In March, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Reach Conference at Severns Valley Baptist Church. At the conference, I took advantage of the campus ministry breakouts as well as the lunch session with Paul Worcester.
While I was at the conference, I noticed a theme as I networked with church staff and campus ministers throughout the commonwealth. Many live near one of our 16 community & technical colleges, and yet they do not know how to start an effective ministry on campus. After seven years of campus ministry at the Elizabethtown Community & Technical College, this is something about which I might know a thing or two. I want to share with you today how to get things started at your local community college campus.
Love your Campus
This may sound silly but the first step to an effective campus ministry is simply going on campus! But before you plan a single outreach or try to reserve a classroom, simply learn the campus. Take some time to prayer walk every building and learn what programs the campus offers and where those programs take place. Take a tour of their campus bookstore, even buy yourself a college shirt or hat.
As you do that, learn the flow of the campus. Learn when there are more people on campus. Are classes every day or every other day? Is there a particular day when more students are on campus? Is there a day when no students are on campus? Are classes better attended at the beginning of the semester or are students consistent throughout the whole term? Where do they park and where will a person see the most foot traffic? These are extremely important things to learn as you plan to reach the campus.
One effect of being on campus and praying over the whole campus is we begin to have a burden for the students, the staff, and the faculty. We see how much they need people to just care about them and point them to a relationship with Christ!
Love your Leadership
After you have spent time on the campus, I strongly encourage you to reach out to the leadership on campus. A great place to start is both the student affairs officer and the student success center. Think about this for a moment. Most people in this field want to foster a healthy, encouraging community where students can be successful. Christian organizations on campus can be a huge catalyst for fostering that very community. In other words, show the leadership that we have a lot to offer their campus!
It is true that a college administration can be hesitant about people coming onto campus; especially if they may create an unwelcoming environment. We need to meet with them and show them that we are here to show love to their students, staff, and faculty in Christ’s Name.
You will be amazed at how many doors are opened to you when you show the leadership that we are on the same side.
Love your Faculty
Believe it or not, it is the faculty, not the students, that will be the backbone to your campus ministry. I remember a conversation that I had with a local high school graduate several years back. She was going to be on campus while she pursued a degree in education. As I was telling her about our campus ministry, she informed me that she would only be on campus for one semester before graduating with her associate’s degree and transferring to a larger school. Thanks to high school dual-credit programs, amazing transfer opportunities, and on-site internships, many of our students do not stay on campus very long! It can feel almost impossible to get any momentum as a campus ministry.
This is why a close relationship with faculty is so important. Our college faculty becomes our “person of peace.” They remain on campus much longer than most students. They see students weekly, if not daily. They often form relationships with their students as they teach and advise them within their programs. Most students will build trust with a professor or adviser early in their college career. We need these people!
How do we find these “persons of peace”? You can start with local churches. Ask them if any of their members are faculty or staff. You may also ask the people in student affairs. If they know that some of their faculty are believers, then there is a good chance that they have a very active faith! Contact these faculty and staff members and ask them if they would come alongside your ministry to reach the campus.
Love your Students
Finally, we turn our attention to the students. With students, the old saying is true, “They will not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Now that you have learned about your campus and sat down with leadership and your faculty support, it is time to show the student body that you are there to love them, encourage them, and help in any way you can.
Ask yourself, “What can I do for these students to meet a need that they might have?” For the ministry at ECTC, it started with lunch. Several of our classes would break for lunch but there was not always time to go somewhere for food, and many of our students did not have much extra money to eat out every week. We began to provide lunch once a week to students for free.
Along with our lunch, we provided a Bible study that would clearly articulate the gospel and encourage the students to pursue Christ. We made sure that all felt welcome, even if they only grabbed some lunch and left. During special times on campus like finals or the first week of school, we would also be on campus giving away breakfast and just getting to know the students.
Through meals, hospitality, and just taking the time to talk with them, we were able to earn the trust of our student body and the rest of the campus. This trust has opened the door for gospel conversations, and even gospel survey events at our campus.
There is still so much that we would love to do at ECTC, but as you look to do ministry on your local campus this may be a good place to start!