Helping Others Grow

How Campus Ministry Needs to Adapt

Have the rules of engagement changed in campus outreach and discipleship?

Campus—Cru’s global heartbeat since 1951—has produced generations of multiplying disciples. Yet the ever-evolving landscape of youths and young adults has also pushed our campus ministry to innovate and adapt, while staying anchored on biblical foundations.

We spoke with two Cru campus ministry staff workers to find out how are things on the ground. Meet Li Min (SMU Cru) and Qingwen (NTU Cru), with a combined experience of 27 years in campus discipleship and outreach.  

Q: What does evangelism look like on campuses now?

Qingwen: It’s definitely more challenging to take out the Four Spiritual Laws (4SL)/ Knowing God Personally (KGP) booklet and share it openly on campuses these days. On top of this, youths have to deal with a myriad of questions from their friends: Why is Christianity anti-gay? Why do Christians need to go to church? Why do you stick to one religion only without exploring other options?

They sometimes find themselves in a position having to give credible answers to these issues before having the credibility to talk about the Christian faith.

Li Min: Going out for campus witnessing with the hardcopy 4SL puts people on guard. Now, I’m training my students to engage them over common questions about the Christian faith from www.everystudent.com instead, such as:

“What is my purpose in life?”

“Where is God in tough times?”

“Does God answer prayer?”

“How do I find peace of mind?”

So we might go up to someone studying and ask, ‘Hi, my friend and I are doing a survey about what people think about life and faith. Could you share your opinions with us?’ and show a picture with these questions on our phones.

Being upfront and non-confrontational causes students to open up readily for engagement. It’s a great starter which can easily bridge into spiritual conversations later.

 

Qingwen (right-most) hosting a Christmas dinner for his discipleship group at his home

Qingwen: To better understand our audience, the campus ministry recently launched a survey to find out non-Christians’ sentiments towards Christianity.

Initial findings show that they don’t think well of Christians who obviously have an agenda of talking solely about spiritual things. The silver lining though is that they actually do want to have spiritual conversations.

To reach the 200,000 and more tertiary students (and many more if we include those in secondary schools and junior colleges) on campus, we must start exploring avenues such as digital witnessing, public awareness campaigns, etc.

Q: How have you been encouraging Christians to reach out?   

Li Min: I bring my students out campus witnessing with me. When they gain positive experiences of stirring up spiritual conversations, they also gain greater confidence to do likewise with their friends!

Qingwen: I encourage my students to clarify their motivation behind evangelism—"Why am I doing it?” “What does it mean?” “Why do people need the gospel?”—and not treat it as a project. If they treat their friends as “evangelism targets,” it goes against the heart of gospel proclamation. 

 

Limin (last row, third from left) and SMU Cru gathering together for a time of community blessing on campus

Q: What are some trends you observe in youth/campus discipleship?

Li Min: Discipleship used to be done almost entirely face to face, but in recent years it’s been taking place a lot over social media too. When I first started working with SMU Cru a year ago, the first thing I had to do was download Telegram and adapt to this “tele-culture”, even though I was already using WhatsApp and dreaded multiple similar messaging platforms.

SMU students communicate almost exclusively on Telegram, so thanks to my initiation into it, I’ve had so many discipleship moments with my students while exchanging long texts.

Qingwen: One thing that concerns me is how a lot of guys are struggling with porn and don’t know how to find help. Many are ignorant or in denial that it is wrong. The second topmost concern is youth mental health. I’ve observed an upward trend of mental health issues.

Pressures of life and school work can get too much for students, and some of them are really not coping with studies or personal expectations. I am increasingly concerned because some have been affected since secondary school, and not all of them know they need to get help.

Li Min: In the past, students were more ready to give their full commitment to join a CCA from the onset. In recent years, students are more hesitant to make that initial commitment, and like to evaluate all their options in the process. Adapting to this trend, SMU Cru came up with the idea of DG-lite.

Instead of plugging them immediately into a permanent Discipleship Group (DG), they get to have a trial session of DG for a taste of what it’s like. If they like it, they can then sign up to join Cru and be part of a regular DG officially.

 

At Run As One Camp 2019 for NTU and NUS students

Q: How can the Church prepare better in discipling the new generation?

Qingwen: We need to recognise our tendency to reside in our own Christian bubble. My role is to help the second-generation Christians get out of this bubble.

Personally, I think Christian ministers need to be equipped in discussing issues such as sexuality, pornography, mental illnesses with youths, helping them develop biblical convictions and the right posture to engage their friends on them.

Li Min: This generation thinks critically, is very creative and make things happen.

Asking coaching questions instead of simply instructing them what to do and making it a point to ask how they are as a person, not only how their walk with Jesus is, are very important.

I believe deeply in the value of adding that personal touch. Make it a practice to acknowledge them for what they’re doing, verbally affirm their strengths and their heart, and go the extra mile to journey with them through their struggles. This human connection is irreplaceable, beyond platforms, technology and shifting generational traits.

Do you have a positive campus outreach or discipleship story to share with us? Reach out to us at campus@cru.org.sg! Join the conversation on youth discipleship in Collab2Reach! More details at cru.sg/collab2reach.

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