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:: Thursday, August 28, 2003 ::

Recruitment, Discipleship or Football?

The last few days have been filled with work attempting to make contact with new students at the University of Illinois. I don't know how it is elsewhere, but I have observed an extremely high level of competion between the various Christian groups here in Champaign-Urbana in the effort to recruit students.

Many groups approach students much like military recruiters or salesmen: here's our product, here's what we have to offer, here's what you can get out of it - so that we can get something from you. There's a numbers race - which group is the biggest (and therefore doing the most effective ministry)? There's a race for workers - we have a job to do and the only way we're going to get it done is to recruit students to do it all, so we better "git while the gittin' is good". There's a certain paranoia that if we don't do recruitment the way everyone else does it (but just a bit better, nonetheless), we'll lose out and our ministry will die - immediately.

Such is the internal dialogue - within each group.

Externally, it begins to look like a football game - the teams lined up against each other, ready for the ball to be snapped. The crowds are cheering for their teams and heckling the other crowd. "Our team's better than yours is!!!" "Go, team, go! Beat the other guys!!!" Everyone's sizing everyone else up.

How can we get the focus off of ourselves and shift to a mission-minded emphasis? Instead of recruiting students so our ministry can be sustained, or get bigger, or beat out the other groups, why not instead take the tack of primarily investing in the lives of students - so that they can mature and (gasp) leave for good! What's wrong with getting them to the point where they don't need us anymore?

Our discipleship must be purposeful. This is no more true than in the first weeks of school at the University. But this will require a shift from "recruitment" to discipleship when the students arrive. And it most certainly means not competing with other Christian groups. That's just bad form.

:: Matt 8/28/2003 12:18:00 AM :: permalink :: ::
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