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Starting from Scratch: What Every Campus Ministry Team Needs Before Launching

Starting a campus ministry from scratch is a difficult task. Before launching your latest dream to create a flourishing campus ministry at your local university or college, there are a few things to consider. Whether you’re starting from square one or relaunching your ministry programs for the year, it’s important to keep the following things in mind.

1. Know your students

Even if you think you know the ins and outs of university students, every cohort is different. They come with different generational concerns, different needs, and different dynamics. Instead of guessing at these dynamics and needs, talk to your students. Have conversations. Discover their needs, desires, goals, and fears. You can’t serve a group well if you don’t know them well.

If you’re starting your programs for the year, it’s still a good idea to check in with your students! Ask them about their experience last year. What went well? What didn’t work well? What types of programs and activities would they like to see this year?

A great way to gather feedback is by sending out an end of year survey in April for your students and leaders while the year is still fresh in their minds.

2. Build a connection with the school and investigate its resources.

It’s important to be aware of what is already offered at the school or university you’re connecting with. What resources already exist at the university/college you’re wanting to minister to? What campus ministry groups are already in action? Is this a case of partnering with existing ministries, or are you truly filling a gap and meeting a need on campus?

It may also be important to connect with any wellness centres on campus and see how you can partner with existing school infrastructure. Some universities and colleges are open to offering space for campus ministries to operate; others are not.

Either way, it’s good to get a pulse on where the university is at. If they are closed to the idea of a Christian campus ministry operating on their campus, follow the school’s guidelines but also try and build inroads to a working, professional relationship with the university.

3. Connect with local partners

Connecting with local partners such as other ministries or churches is one way to build up support for your campus ministry. While campus ministries offer students a place to belong during their studies, becoming rooted in a local church is also important.

Some campus ministries offer worship nights; this is great! But joining the broader body of believers in a church community is also important. Church community often offers different aspects of discipleship from campus ministries. It also offers the opportunity for students to connect with other generations, volunteer with church programs like children ministry or youth groups, or find a mentor. Students need both their peers on campus and the community that a local church offers.

Churches can also offer support and resources such as mentors, meeting space, or resources to campus ministries. Having local partnership in the work being done on campus is important. (Check out our interview with our Loyalist College team lead Wanda about why engaging the Belleville community is important for campus ministry!) Especially knowing what we know now after covid, sometimes campus space isn’t available to our campus ministry groups. Having an alternative at hand with a partnered church can be a huge benefit.

Additionally, partnering with a local church can supplement their young adult ministries, an area sometimes overlooked due to lack of staff or resources. Partnering with leaders at a local campus ministry may be more feasible and provides an opportunity to bring our ministries closer together.

4. Invest in student leaders first

The health of any campus ministry is in its student leaders. Raising up students to minister to their peers is an important factor in drawing in other students and creating momentum from semester to semester, year to year. Peer relationships are so important, and building that community by handing things off to student leaders that you invest in has a trickle down effect that impacts the health of your ministry.

Student leaders also offer fresh perspectives and ideas on how to best connect with their peers. Be willing to be flexible and follow your student leaders ideas and suggestions. Invest in their development intentionally through training, support, but especially through leadership opportunities. Consider creating a mentorship program for your graduate students to mentor the undergrads, or train your 3rd and 4th year students to lead a small group.

Discover your leaders’ unique skills and help them find their fit rather than squeezing them into a role that doesn’t fit well. Your leadership team will flourish when you pay attention to what they uniquely bring to the table and then offer them opportunities to make things happen.

5. Allow the Spirit to lead

We didn’t leave this point for last because of its lack of importance. Rather, this point applies to all of the above and anything that flows forward from your ministry.

If something isn’t working and the Spirit is nudging you to close off that chapter, then pay attention. If you feel the Spirit leading you in a direction that feels uncomfortable or that you feel unprepared for, still pay attention. God does amazing things when we are paying attention to where He is leading us, even if it’s an ending.

When you say yes to one thing, you are automatically saying no to something else. The same is true in reverse. When you say no to something or something ends, it means you can say yes to something else or make room for something to come to life. Endings make room for beginnings. Where is the Spirit leading you in your ministry today?

What are your next steps?

Consider all of the above and take a look at your plans for ministry. Take some time this year to consider where you need to develop better relationships: with your students, with your local church community, with the college or university, or with the Spirit.

Our team at Momentum prays that you have a great year of campus ministry!

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