May 29, 2017


Launch Pads vs. Waiting Rooms

Clayton Bullion asks a critical question about the general nature of our college ministries. Do we lead waiting rooms or a launch pads?

Do you spend much time at the doctor’s office? If you haven’t, just wait till you have kids! And, if you are blessed with boys, expect to spend some time at the ER as well. Just saying…

I have four kids and three of them are boys and our girl is a tomboy, so I’ve seen a lot of waiting rooms. Waiting rooms are all pretty much the same. They usually have two sections to divide the well from the sick and a variety of things to keep both parties entertained until their time comes to “move on” to the next room. Look around the room. There isn’t much emotion. Each person is biding his/her time until his/her time comes to move on.

Now compare that with a launch pad for the space shuttle. The cockpit is swarming with activity. Ground zero is alive with clicking and talking. All parties are frantic to make sure every detail is secure. The ground crew is scurrying about making sure everything is filled up, topped off, and packed. There is an excitement and anticipation.

This is a much different picture from your average waiting room, right? The difference? One is ready to launch into something great, the other is well, just waiting. One is passive and one is active. Both of these places serve a purpose, but only one of these changes the world and pushes us farther. Our campus ministries can reflect these as well for better or worst. We can be content with being waiting room ministries or launch pad ministries.

Launch pads send people out. Waiting rooms are holding tanks.
How would people describe our ministries? Do students think of your ministry as a great place to study and hang out? That’s fine if that’s true. Students are always in our ministry building next to campus. But here is the question that should haunt us: Doesn’t the university already provide places for students to do that? So if the highlight for students is we provide a “safe place” for them to hang out then are we doing more harm than good? Don’t go off and burn your ping pong tables just yet! Hear me out!

Our students don’t need a “safe place” or a “sterile place” to hang out with their Christian friends and study. They’ve already paid for that. Most campuses have a student union and a library. Maybe instead of spending money on making our buildings a cool place to attract students we should start spending time training students to engage students at the cool places students already hang out? Students need a place to be trained and sent out from, not a place to hang out. Non-believing students need to see Christians students doing Christian things. Or rather, doing normal things as Christians. There shouldn’t be the “Christian place” to play ping pong and pool and the “non-Christian” place to do rec sports. Our ministries should be places where students are sent out from not the place they go to gather.

Here are a few practical things we can do to be a launch pad for our students:

1. Meet with students on campus. Have your personal meetings with students and your small groups meet on campus if possible. “But they might feel uncomfortable reading the Bible in public,” you say. Well, they can get over it! I can’t tell you the number of discipleship interruptions I’ve had that have led to gospel conversations! Their friends walk by and ask what we are doing and all of a sudden we are in a gospel conversation. One of our upperclassmen small groups is notorious for not getting through the lesson because they intentionally meet by a major walk way and always have new people joining them who they share the gospel with! Non-Christians need to see Christians doing Christian things like prayer and Bible study.

2. Rally behind the mission, not the community. Don’t gather students, send out missionaries. Keep the mission in front of them. The goal is not for them to have “Christian community.” Strong community is built in the trenches of mission, but never should community be the mission. Never has a sports team said, “let’s be great friends and all hold each other up and cheer each other on.” No! A team is forged because they have a goal and they rally behind the goal and team is born out of the mission. Sure our ministry should pray together, play together, share together, and eat together, but they what should bring them together for those things is that they mission together. The mission of engaging the campus needs to be at the forefront. Community will be born out of that. If you try to build community, your students won’t leave community to engage campus and community will be weak.

3. Equip students to lead where they are. We all have students who rub elbows with students who need the gospel. Lost students who we will never probably meet. We have to release our students and train them to be evangelists where they are – the dorm, their clubs, their team… wherever. A question we need to ask is: “Does most of the ‘ministry’ happen at our events or is it done outside our events by our students?” If students have to feel like they are at one of our events so we can share the gospel and help a student, then we’ve created a waiting room ministry.

Students will come to both launch pad and waiting room ministries. The difference between the two is that people go to a waiting room because they have a problem; people go to a launch pad because they have a mission.

My friends, can I confess to you that sometimes I allow my ministry to become a waiting room for Christian kids instead of a launch pad for world changers. Shame on me, to sit at the intersection of life and death as the most moldable, trainable, sendable demographic on the planet pass by and try to entertain them and merely keep them busy instead of seeking to equip them to change the world! May God grant us the grace to be launch pad ministries that see the world changed by the students who are sent out with Christ’s mission imprinted on their hearts. Here’s to spending our time training and launching instead of gathering and waiting!

about the author

Clayton Bullion

Clayton is the Chief Dreamer and Storyteller at the Baptist Student Ministry at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX. He is married to Bethany and they have four fantastic kids. Before coming to Tarleton, Clayton and Bethany lived in the Middle East helping college students engage the culture around them with the gospel.