Remember the Pitfall video game from back in the day? There were pitfalls and obstacles that you had to avoid in order to reach your final goal. The same is true when it comes to college ministry on the campus. Your church is in the same community with your local campus, and will likely be in that same community together for a very long time. You have much in common, and much to build upon. But there are rules and protocols on campus that you would do well to follow if you want to build a long lasting relationship for ministry.
1. Follow protocol for accessing the campus. It's a public campus, right next door to your church, so can't you just walk over to the campus and start passing out flyers to your next event? No. You can't. Recent incidents of violence on college campuses have lead most campuses to tighten their security. On some campuses, if you are not a student, you even have to sign in and wear a badge. And be sure you do. Following campus protocol is a sure way to build trust with campus administration. It also affirms that you are interested in what is best for the students and the campus. And who knows who you might meet in the process?
2. Meet the gatekeepers. It might be the head of campus security, student activities director, campus chaplain, or the housing director. It might be all of the above. There are many different people that can help your church build good relationships on campus in a variety of areas. Get to know these key people, and ask how you or your church might help with what they do. You might discover new avenues of ministry along the way.
3. Be aware of organizational rules. Want to have a Bible study on campus? Great idea, but you might need to become a student organization, or be co-sponsored by a student organization, like the Baptist Student Ministry, in order to do so. Student organizations usually have to file request forms with the student activities office for meeting space and to hold events on campus. These channels can be great for meeting new students. Just be sure you know how to get there the right way. Student organizations are generally initiated and operated by students. If you're interested in starting a student organization, look for a student in your church or community that could help get things started.
4. Think long term. There have been churches in the past that decided to break the rules and "sneak in" to residence halls to pass out material, or meet on campus without authorization, "for the sake of sharing the Gospel." In their shortsightedness, they violated the rules and lost access to the campus, and in some cases even made it difficult for other groups to minister to the campus through the proper channels. Sometimes the rules seem cumbersome. Just remember that the goal is a long lasting relationship of ministry an service based upon trust. If you earn the respect of campus administrators and staff, you will likely earn the opportunity to be a part of campus life and ministry for a long time to come.
First Step: If you're just beginning ministry to your local campus, start by identifying students and/or staff members and faculty that are a part of your church. Visit with them and ask them to help you find ways to minister to your local campus. For more information contact Ginger Bowman, Church College Ministry Specialist at ginger.bowman[at]texasbaptists.org.