Thursday, May 7, 2009

Benson Hines Interview: The State of College Ministry in America, Part 1

Benson Hines may be a little crazy, but he’s a good crazy. Not only did he take a year to travel the country, exploring the state of college ministry in the United States, but he wrote a very helpful book about it and has offered it for FREE!

Click here to download his book Reaching the Campus Tribes: An Opening Inquiry.

The book is very helpful for all people in ministry, but particularly those working with high school students and college students will gain a much needed perspective on why the "college years" are so important. What follows is part 1 of a two part interview with author and college minister Benson Hines (BH):

CPYU: Tell us about your campus ministry tour. What motivated you to take a year to travel the country to research what was going on in college ministry?

I had been involved in ministering to college students for about 8 years before the trip, and I had noticed a few things about the "national scene" of college ministry. First, the importance and value of college ministry seemed to be very under-appreciated. Second, it seemed that this might be starting to change - that parents, pastors, and others were noticing the great need for helping people in the years following high school. Third, it seemed that few people - if any - had a solid grasp on what was taking place nationally "on the ground" in Evangelical college ministry.
As I worked through what I could do to help impact the field of college ministry, I ultimately (through LOTS of prayer and counsel and thought) settled on taking this trip. I wanted to help develop college ministry as a ministry field, and I felt this trip connected with all three areas I just mentioned: It could draw attention to this vital ministry area, it could help stoke the fire God already seemed to be starting, and it could provide a solid sampling of the broad spectrum of Evangelical college ministry in the United States.

CPYU: We love stories! Tell us two stories. First, what’s a good story from your trip that illustrates something positive that you learned about college ministry in the USA? Second, what’s a story that points to something not-so-good about the state of college ministry?

I definitely learned time and time again that there are lots of good things going on that may be unfamiliar to a majority of college ministers. While that sounds like a bad thing, it encourages me, because it means there is a whole lot out there - we just have to find it! Providentially, God provided many occasions for me to learn about those "secret heroes" all year.

One of those times happened when I randomly met a huge number of Coalition for Christian Outreach people at the Ivy Jungle conference. (I know those guys are well-known up here, but, sadly, they're not familiar in some other places.) The first time I had heard of CCO was only a week or two before while at Gordon College; lo and behold, I found myself sitting by Charity, a CCO staff member, in our conference "early bird" session.

Within a day or two, I found myself eating with a large number of their staff at the local restaurant, learning all about the amazing work of CCO among college students! Because of that great connection, I had the chance to connect with staff later during my trip, and I'm hoping to see many more during the trip I'm presently taking.

So that's one thing positive I learned: that God is moving in all kinds of ways, even if right now we're not all aware of what's going on outside of our own circles or regions.

As for the other kind of story...

I remember one time sitting with the college minister of a really large, popular church. He told me about their plans and their progress during their first several months, and it was a great conversation.

One of the things he brought up was that he was hoping to begin conversing with the head of the Atheist student organization on campus. It was a great idea for building bridges between the two groups.

Interestingly, though, I had found out earlier that another college ministry - an older, smaller, campus-based one - was already connected to that same Atheist group and its leaders. They had apparently done some activities together, and it seemed like an exciting, profitable, growing connection.

When I mentioned that ministry's inroads to this new minister, it was clear he had no idea that was already taking place - and was actually a little surprised. In other words, he had been planning a ministry that might duplicate or even damage some relationships that were already being established, but he had no idea.

There are plenty of reasons that the new guy might have been unfamiliar with that situation, and I don't know the whole story. But that exchange illustrated for me one of the problems presently plaguing the field of college ministry. Because we often aren't very attentive to connecting with each other, collaborating, or learning, college ministry is still regularly practiced "every man for himself." This is true both locally and nationally.

While there are fun things about being in a ministry field that remains primarily "grassroots" and pioneering, a lot will be gained by developing our field. That doesn't mean we won't still have overlapping ministry work, disagreements, or "messiness." But when college ministers see ourselves as part of a true "profession" or "corporate calling" or "ministry field" - whatever you want to call it - we will better coordinate, collaborate, and ultimately impact students for Christ.


1 comment:

Cross Campus Ministry said...

Wow this looks great. I am headed over to download it.