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The greater values in college ministry

March 20, 2016

Values help you remember what is important. They shape the way you talk. They influence the way you spend your time and money. We have a lot of values, but when two values go head to head, it’s important to know what the priority is. They aren’t always mutually exclusive, but at times they are. Here are the greater values we work to prioritize in our ministry.

If people are the goal of ministry, we create idolaters—if God is the goal of ministry, we create worshipers of God.

God > People

The chief end of college ministry is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. There are many organizations that focus on people, but we must keep our focus on God. Everything we do in people’s lives must point them to a deeper knowledge and relationship with God. If we make people the end and goal of our ministry, we create idolaters of man. If we make God the end and goal of our ministry we create worshipers of God. This is the most loving way we can interact with people.

People > Stuff

If you hook your students with stuff, you will have to keep them with stuff. Sure, there are the anecdotal stories of people coming for a T-shirt but finding Jesus, but most of the students involved and investing in others now were brought into our ministry through personal relationships. We find the vast majority of students who come to our ministry event for a T-shirt really just want a T-shirt. They don’t show up when we aren’t handing out T-shirts. Stuff might be a good way to connect with people, but we must be intentional about making that connection. We want to connect with people so we can develop relationships.

Relationships > Events

Invite to relationships, not events. We use contact cards, mass e-mails, and even events. Those things aren’t bad. But, we’ve found the most effective use of contact cards is to set up a personal appointment to share the gospel. After we take students through the gospel, we invite them into smaller communities where they can look at the Bible together and talk about how they apply it to their life. If we have the greatest event ever but don’t move people quickly to gospel-oriented relationships, we are no different that any other social organization on campus. AT Pierson, a missions mobilizer and pastor over a century ago, observed, “We may preach to men in masses, but they are converted one by one.” We want to build relationships so we can invest in people.

Investment > Position

A few years ago we stopped handing out positions and titles and started casting vision for how we wanted to invest in people and help them invest in others. We’ve found that labels are better for description than they are for prescription. We have a ministry team for people who are trying to do ministry on campus, not for people we hope eventually do it. Giving people an unearned position can be confusing for younger students, especially when the people with the position don’t live it out. People can hold a position without producing fruit in their lives. We want to invest in people so they can produce fruit.

Fruit > Sprouts

A tree will be known by its fruit, not by a sprout. We don’t celebrate people starting the race as much as we celebrate perseverance in the race. When Jesus shared the parable of the sower, he talked about three soils that initially look similar. The rocky, thorny, and good soil all look the same starting out. We see many people express an initial interest in walking with Christ, but they don’t continue. This is promised, and we shouldn’t be surprised. What we don’t want to do is confuse people in our ministry by valuing the sprouts over the lasting fruit that shows God’s work in people’s lives. That’s why we also celebrate faithfulness.

Faithfulness > Numbers

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). If we believe this is true, we should focus on watering and planting and leave the growth to God. We celebrate sharing the gospel and faithfulness. We don’t celebrate how many came to our last meeting. It’s easy to claim success with numbers, but remember, in Matthew 28, Jesus only commissioned eleven guys after three years of ministry. Most of us would want to quit if that’s all we had to show for ourselves. God used those “ordinary” guys to transform the world. Success in ministry is defined by faithfulness to God and the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.