Inside Out 225: Challenges to Campus Ministry
National Christian ministries have been a part of college and university life in the US since at least the 1930s, when InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the Navigators appeared on campus. These and other ministries—Campus Crusade and Chi Alpha Campus Ministries arrived on campus in the 1950s---have been part of the fabric of university life since that time, operating on campuses with “official recognition” status.
Recently, numerous challenges to this “official recognition” status have changed the landscape for campus ministries. A challenge that reached the Supreme Court in June of 2010 looked into whether a recognized campus group may have membership requirements that are narrower than those in the university’s own overall stated policy.
Join us for a conversation about the current climate for ministries on university and college campuses: what are the challenges as well as the possible positive outcomes? My guest is Jim Lungren, Director of Collegiate Ministries and Senior Vice President for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an interdenominational college ministry that focuses on evangelism and discipleship in 866 chapters on 567 college campuses nationwide. (For more information on IVCF, click here: http://www.intervarsity.org/)
Let me tell you why I think we all should care about the possible restriction of campus ministries on university and college campuses.
On one level, I think this matters because fairness matters. If any student group makes requirements for its membership or leadership, and that group is granted “official recognition” on a campus, then the fair strategy would be to allow all groups to do the same---including Christian groups. In the cases where Christian ministries are being labeled as negatively discriminatory, it’s because they ask leaders to adhere to statements of Christian belief and moral codes of conduct. Yes, that narrows the field. But how much different is that from every varsity sporting team on campus? By requiring athletic prowess, for instance, they excluded a number of us.
But maybe fairness isn’t a reliable place to stand on this. As my father said—and as your father may have said to you: “Who said that life was fair?”
So let me ask you to care about this for another reason. Some who oppose official recognition of Christian ministries on campus mistakenly liken Christian life and conduct to the discriminatory practices of the KKK. Should this view of Jesus Christ and His followers take the day--and Christian groups therefore have more difficultly assembling on campuses—finding opportunities to tell others that the opposite is true may become more of a challenge. Those who follow Jesus aim to be nothing like the KKK. Our Lord loves without exclusion--without reservation--and because He is God, He also embodies the power to forgive and transform.
Of course, telling this—and living this--on campus or any place else doesn’t need a university’s “official recognition.” It makes it easier, though. But maybe that’s not the main concern. In light of this, Jim Lungren leaves us with this question: “What do I trust in? Do I trust in the university’s recognition of me or of my organization? Or do I trust in Jesus Christ? And do I rely on the Holy Spirit?”