State of Campus Ministry 2008
of the Ivy Jungle Campus Ministry Survey
and Implications for College Ministry
This year the Ivy Jungle Network conducted the largest Campus Ministry Survey to date. This marks the 4th survey this decade (2001, 2003, 2005, 2008) and provides data on the demographics of campus ministry, statistics on group size, make up, and trends. It also provides data on the longevity, education, and compensation of campus ministers. The survey looks into issues facing students today and provides data points for marking changes over the last 7 years. This year’s survey also provided for some cross referencing of data between church-based, denominational, and para-church organizations.
In general, the survey shows that the first decade of the new millennium has been a strong time for campus ministry. On the whole, ministries are growing in size, health, scope and diversity. Campus ministers demonstrate a commitment to the ministry, a value on their own education and development, and a concern for the generation to whom they minister. Salaries increased early in the decade and seem to have leveled off more recently. Diversity has continued to increase among students and campus ministers, as well as in the number and kinds of groups on campus. However, much of the growth in numbers and diversity parallels demographic shifts among students.
Early in the decade worship (music) played a more significant role in large group ministry. That has given way to service and mission opportunities. Students still seek community and connectedness. 90% of all campus ministries have some form of small groups. Evangelism and leadership development continue to be ongoing challenges for campus ministers and ministries.
Most campuses that have a ministry presence have multiple groups reaching out to students. However, despite the fact that most groups report growth over the past 3 years, the vast majority of campus ministers perceive only a small fraction of students are connected to a ministry.
Campus ministers believe students are under considerable pressure regarding their time. Students are too busy, over-committed, and an increasing number must work in order to cover the rising costs of a college education. Social pressures continue to be very real in college life, especially with regard to sex and dating. Campus ministers see many students struggling to generate a coherent, Biblical world view and to live out their faith in a consistent manner.
On the positive side, students are optimistic, passionate, and coming to school with a great heart for the poor and causes related to justice and the environment. At the same time, they also exhibit considerable apathy, cynicism, and self-focus. Students are both volunteering more in service projects and to help the less fortunate, and spending more and more time on their computers and connecting with friends through virtual means.
Campus ministers are also finding students with less developed leadership skills and general maturity. College is no longer a great step into adulthood, but an extension of adolescence. Parental involvement reflects this as well.
Brief Overview of Four Trends in Campus Ministry:
84% of all campus ministries have grown or maintained their size over the last three years. Nearly 10% of all groups did not exist three years ago. National ministry statistics also bear out a trend of growth. More regionally focused ministries are expanding into new geographic areas and many groups have increased diversity. Many organizations have taken very concrete steps to increase racial and ethnic diversity among both students and staff. Churches are also becoming more engaged in campus ministry.
This decade has been marked by a growing sense of cooperation among ministries. This can be seen in intentional partnerships among ministry groups, between para-church groups and churches and in local campus ministries. The recent launch of the Youth Transition Network with the collaborative support of a dozen campus ministry groups demonstrates a unity among campus ministries that has not always been common. Partnerships have also increased with ministry groups such as International Justice Mission, World Vision, Compassion, Food for the Hungry, etc. which have all stepped up efforts on campus.
3. Link Between Social Action and Evangelism:
Evangelism continues to be a struggle on campus. In many cases, school rules and regulations have changed how evangelism is done. More importantly, a significant shift in worldview has meant certain approaches to evangelism and apologetics have become less effective in a postmodern pluralistic culture. These shifts have several groups rethinking their approaches to evangelism and even their understanding of the gospel. At the same time, students have shown a significant increase in interest in social action. From Spring Break trips to causes like HIV/AIDS, poverty, and the genocide in Sudan, students have a heart for justice. This has led to a number of new evangelistic opportunities. Community service and mission trips have become entry points for non-believers. Events focused on combating sex trafficking or the World Vision Acting on AIDS campaign have generated great interest. Several groups report a significant increase in conversions. 86% of all campus ministries report someone coming to Christ in their ministry last year. This is despite a continued decline in “evangelism” as a ministry program activity. Creating opportunities for service and helping students see the way social action connects with the gospel will continue to open doors for introducing students to Jesus Christ.
4. The Changing Face of Students Today:
Student populations are more diverse, have had more exposure to the world, and are more connected through technology than ever before. The rate at which social networking took over student communication and relationships has been staggering. Technology – from cell phones to the internet to video games shapes much of life. Impacted thoroughly by postmodernism and pluralism, most students think differently than their predecessors of even a decade or so ago. They have less identity in denominations and group labels, but approach much of life with a high level of consumerism with regard to the experiences that make them feel good. (Christian Smith’s idea of moral therapeutic deism brings this mentality into their spiritual lives).
Students are less mature and more connected to their parents and home than ever before. This has both good and bad implications. Many campus ministers believe students today are less equipped for life and leadership than in the past. More students arrive on campus with issues related to their family of origin (divorce, abuse, etc.) and mental health issues (evidenced by the prevalence of depression on campus) than in the past. Students are working more and have more demands on their time. They seem stressed over finances, academics, activities, relationships, and the future.
Students also show a high level of dis-integration in their lives. They often hold conflicting viewpoints simultaneously. On the one hand, they are optimistic, passionate and eager to volunteer their time for a cause; yet also apathetic, self-focused, and cynical – especially toward the church. They are “spiritual, but not religious”, into Jesus but not the church. Technology has changed the nature of community, where “friends” may only be encountered in cyberspace and never in real life at all. They want to end child slavery and sex trafficking, but engage in risky behavior and serial relationships in their own lives without translating ethical stances from the public to personal arenas. Campuses have become much more diverse, but also niche-focused where many students increasingly surround themselves only with those people who are like them in some way.