4 Common Reasons for a Broken College Ministry

Arliss Dickerson


I am currently attempting to do a writing project entitled, “Fixing a Broken College Ministry.”  I have received lots of great input, questions, and interest.  One obvious question is, “How did it get broken?”  or “What will it take to fix it?” Knowing why a college ministry is broken is part of deciding what is needed to fix it.

Here are what I believe are some of the common reasons for a broken college ministry:

  1. Poor Strategy or No Strategy — There just wasn’t an intentional plan to accomplish an effective ministry to students. The intentions were good, and the desire to impact students for Christ was there. There just wasn’t a plan to accomplish that in any way. Occasionally, there was a strategy or plan….it just wasn’t  a good one.  Maybe, it was copied from a different situation and just didn’t fit this ministry or campus. If your college ministry is broken, one of the questions you must ask is, “Do we have a good strategy or plan? Or really, do we have a strategy at all?”
  1. Wrong or Ineffective Leadership — This can refer to volunteer leaders, student leaders, or even the college minister. As an old guy in college ministry, let me quickly say this is not necessarily an age issue. One of my core beliefs is that there are strengths and weaknesses for college ministry at all different ages. Leadership may be ineffective due to lack of training. A leader simply doesn’t know how to do what they are being asked to do.  A step toward positive change may be providing some helpful training or even sending your leaders to some workshops. The example of student leaders is a huge influence in a college ministry.  As volunteer or professional leaders, we must set high standards for our student leaders and help them understand the importance of their example to the ministry as a whole.  Simply doing their assigned task may not be the main impact they have on the ministry.  If the college minister is the issue, it may come down to not utilizing our strengths. There’s an easy temptation to copy another person whom we see as successful, but that isn’t who we are.  God wired us all differently! If God calls us to something, it is usually to utilize the gifts, strengths, and abilities He has placed in our lives.  Are you being the best you possible?
  1. An Unhealthy Group — Any college ministry that loves people as Jesus did will be all about reaching all types and kinds of students. So, we will reach some emotionally unhealthy people. But, we must not let that become the overall atmosphere of our ministries. Hospitals must have some healthy people helping those who are not healthy. Occasionally, a ministry becomes unhealthy and broken because the students have made it their “exclusive club” and others simply don’t feel  welcome there. We must show students what we are truly about. Sometimes, we fear correction because a few students leave the ministry. If students leave because you have done the right thing, then you’ve done the right thing.  It’s possible that students who are acting in an unhealthy way in your ministry may be the very thing keeping other students away.
  1. Constant Turnover of Volunteer and/or Professional Leadership — A new college minister every year or so is a recipe for disaster. With each staff change, students disappear. Some leave due to changing philosophy, but many simply get lost in the cracks and no one realizes it. It usually takes about three years to develop a consistent ministry. There are three classes that come in under that leadership and philosophy. They know what to expect and what the ministry is all about. Caring about a college ministry means working for the ongoing stability of both professional and volunteer leadership.

Your thoughts and questions on fixing a broken ministry are welcome.

Arliss Dickerson | www.collegeministrythoughts.blogspot.com | arlissdickerson@gmail.com

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