My name is Logan McCoy, and I just completed my first year of serving as the BCM Campus Minister at the University of West Alabama. For some background, UWA is a small college in a small town where everyone seems to know each other in town, and the college reflects that. Our student body is made up of roughly 1000 students: 50 percent student athletes, 10 percent international students, and the other 40 percent is a mix of traditional and commuting students. We do not have a building on campus, and in my first year at UWA BCM relaunched on campus.
As a new campus minister, I felt overwhelmed, underprepared, or just lost at times! Other times, I felt the power of God working on my campus as I watched students respond to the Gospel and grow in their faith. I’m writing this blog post in hopes that this practical information will help brand new, first-year campus ministers in a context similar to the one I was in last year. Here are five things a new campus minister should know in their first fall.
1. The first key in campus ministry is outreach.
Do not only expect students to come to you and your ministry, but go to them. This means that you should be active where the students are active on campus. For us, the most active places on campus are our café and the lawn behind our freshman dorm. This led to us to host different outreach events in these locations. You must serve your campus well, so that students will see that you truly care for them. Don’t overthink outreach, but keep it simple and allow students to respond. Also, try different forms of outreach and learn what works best!
2. The second key in campus ministry is to build intentional relationships beyond just students.
Some of the most helpful relationships you can have as a campus minister are those you develop with the faculty and staff of your university and your local churches. These are the relationships that will help open doors to allow ministry to happen. These are also the people who will usually go to bat for you if you have positive relationships with them.
It is also important to have strong relationships with local churches. Churches provide both support and partnership in ministry on your campus. We have to remember that campus ministry is not the local church. We are all called to be joined with a local body of believers, and a campus ministry can never fill that role in students’ lives.
3. The third key in campus ministry is to be patient and prepared, especially in the beginning.
The reality is that it is impossible to reach every student on your campus in the first week, month, or year. You must earn the trust of campus and the students themselves before bigger opportunities of service present themselves. At the end of my first year on campus I was presented with opportunities to pray at graduation, speak at building dedications, and other random things. Not every university will be as open as mine has been but when an opportunity presents itself, take it. Be ready to serve at a moment’s notice. This can be as simple as providing Powerade and popsicles for the football team or cooking pancakes for a sorority.
4. The fourth key in campus ministry is to cultivate personal relationships.
The first place to look is the local church. You need to have a church that is investing into your life as you pour yourself into students’ lives. Another group to cultivate personal relationships is with peers. You need to have people around your age and in the same stage of life as you. These people don’t have to be in ministry or even in the same town as you, but it is generally healthy to have people that you consider friends around you to help support you. Also find support in your colleagues, specifically other campus ministers. As you talk to and listen to others about what you are doing and what they are doing, they will be able to give feedback and direction where you are lacking in experience. I have the privilege to be the newest and youngest of the campus ministers for the state of Alabama, so everyone else is beyond my years of knowledge and experience. Anytime I need feedback or just want to borrow ideas from others, they are beyond helpful.
5. The last key in campus ministry is to lean on students who are invested in your ministry.
You should challenge them to grow spiritually and to help them take the next steps in their faith. For some this could be coming into a relationship with Christ; for others this could be helping prepare them to serve in some type of mission opportunity. Students are in different stages of development of their faith and each will need to be challenged in different ways to grow. Also, allow students to lead in your ministry. Develop some type of leadership team where students can take on more responsibilities and lead other students in ministry. For students to lead, you first must train and disciple them. There are endless amounts of material you could use in this process, but one book that I have found helpful is The Fuel & The Flame by Steve Shadrach and Paul Worcester.
Logan McCoy is the Campus Minister at The University of West Alabama. You can follow the ministry @uwa_bcm.