A few weeks ago a campus ministry colleague and I were eating lunch in a restaurant near one of our campuses. Our waitress was pretty busy when we walked in but near the end of the meal when she brought our checks and things around us had slowed down we asked her name. After Lanai responded to my first question I asked her “What do you do when you aren’t working here?” I discovered my hunch about her had been correct. She is a college student. We had an opportunity to tell her that we worked for a student organization on her campus. She asked us which one and that’s when we identified ourselves as campus ministers with Baptist Student Ministry.
And then she dropped the bomb! She told us that she used to be involved in another ministry on our campus. We didn’t get to go much further in the conversation that day but God keeps laying Lanai and other students like her on my heart. I keep wondering what the rest of her story is. Why had she broken up with her campus ministry? What was going on in her life which led her to that choice? And ultimately, what should I as a campus minister do or say about any of that?
During my years on multiple campuses I’ve encountered many students who drop out of churches and or campus ministries because of relationship issues. If you’ve been around for longer than one semester, you know the how the story goes. Girl meets boy. Boy asks girl out. Dating happens. Couple forms. Something in the relationship goes awry. Girl dumps boy or boy dumps girl. One of the two decides they can’t keep coming because they don’t want to awkwardly face the other one at your weekly meetings.
What do great collegiate ministers do at this point? Many times, we might be tempted to all but ignore the obvious and let it happen. We channel our discipleship energies into the one part of the couple that stays committed to our ministry. And we never personally speak to the one who has dropped out. BUT what if we made an intentional effort to help that student who has left our ministry plug into another? What if we offered suggestions to them about our sister churches or fellow ministry groups on campus? What if we set an appointment up with them to introduce them personally to someone we know from another church or group? And what if we continued to stay actively involved in their lives until they made those connections?
You can bet that I’ll be asking to sit in Lanai’s section every time I eat in her restaurant. And you can probably guess that I’ll be frequently eating a lot of what is on their menu until I get the chance to have a deeper conversation with her. Until then, I pray that God will lead me to understand how to more effectively minister to students who want to break up with our ministry.
Beth Smith is the Dallas Area Metro Strategist for Texas Baptist Collegiate Ministry.