Alone on an Island?

As a regular part of my calling to minister at Lehigh University, I travel to a number of different churches to attend missionary conferences where missionaries from around the world come to talk about the work that God is doing through them. As I visit with people in these congregations, I often enter into a conversation that sounds like this:

Them: “How many other RUF staff are with you at Lehigh?”
Me: “Well, none. It’s just me.”
Them: “Wow. Doesn’t that get lonely?”
Me: “Yes, it can be lonely at times. But it doesn’t really change how I do ministry.”
Them: “Oh really? How’s that? I couldn’t imagine ministering to all those students all by myself.”
Me: “I understand. I can’t either…”
Them: (puzzled look) “So do you minister to students…?"

To be fair, most missions organizations as well as most campus ministries send several individuals or families to do a mission work as a “team.” But that’s not really how RUF does ministry. Why?

In situations where there are a number of “paid professionals,” studies show that regular members of a church or campus ministry are more inclined to sit on the sidelines and not be involved in direct ministry to their peers. However, that’s not really the structure of Christian growth and discipleship that we see in Ephesians 4:11-12: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” According to this passage, the purpose of the “paid professional” is to equip other Christians to do ministry. Therefore, my goal as a campus minister with RUF is to equip my students to do ministry to other students. Or to put it another way, while I may not have a team of paid professionals working alongside me on the campus, I do have a staff of unpaid volunteers—students—who not only assist me in ministry but are critical to the ministry’s success. When these students graduate and move on into the workforce, they are ready for ministry to those in their church and community because they have been equipped and engaged in ministry in RUF throughout their days in college.

So while it may get lonely on campus, it’s nothing like being alone on an island. I am surrounded by college-aged saints who are being equipped and are engaged in the work of the ministry. We pray that God would continue to be pleased to make RUF truly a ministry to students through students.

Scott Mitchell, Campus Minister at Lehigh
August 15, 2013 • 610-691-0988 • 631 Fourth Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18018