Creating a Personal Ministry
Campus Ministry Today fuels campus movements to send laborers to harvest the unreached peoples of the world. But sending laborers begins first with leading the lost to Christ and making disciples.
In college ministry, that means we must begin with knocking on doors. In fact, our knuckles should be sore and bleeding from knocking on so many doors.
In the words of the apostle Paul, with some embellishment of my own:
How then will [lost college students] call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone [knocking on their door]? (ESV, Romans 10:14)
If we want to reach, train and send college students to unreached people, we must first go to where they are– the dorm rooms, fraternity and sorority houses, and cafeterias. We must have a dynamic personal ministry.
Personal ministry can mean different things to different people, so let’s define the essentials, discuss personal challenges we face and consider practical ways we can embrace personal ministry.
The Essentials for Personal Ministry
Personal ministry, as we see it, is sharing the Gospel & building relationships within a specific group of people.
This definition holds the three essentials for an effective personal ministry: Sharing the Gospel, Building Relationships, and Targeting a Specific Group of People.
Sharing the Gospel
We must unashamedly share the Gospel with the lost. We don’t have to wait for the right time; the right time is now.
Sharing the Gospel shouldn’t wait until we have our finger on the pulse of the situation. In fact, sharing the Gospel is how we find out someone’s interest level in the first place.
Share the Good News with boldness when eating with students in the cafeteria, hanging out in the dorms, meeting students at fraternity houses, changing in locker rooms, studying in the coffee shop.
Tell the Story with individuals or groups. Teach it clearly in Bible studies and weekly meetings. The Gospel is the power of salvation, so share it unashamedly!
Building (Fun) Relationships
Every relationship develops differently, but one essential ingredient to building relationships with college students is fun.
College students like fun. Legitimate, crazy, bend-over-laughing kind of fun. To attract and keep college students close, we must create and sustain fun.
At the beginning of the year you can use the natural momentum of campus events to meet people.
Open your schedule to go to every event you can. Throw your own events and parties. Lead an intramural sport. Have fun with the people you are building relationships with.
Sustaining the fun is critical. Don’t only have fun when you’re first getting to know them, but continue to have fun with them throughout the relationship.
Targeting a Specific Group
We can meet a lot of people, make friends and share the Gospel, but we can be more effective if our Good News is repeated consistently.
By concentrating on a specific group of people, we can re-present the Gospel consistently. We need to determine where the most strategic and influential groups are—often the hard to reach peoples—and focus on sharing the Gospel with them on a consistent basis.
Overcoming Personal Challenges
Your primary barrier to a personal ministry is you. We have many noble excuses why we don’t share the Gospel with the lost. But the truth is that we are the ones holding us back, and it is usually for not-so-noble reasons.
Take a look at yourself and consider your real reasons for holding back, for waiting for the lost to come to you, for finding easier things to talk about.
You may find you fall into one of the following categories. Along with these challenges I have included the issues that are at the core and what can be done to revive a dynamic personal ministry.
Problem: A Hardened Heart
We would never say it with our lips, but our lives will show we are indifferent to whether or not people have a relationship with God. If we really care about the lost, we will not hesitate to introduce them to Christ.
Solution: Grow compassion. Compassion can move you to do crazy things. We see it in the movies all the time: someone does something outrageously self-sacrificial for the person they love. They may end up looking like a fool, but it sends a message to the one they love. A person with compassion shares the Gospel with the people they care about.
The insecure person is controlled by fear. They are motivated by self-protection at all costs. This person may even be around the lost, but they fear they may not be liked if they share the Gospel.
Solution: Grow courage. We must trust in Jesus’s words in John 16:33, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV). Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage, simply defined, is being scared and doing it anyways. You may still fear not being liked, but courageously share the Gospel anyway.
This is my greatest challenge to having a personal ministry. At the end of the day, my actions show I think I am more important than other people. My agenda should be observed and respected! I have a dangerously inflated view of myself, and it kills my evangelism.
Solution: Grow vision. The opposite of selfishness is humility, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a weapon against it. In fact, if you focused on humility, you would would still be absorbed with self. Instead, be captivated by God’s global mission to glorify His name. As a result, our center moves away from us and toward Him.
The saying is true, time is money: we spend it on what is most important to us. “I don’t have time” is a classic excuse for a life lacking evangelism. Everyone has time for what they care about, no exceptions. If you really believe you do not have time to bring the lost to Christ, you have been deceived by the subtleties of our enemy.
Solution: Grow perspective. Time management tips can only take you so far. To know what to prioritize, you must grow perspective. If we don’t share the Gospel with someone because we “don’t have time,” we are more concerned with our comfort than we are about the lost eternally being punished for their sin. Ask yourself, “Is your momentary comfort more important to you than their eternal torment?”
Practicing Personal Ministry
Ideals often go by the wayside without practical steps for implementing them. So, here are a few suggestions for establishing an effective personal ministry:
Build a community for evangelism
We are not designed to evangelize on our own. We need to use our staff as well as our students. Sometimes the best way to win someone is by introducing them to someone else.
Establish Evangelistic Bible Studies
Evangelistic Bible Studies are focused on the needs of the unbeliever. They are not deep, inductive Bible studies, but opportunities to simply present the gospel to your target.
The three aspects of an effective personal ministry discussed above–sharing the Gospel, building fun relationships, and targeting a specific group of people– intermingle well in an EBS. To have a thriving personal ministry, you must lead Evangelistic Bible Studies.
Pray God’s Promises
We can do everything we are supposed to, but “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (ESV, Psalm 127:1).
We want God to build our personal ministry, otherwise we are wasting our time. Create an active culture of prayer in large groups, small groups, and individual time.
The fuel of our personal ministry and prayer life are the promises of God’s Word. Ask God to work His promises in the hearts of the people you are working with. Leverage God’s power into your personal ministry through the promises of His Word.
Plan Your Success
Ideas are great, actions are better, a plan is best. Write it all out. Schedule your activity. Make goals and to-do lists. Plan to make it all happen. With a structured plan, you will always know what to do next.
You will always have office work. You will always need to plan the next event. But don’t miss the opportunity to be with people.
Go & Tell
GO and TELL the lost on your campus about Jesus, rather than hiding behind the security of a come-and-see routine. Otherwise, you may forget the reason you do what you do is for the lost. Get to the front lines!
Consider this example from Dwight D. Eisenhower regarding the effectiveness of going to the people rather than waiting for them:
“In the Army, whenever I became fed up with meetings, protocol and paperwork, I could rehabilitate myself by a visit with the troops. Among them, talking to each other as individuals, and listening to each other’s stories, I was refreshed and could return to headquarters reassured that, hidden behind administrative entanglements, the military was an enterprise manned by human beings.”
If we want to lead people to Christ, grow them in discipleship and send them to a lost world, we must get our hands dirty and get in the middle of the fight. Get out of the office or chapel or Bible study or worship service, and get out to the people!