This article was posted by Justin Holcomb on The Resurgence blogin 2009. I am reposting it because I think there is a lot of truth in it for college pastors (and all pastors for that matter). The original post has six essentials - I edited #3 and added #7 and #8.
I've learned some lessons about doing campus ministry both the hard way and from great mentors. Here are the top six (now eight) things you need to know if you're doing college ministry:
1. Don't confuse the gospel with religion To prevent doing this, talk about Jesus (who he is and what he has done) all the time. If you don't, students will think Christianity is really about something else, like morality, philosophy, piety, social justice, or a religious experience. If you start talking more about what they should do instead of what Jesus has done, you're preaching another gospel (Gal. 1:6-9), which is to put heavy burdens on them (Matt. 23:2-4).
2. Learn about sexual assault The prevalence of sexual assault is staggering. At least 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men are or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. And the numbers are much worse for college students. These young women and men feel crippling shame, deep guilt, and painfully alone because of what has been done to them.
3. Teach students how to read and interpret the Bible for themselves This means giving a clear picture of the meta-narrative of the Bible. Having a birds-eye view of the whole story helps one know how the individual stories and passages fit together. Without context we run the danger of extricating meaning based on our experiences and feelings and thus making the Bible say what we want it to say. The most simple presentation of the story of the Bible is the Children's Bible called The Jesus Storybook Bible.We must also teach students that the Bible is not a book to be used but a story to be entered.
4. Be prepared to comfort students because of divorce and death College students are at a phase in life where their parents seem to get divorced, if they aren't already, now that their children are leaving home. This is also the age when grandparents begin to die.
5. Study apologetics Many students still have brain cells left, and they've been reading and thinking about their world. They have legitimate questions about who Jesus is and what he did and why he isn't just a good example. They want to know why they should trust the Bible as reliable. The immense suffering in the world makes them doubt either the goodness or power of God or both. They think Christians are hypocrites and bigots, so why should they become one?
6. Be prepared to counsel students about what they're really facing You must be prepared to counsel about eating disorders, pornography, cutting, abusive relationships, and the lingering damage of sexual sin. College students tend to be the shock-absorbers of the myths our cultural sells. Idols are brutal slave masters.
7. Teach students what to look for in a church. Students in college ministries will not be there for more than a few years and chances are they will at some point move to another city. I find that I have a huge opportunity to shape their ideas of what Church is all about. I want them to embrace and engage the local church, even when they can't find one that "fits" their preferences. The Church is more than a social club for Christians and goes much deeper than worship style or service length. Church is the people of God - a supernatural, God-inspired, Holy Spirit-driven, less-about-me-and-all-about-God-and His-plan-for-the-world community of faith.
8. Invite students into a story that is bigger than they are. Our culture teaches, and our sinful nature believes, that the biggest story is our own. History began and ends with the story of God and only when we allow our story to become part of His much bigger story are we able to become who God made us to be.