(Which is just a fancy way of saying families.)

They work.

They are beautiful.

They are Biblical.

Students can start them. We can get out of the way.

Families are the answer.

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