Jan 08, 2018


Speaking the Language of Campus Administration

Justin Woods shares some wisdom on how to understand and respect your campus administration as you work to further the gospel among students and faculty.

Every major university is concerned with developing leaders for industry. Without successful graduates, universities will not be as attractive to future students aspiring to success. Universities want to give assurance for success.  Of course, college ministry leaders desire the same things for their students, although we often have different outcomes in mind and very different language.

This report from the multi-institutional study of leadership is an empirical study on which leading measurements are the best predictors of future success. Although it was first published a few years ago, it was a far-reaching study including over 250 campuses and captures some trends that will influence collegiate ministry for several years to come.

The study finds that students who have these four experiences in college have a higher leadership capacity:

1. Socio-cultural conversations with peers
The study discovered the number one indicator of future leadership success to be having real conversations with people who are different. This action is more of a reflection of a student’s character than anything else. Students who have these conversations care to sincerely understand someone else, and people with that kind of character tend to be successful.

2. Mentoring relationships
This is pretty obvious, however, the study notes that different ethnicities benefit from different types of mentoring relationships.  For example, they show that Latino students benefit greatly from peer mentoring relationships. Black students benefit more from faculty mentors. Multi-racial students benefit more from student affairs mentors.

3. Community service
Serving others is eye opening. It teaches us a lot about our selves and our assumptions about social systems. Community service is most effective in developing students when it is appropriate processed after the experience.

4. Memberships in off-campus organizations
Campus life can be a bubble. Being involved in the “real world” while in college tends to have a significant impact.

These findings are interesting, but not surprising. The Scriptures already taught us to do these things. Most college ministries I know have embraced these practices for years. So, why does this matter to us?

  • Understanding this report can help ministry leaders gain credibility in the eyes of an institution. The school’s administrators are reading this and building programs to address these topics. Being able to discuss how a religious organization adds value to the university’s main objective builds credibility and will open new doors for conversation.
  • The report is true, so build these things into your leadership development plan! Gospel conversations, discipleship relationships, volunteering and church membership are simple and clear ways for a student to raise their leadership capacity.
  • The crazy thing is that we KNOW this! Our challenge is to COMMUNICATE it. It may be intuitive for ministry leaders, but it’s not to young students. Most students want to know what you expect of them. When you give them clear expectations, they tend to meet them and tend to be more fruitful.
  • Modeling matters. When I read reports like this, my first thought is, “How can I help students do these things?” However, I must first ask myself, “Am I doing these things?” Do I have relationships and conversations with non-students in which I actually weave in the gospel? Do I have a mentor? Maybe you have a supervisor, but you should probably also have someone else who is investing in you. Am I volunteering during my free time or just setting up opportunities during my work time for others to serve during their free time?

Universities know that extra-curricular activities are beneficial, so let’s show that our ministry is contributing to their mission of developing leaders. I want to do whatever it takes for every dorm room, classroom, and administrative office to be affected by the Gospel of Jesus, even if that means building my situational awareness and using secular research to help understand and reinforce spiritual leadership development.

Here are a couple more resources from Collegiate Collective to help you speak the language of the administration and work with them for the good of your campus community and the advance of God’s kingdom.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor: Healthy Relationships with the Student Affairs Office
Caleb Craft writes about how collegiate leaders can best love student affairs staff as their neighbors.

If Admin Ain’t Happy
A roundtable video featuring Chad Frank, Drew Worsham, and Paul Fiske discussing the benefits and best practices for developing healthy relationships with campus administration.

Episode 164: Retention, Retention, Retention
Rahul Agarwal and Caleb Craft discuss how campus administration and ministries can partner together to pursue their shared goal of student retention.

about the author

Justin Woods

Justin is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Director at the U.S. Naval Academy since 2010. He also is a Reserve Chaplain in the Air Force.