Campus Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture



Stephen Lutz
Kansas City, MO: The House Studio, 2011



In Campus Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture, Stephen Lutz presents his conviction that ministry to college students deeply matters and that fruitful campus ministry must have a missional perspective.


Lutz uses the metaphor of a tree, incorporating roots, growth, and fruit, to organize his outline for campus ministry.  ”Part One: Putting Down Roots: The Gospel, Community, and the Missio Dei” introduces a missional orientation to college ministry.  This “missional orientation” underscores both personal salvation as well as God’s mission to redeem, renew, and restore a broken world.  Lutz is concerned that many college students lead shallow, rootless lives and that campus ministries often do not help students develop a deep faith. Campus ministries can lead students to become inwardly focused, offering them a safe-haven, rather than challenging them to look outward toward a missional ministry.

Within the first part of this book, chapter three, “Ten Shifts to Missional College Ministry,” describes aspects of missional campus ministry. To provide spiritual leadership, a campus minister must understand the campus: demographically, culturally, and socially. Listening well, caring for the entire campus, and demonstrating faithful living are also part of being missional.

Chapter four, “The Virtues of Being ‘The Visiting Team,’” is a discussion of Lutz’ four types of cultural engagement for campus ministries: accommodationist, redemptive/transformationist, extractional (subculture), and fundamentalist.

Chapter five, “Redemptively Engaging the Campus,” describes qualities of pastoral care: careful listening, caring for all students, prayer, blessing our campuses, and holistic Christian living. Ministry staff must be trained for campus ministry and be intellectually curious, willing to help students lead ministry.

“Part Two: Growing the Mission: Evangelism, Discipleship, and Leadership”, expands the themes from part one. Chapters six and seven focus on evangelism. Lutz notes that effective evangelism flows from the heart of the campus minister, and that evangelism must be culturally appropriate. He says that it takes time to become established and trusted in cultural contexts that are not “ours” and this requires patience, because coming to faith often takes time. When considering how to engage groups, Lutz suggests systematically assessing a person’s openness to Christianity. Different degrees of openness require different styles of engagement.

Chapters eight and nine focus on discipleship, primarily developing missional students who are equipped to evangelize. Campus ministries need a clear, understandable plan to help students develop a missional outlook. In Lutz’ approach to ministry, salvation is inseparable from evangelism. Lutz addresses, as he did in Part One, the topic of engaging non-Christian students. Lutz ends Part Two by discussing the skills and traits of a missional campus minister: Gospel communicator, commitment to learning, theological competency, entrepreneurial attitude, support raiser, shepherd, counselor, coach, and mentor.

Part Three, “Fruit That Will Last: Movements With Eternal Impact,” addresses what Lutz describes as “big picture” items. Lutz encourages cooperation between campus ministries because collaboration will more effectively reach the entire school. He also discusses a plan for cooperative relationships between churches and campus ministries. Lutz advocates for a “complementarian” approach, where the role of campus ministry is to help the local church reach college students. Part Three also includes a chapter on “Ministry at the Global University,” in which Lutz proposes a ministry that has potential for a worldwide impact. These campus ministries are defined by attributes such as name recognition, large size, academic excellence, diverse population, and influence. Lutz claims that campus ministry can reach students at these “global” institutions where graduates have the potential to develop into influential leaders all across the world.

In a chapter titled “Open to the Future,” Lutz presents some future challenges for campus ministry: the effect of high tuition and student loan debt, distance learning (which changes student engagement), increased enrollment of non-traditional students, and decreased financial security. Despite these challenges, Lutz remains hopeful. In the closing chapter, “Marching Orders,” Lutz offers encouragement: “Trust Jesus; Pray; Remember your calling; Go with Christ’s authority; Be intentional.” This chapter has some helpful questions for reflection and action steps.


Lutz received his MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary. He has worked with both parachurch and church-affiliated campus ministries. He is currently with Coalition for Christian Outreach at Penn State. Lutz assumes evangelical campus ministries as the primary audience for the book. His main assumption is that what has worked most effectively for evangelical campus ministries in the past needs to be revised for today. In this book he offers an alternative approach.


Lutz has an approach that is evangelical in both the theological and social realms. Mission includes social justice issues, but ultimately is about an evangelistic outreach to students with the hope of their conversion to Christianity. He assumes common evangelical views of current society and college life. Lutz says that students live in a morally relativistic post-Christian world. “…the norm on many of our campuses is startlingly uniform: relativistic personal morality, shape-shifting sexuality, a crusading “save the world” idealism by day and a debaucherous “party as if the world is ending” nihilism by night.”[1] He views sexual orientation as a choice: “They change their friends, their partners, their sexualities.”[2] In terms of evangelistic efforts, Muslims and atheists are the only non-Christian groups mentioned in the book.  Lutz invites students to engage those who are different from them, “the partying kids, the LGBTA community, the atheist-agnostic community, Muslims, and so on.”[3] According to Lutz, faithful, missional campus ministry will develop Christians who are able to evangelize non-Christians.


Hundreds of students may attend a large group meeting, but are they growing in faith? Campus ministries tend to serve already committed Christians who are looking for a safe place to spend some of their time. Are they enthusiastic for and committed to evangelism? Are campus ministries “outward facing” and engaging the campus? This book is concerned with answering these questions.


This is an interesting book. Lutz offers a holistic understanding of the gospel. According to him, personal piety and salvation, a concern for social justice, a ministry of presence, and working for the common good are all part of the gospel. His call for campus ministries to work together is clear and helpful. His discussion of the relationship between church and campus ministry, however, is very theoretical and incomplete. Examples of successful partnerships would have been helpful. Denominationally supported campus ministries are only mentioned briefly.

Evangelicals may be uncomfortable with Lutz’s call to collaborate with non-Christians in social justice projects and to remove the emphasis, even abandoning, large group praise and worship meetings. Progressive readers will be uncomfortable with Lutz assumptions about LGBTQ students, as well as his emphasis on creating relationships with the goal of conversion. While encouraging engagement with the entire campus, he assumes secular universities are a dangerous place for Christians. Lutz does not encourage Christian students to embrace and learn from a college’s intellectual and social diversity. The author wants students to have real friendships with non-Christian students rather than befriending people to evangelize, but he also assumes this friendship will yield conversation about the gospel and salvation. One critique of the book is the insufficient description of how a student might navigate honest friendship and the imperative of evangelism.

There is enough in this book to challenge both evangelical and progressive campus ministers. It would be interesting, even helpful, to read and discuss this with other campus ministry colleagues. There certainly would be some interesting conversations and perhaps our shared ministry on campus would be improved. Only the last chapter offers questions for reflection and “action steps.” These are quite good, but it could have been more useful to include reflection questions at those close of each chapter. 



[Review by Nancy Janisch]

[1] Lutz, S., Campus Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture, 23.

[2] Ibid., 26.

[3] Ibid., 47.