The purpose of a campus ministry should be to manifest the body of Christ within a collegiate setting (Mt 18:20).
In doing that, a campus ministry can function much like a church in itself or it can be an extension of an existing church. In either case, a campus ministry ideally should embody the five core functions of the church (Acts 2:42-47): evangelism, service, fellowship, edification, and worship. That embodiment should provide students from a variety of congregations with a structured environment in which to discover the fullness of manifesting Christ to the world– albeit with “safety nets” and mentors (Phil 4:9) appropriate to their intramural world.
As with all fellowships, the characteristics of ministry participants will color how the essentials of Christian community are expressed. The relative immaturity of campus ministry members will make service (that is, meeting the needs of fellowship members) especially prominent– so prominent that, in some cases, meeting the needs of students may seem like the only purpose of campus ministry.
In terms of inward focus, campus ministry demonstrates the “one another” passages of Scripture; specifically …
- comforting (1 Thes 4:18),
- admonishing (Rom 15:14; Col 3:16),
- greeting (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20, 2 Cor 13:12, 1 Pet 5:14),
- receiving (Rom 15:7),
- living harmoniously with (Rom 12:16),
- fellowshipping with (John 1:7),
- being patient with (Eph 4:2),
- agreeing with (1 Cor 1:10),
- submitting to (Eph 5:21),
- being humble toward (1 Pet 5:5),
- waiting for (1 Cor 11:33),
- having equal concern for (1 Cor 12:25),
- serving (Gal 5:13),
- carrying the burdens of (Gal 6:2),
- being hospitable toward (1 Pet 4:9),
- edifying (Rom 14:19),
- speaking to (Eph 5:19),
- encouraging (1 Thes 5:11; Heb 3:13; 10:24-25),
- being kind toward (1 Thes 5:15),
- being compassionate toward (Eph 4:32),
- being affectionate toward (Rom 12:10; 1 Thes 4:9), and
- loving (Rom 13:8; 1 Pet 1:22; 1 John 3:11; 3:23; 4:7,11,12; 2 John 1:5) …
- … one another.
The human mind is a spiritual thing shaped by “conversations.” The purpose of campus ministry is to be a “confessing” community (James 5:16) that fosters the kind of conversations that create a Christian mind within its members (Eph 4:22-24).
In terms of apologetics, campus ministry is the collegiate venue for the spiritual warfare Paul talks about in 2 Cor 10:3-5. A campus ministry helps its participants subordinate and recast the various ideologies of academia in light of the knowledge of Christ and thereby bear witness to the ground of their faith (1 Pet 3:15) in the face of opposing worldviews.
In terms of evangelism, campus ministry is the most prominent fulfillment of the Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20) with respect to college campuses.
In sociological terms, the purpose of campus ministry is to …
- Define or reinforce a Christian social structure (Eph 4:15-16),
- Restrain departures from Christian norms (Phil 3:15-16),
- Pass on the primary traditions of Scripture (2 Tim 2:2) and the secondary traditions of historical experience (Eph 5:10),
- Order lives in relation to Christian values (Rom 12:2),
- Smooth the existential crises of college life (Rom 8:38),
- Give a sense of belonging (Eph 2:13), and
- Cope wisely with the limits of individual circumstances (2 Cor 4:16-18).