Because the church has historically done little to reach out to and disciple college students para church organizations have stepped up in our place. So, to those of you that wouldn’t settle for the detachment of college-age people and faithfully walk with them on campuses, I say “thank you.”
That said I have some concerns with the role para church organizations have had to play in the lives of college students. First, when Jesus left the earth he didn’t leave Christian college’s or para church organizations to care for and disciple people. He left the Church. I personally think there’s a place for para church organizations (I founded one), but these are supposed to support local churches in their life long discipleship of people. Campus ministers have had to temporarily fill in, but they can’t fulfill the obligation.
Two things are really hindering us right now: (1) The local church has failed to effectively walk people out of student life and into adult life by utilizing a college-age ministry, and (2) Campus ministries too often view themselves as an end rather than a means to a greater end. To clarify, campus ministries generally don’t focus on transitioning college grads back into a local church – therefore viewing themselves as the end. Most organizations don’t have ongoing healthy relationships with churches and therefore, after being involved on a campus ministry for 4-5 years, many college graduates have lost connection with the local church. They are then left with no clue of how to reconnect and campus ministries (generally) are not helping with this. So, in the end this campus ministries just prolong detachment.
Para organizations have to focus on helping local churches and local churches not only have to appreciate those working with students on campuses, but take responsibility for the discipleship of their people as well! This relationship needs a lot of work and we all need to humble ourselves, stop seeking to compete with one another (even though we say we don’t), and work together toward a common goal: the maturity of our people!
If our kids move away for school, as student ministry pastors, we are obligated to make sure they connect there. That’s our job. Campus minister’s have the responsibility to make sure students connect to a local church – both during their education and after they graduate. That’s our job. Leaders in para church organizations have the responsibility to support churches in the discipleship process of their people. If they’re failing to disciple, it’s our job to help them do that.
Chuck is Pastor of Student ministries at Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA; a professor at Eternity Bible College; and founder of CollegeLeader.org – an organization assisting churches in launching and developing college-age ministries.