Practical, Proven and Powerful Campus Ministry

February 7th, 2017

I love campus ministry and have been involved in it for over fifteen years. I remember my very first experience of going to a school lunch with one of my junior highers. I was sitting at a table full of junior high girls and sitting next to me was Kelly. He was a pretty big kid for a junior higher, wearing athletic clothes and a short hair cut. I spent the first few minutes trying to connect with him by asking if he played football, basketball, or baseball. He kept telling me no until I learned he played softball, church softball, like me. I was impressed that Kelly was sitting at this table full of girls. I remember thinking that he probably felt like a stud. I wanted to make him feel good for his manliness and so in a loud voice among all the girls, I said, “Kelly, I bet you think you are a stud sitting at this table with all these girls”? At that moment, every girl started laughing uncontrollably. Rachel, who I was there to eat with, looked at me and said, “Keith, you idiot, Kelli is a girl!”

Needless to say, Kelli never came to youth group.

That was my first experience with campus ministry, and for good reason, it could have been my last. Rachel was right, I looked like an idiot, but I knew that eating lunch with Rachel on her campus was important to her, and would eventually become important to a school full of junior highers and even their teachers and administrators.

At the National Youth Workers Convention in Cincinnati last November, an afternoon was dedicated to sharing ideas about doing ministry on public and private school campuses across the country. We were challenged to move toward our local campuses with a ministry mindset. With this in mind, I want to give you 4 practical ways that are proven to get you started doing ministry on your campus. They will expand the influence of your ministry more than you ever thought possible, and grow your student ministry with unchurched students quickly!

1. Start with your campuses’ front door!

Here in the south, high school football is a way of life. If football is happy, the whole school is happy, seriously. Schools live for Friday night lights and football is what I call the “front door” to high schools here in the south. What I mean by this is that spending time with the football team, serving and ministering to them, moves us into others sports and areas of ministry on campuses. Students who play football play others sports and coaches who coach football coach other sports and both will often want you involved. In the south, serving the football culture gives you instant credibility beyond sports and into the local school. Although football works in the south, it may be basketball in the north or the arts in city schools. I found that the marching band was the front door to the campus of one local high school where we were wanting to do ministry. So what is the front door in your community? I encourage you to listen and discover the front door to your campus and begin knocking!

2. Go back to school lunch.

Yep, for some of us it was that dreaded 30 minutes, or for others, it was straight gossip, catching up on homework, or a chance to skip. Whatever it was then, it’s still the same now for most teenagers now. I can’t explain to you how important this time is for campus ministry. I could write a book alone on conversations I have had with students during this time. School lunch is an excellent way to connect with lost kids and conversations often go spiritual. You may feel awkward or out of place at first because it has been so long since you have been to a school lunch, but regardless of how you feel, students want you there.

If your local school doesn’t allow you to freely come in and eat with your students, ask a parent of one of the students in your youth group if they would be willing to add you to a list of approved people that can eat with their child. Although you may only be able to sit with that teen, it will open the door to students that sit around him or her.

Whatever may be the case or boundaries to walk through, get on campus at lunch time. Every school I attend for lunch, students always want me to be there more often, and when I miss, I will typically get a text from a teenager asking me where I am. It’s amazing how many teenagers look forward to our ministry being at lunch.

3. Join a club.

Whether it is a social club or a bible study like FCA, Youth For Christ, or Young Life, getting plugged into one these organizations will open you up to connecting with unchurched students. Students who are leaders are often in social clubs or religious organizations, and student leaders have influence on your campuses. By serving in these clubs and connecting with the students that are leaders, you are impacting their local campuses. One of the first areas of focus for me when I begin ministry on a campus is to look for students who are influencers. Why? Because where they go, so will their friends.

Leading and discipling students who are influencers will ultimately influence and lead those that follow. Clubs are a great place to reach these influencers.

4. Start a bible study for teachers and coaches.

Campus ministry is not for students alone. Administrators, teachers and coaches are equally important. In our ministry, we lead coaches bible studies at area school, as well as look for unique ways to serve teachers and administrators. Our bible studies are done before or after school. Our student ministry staff provides breakfast and a 15 to 20 minute discussion in the Word. We always leave them with a challengeing thought to strengthen their role as a teacher, administrator, or coach. Just this past year, we were slow at getting one of our bible studies started, and one of our coaches told me, “Keith, I miss it man, we have to get bible study off the ground, I want it back, NOW!” How cool is that? Find a coach, a teacher, or administrator willing to email or share that you are starting a bible study and even if it’s just you and that faculty, start.

So there you have it, 4 simple ways for you to start moving toward being missional on your campus. There are many more, but just beginning with one of these will open the door to more opportunities than you ever knew existed. I remember vividly a student pastor telling me how he scolded his students for not inviting their friends to church, and I recall thinking to myself, “How can you say that to them if you yourself are not willing to go where they are the most?” I knew that I never wanted to be that guy!

For student pastors, your campuses are the most untapped missional fields in America. It’s time for you to go back to school!

Keith Trollinger is the Lead Student Pastor at Southern Hills in Carrollton, Georgia. He is passionate about student ministry and its culture. He is a strong believer in campus ministry and developing student leaders who will use their influence to make disciples among their peers. He loves to hike, travel and do yardwork, seriously! You can connect with him on Twitter, Instagram or keithtrollinger.com.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.