April 2015

Campus church plant or supplant?

April 8 2015 by John Alden Tagliarini, Bryson City, N.C.

I have noticed the changing and challenging nature of ministry on college campuses. Baptist Student Unions have seen dramatic transformation over the last two decades. I admire those who minister in such settings as these.
I always understood student ministries to function in concert with local churches. Working alongside congregations to disciple students puts the “para” in para-church.
The new model of an actual church on campus fulfills a number of perceived needs. Students are comfortable with their peers with whom they share classes, sports, dorms and meals. A homogeneous worship style attracts and unifies this narrow demographic. God is glorified and the gospel is preached by faithful leaders.
However, as local congregations lose their students to the church on campus, these other local expressions of the body of Christ suffer the dearth of college-aged fervor and insights. Worse, these students may not experience the richness of life with children, adults and seniors. And, someday, they will have children and grow old.
When leaders scheduled campus ministry during the week, students were free to attend churches on Sunday. The postmodernists will argue that the church needs to reform, to better meet the needs of those students, most of whom were not attending on Sundays anyway. This is true. But how does transformation take place with a non-present partner?
I have sympathy for the leaders of churches on campuses meeting during “church” hours, such as 11 [a.m.] on Sundays. You are no doubt, reaching people not otherwise touched by grace. But I plead for your sensitivity to the congregations surrounding you who also aspire to reach college students.
Specifically, given the geography wherein a “new church plant” sets up adjacent to an existing congregation, on their property as leased to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and schedules worship at 11 a.m. Sunday, compromising an already difficult parking issue, it does not seem right to me. I wonder whether the effort constitutes a church plant or a church supplant.
John Alden Tagliarini
Bryson City, N.C.

4/8/2015 11:25:11 AM by John Alden Tagliarini, Bryson City, N.C. | with 1 comments