Editor’s Note: This post is part of our month-long theme focusing on celebrating and showing the love of God in all our relationships. You can find the rest of these articles here.
Let’s be honest: loving university staff, faculty and administrators is a common blind spot in campus ministry, both for students and ministry leaders. These are often the last people students think of when you as a leader talk about outreach and evangelism. If you stop and think about it, it’s understandable.
Why Students Forget About University Employees
Sometimes these people groups are invisible, an afterthought for students who are busy trying to reach their own generation with the gospel. At other times they become the enemy, visible because they’re holding students accountable for work they didn’t necessarily want (and may or may not have accomplished) or demanding payment through an endless supply of forms and regulations (which often seem designed just to frustrate and confuse). There are gaps in age, knowledge, and authority that complicate the relationship.
Why We Forget About University Employees
Everything we do in campus ministry centers on students. As leaders we might claim that our task is to reach the entire campus for Jesus, but in context we usually just mean students. Rarely are professors a priority. As a rule, they are not the object of our teaching, our budget, or our time spent on campus. University employees are simply not the reason we’re there. So in the monkey-see monkey-do tradition of life, how big a shock is it, really, that they get ignored by both us and our students?
Why We Should Care About University Employees
These overlooked individuals are often the gatekeepers who provide or deny access to the students we so desperately love and want to reach. And they need Jesus just as much as the students do. Those two reasons should be all we need to prioritize loving the staff, faculty, and administrators on our college campuses."These overlooked individuals are often the gatekeepers who provide or deny access to the students we so desperately love and want to reach." -Jon Smith #collegiatedisciplemaker The Invisible Campus: Five Ways to Love the Faculty,… Click To Tweet
How We Can Love University Employees
So, with that in mind, here are five ways you can help your students see the “invisible” and love the “enemy” on campus:
- Remind students that their academic effort matters. Professors know who’s trying and who isn’t. If a Christian student acts lazy and disinterested in their class, how likely are they to listen to that student when he or she starts talking about something that matters to them, like Jesus?
- Staff appreciation day. Pick a day, any day, and have students express their appreciation for university staff—janitors, secretaries, etc. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive; a simple ‘thank you,’ will often go a long way. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to offer them a small gift, either. Your budget and student buy-in will determine what you can do, but how many students can’t find five dollars for a Starbucks gift card if they really need to?
- Feed them. Not every campus ministry has a lunch program, but if yours does, make it a point to invite the faculty and staff. If you don’t have a weekly meal, maybe organize a one-time event and invite a particular group or department.
- Lead by example. If these people are invisible to you, how can you expect your students to see them? Reach out and build relationships on your own. Maybe it’s a vice-dean, maybe it’s someone in the power plant—it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you care enough to reach out to them and build an intentional relationship as an example for your students to see.
- Pray for them. Have your group pray for them regularly, and not just as a large group. Ask students to pray for their professors by name. You could do the same for administrators and staff that you’ve built relationships with. To do that specifically will require actually talking to them and finding out what their prayer needs might be.
Blind spots are only blind as long as you let them be. The real problem isn’t having them; it’s knowing what to do when you find one. Maybe it’s time to look at your school through a different lens. Talk to your students about what it means to love everyone on campus—you might be surprised at who they find to share with and how they choose to do it.