Mark Butts, a campus minister in Florida, gives some valuable thoughts on why the church needs campus ministry. Students are beginning their classes this week and starting a new adventure that will test them spiritually.
Why is campus ministry important?
Here’s my personal quick history. I experienced a state school with a very focused campus ministry but then graduated from a Christian college with a Bible degree. I explain my growth during my college years this way, I grew more in my love for and dedication to God in my one year at Auburn than in any other phase of my life. However, I grew more in my understanding of God’s Word and it’s applications during my three years at Faulkner. Campus ministry in the state school setting was important because it was a way for me to grow out of the “vain repetition” (Matthew 6:7) of doing church stuff while having low levels of love and appreciation for the God who made it possible. That experience helped me to have a very clear vision when it came time for me to switch majors, attend Faulkner, and work toward becoming a minister. I was no longer keeping His commandments to try to prove I loved Him. I’d grown to love Him and therefore was keeping His commandments (as well as I could in my early 20’s). I say that to say that campus ministry is important because it allows young Christians to be close with other Christians who CHOOSE to actively grow in their faith during some otherwise hedonistic years. When there is evidence of peers showing preference to growing in their faith, it is an inspiration to grow in your own faith as well. If evil companions corrupt good morals, then sanctified companions should bolster good morals. When young professionals emerge from their college years having grown in their faith, love, and dedication, Christ’s body is the beneficiary of that.
What do you see as the best way to grow their faith during college years?
I believe there’s very few tricks and techniques in the answer to this question. Romans 10:17 says “So faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
The more that we can help our students “rightly divide the word of truth” and apply the word of truth in their own lives, then I believe the Bible, they will experience faith in increasing ways.
Of all the obstacles that college students deal with, what do you see as being the most prevalent?
Saturation. It is next to impossible to unplug these days. While that is a tremendous source of knowledge and a form of connectedness that’s never before been available to mankind, I see that as an incredible tool for temptation to enter our minds as well.
Advice you’d give to youth ministers who have students about to go to college?
I transitioned from youth ministry into college/campus ministry. With that said I have some definite opinions on how to help them. I have found that a lot of teens have no idea about the campus ministry at the local congregation in the town of their new university. Therefore, I would suggest that as a part of the youth ministry, teens should have the opportunity to be taken on a Christian college/ Campus ministry tour (and not just to our alma maters). I often did this on Spring Break. I firmly believe that Christ needs to be an integral part of their education, whether that is at a Christian college or at a state school with a campus ministry. Exposing them to those possibilities has been a blessing in the lives of many of the teens with whom I’ve been blessed to work.
Mark Butts is the campus minister at Timberlane Church of Christ in Tallahassee, FL. a graduate from Faulkner University and Ambridge University, he has been involved in ministry since 1998.