The Value of Campus Ministry
Wes Simmons | September 15, 2016
As a Campus Minister, people often ask me about RUF – what it is, why it’s important, and how they as individuals or churches can be involved with the students of RUF. I think these are important questions to students, parents and churches. Let’s unpack each of these questions a bit.
1: What is RUF?
RUF is an extension of the PCA, an extension of The Church, onto the local college campus. We seek to reach students for Christ and equip them to serve in God’s Kingdom, regardless of the particular future vocation they find themselves in.
But here’s a distinctive: RUF is a ministry to students through students. This is why most campuses where RUF is present don’t have a large number of staff – usually a Campus Minister and a couple staff members at the most. The reason we staff the campuses this way is because we believe that students best learn how to do ministry when they are taught and see ministry demonstrated in the context of relationships – while being observed, evaluated and encouraged in the process. In other words, we aren’t interested in staffing each campus heavily, but in training students to be the ministers to other students on campus – to their friends, their roommates, their classmates etc. We want them to see the campus as their primary mission field. We want to cultivate a ministry to students through students.
In RUF we believe that you are never so good that you stand outside the need of God’s grace, while at the same time you are never so bad that you stand outside the reach of God’s grace – offered in Jesus. The first part of that statement suggests that we believe Jesus’ redeeming work on our behalf to be absolutely necessary; everyone needs it, no matter how good you think you are. The second part of the statement suggests that we believe Jesus’ redeeming work on our behalf to be absolutely sufficient; it is enough, no matter how bad you think you’ve been.
This is good news - what we call the gospel. And in RUF, we love talking about the gospel with students, helping them understand how it applies to many different types of situations in their lives. We do this through a number of avenues, but primarily through our weekly Large Groups, Small Groups, Fellowship Groups and one-on-one meetings with students.
2: Why is RUF Important?
First, RUF is important because there is a profound need in our culture to hear the gospel proclaimed in a clear and gracious manner – whether it be through Large Group preaching, small group interactions or relationships with each other as students in a Christ-Centered community. So many students on campus – yes, even in (especially in!) the South – are lost and wandering. Though they may have grown up in a church, they often have no idea what the gospel is, and why it truly matters in their lives. They don’t know how to study scripture or make sense of Jesus being the focal point of all Scripture.
Students struggle with many questions, doubts, and fears; they need a place to be reminded of the gospel each week during their time in college. They need a safe place to process, and perhaps struggle with, their faith – as they begin to become adults and make that faith their own.
Statistics tell us that more people leave the Church between the ages of 18-26 than any other time in life. We want to see that cultural trend reversed, and actually see students brought into the Church through coming to know Jesus and trusting in His Work on their behalf. We want to gain members of Christ’s Church during their time in college instead of losing them then.
Undoubtedly, students lives have been changed as a result of God’s grace through RUF over the years. If you are a parent, you know the value of having a campus ministry that cares for your students on a weekly basis while being away from home. If you are an Alum, you know the value of being able to call RUF your community during your time at that particular college. As a Church, you know the value of your covenant students being cared for while away from home. And of course, all of this is made possible through God’s grace.
Second, these students are the future of The Church. They are the future leaders of our cities, our states and our local Churches. They are future Elders and Deacons, They are future Pastors. They are future doctors, lawyers, investors, teachers, engineers, friends, and parents.
Charles Malik once said, “Change the University and you change the World.” We believe this as a ministry, and it encourages our work on the college campus.
Third, some of the greatest cultural challenges to the gospel come in their strongest forms within the college environment, so we need to engage there, in a gracious and winsome manner – rather than retreat from those cultural challenges or deny that they exist.
3: What does this mean for your local Church?
In every local Church, we need to continually be asking the question, “what would it look like for us to become even more of a college-student-welcoming family?” Pray regularly for your Campus Ministers. Befriend college students intentionally. Say hello to those who walk through the doors of your church. Reach out to them, get to know them, ask about their lives, and learn their names. Invite them into your homes to eat with you. Pray for them and with them. Show them that they clearly matter to you as a Church. Have a clear vision for enfolding them into the life of your Church body. Be their home away from home. These students are the future of The Church.