The 10 Commandments of College Ministry

Arliss Dickerson
Self-Published Amazon eBook, 2014



In The 10 Commandments of College Ministry, longtime college pastor Arliss Dickerson makes the case that there are ten “overriding truths and principles that run through all” of the most successful college ministries with which he has been familiar.[1] Dickerson claims that by identifying these common threads, adapting them to each unique context, and implementing them, collegiate ministers will vastly improve the quality of the ministries they lead.



After a very brief introduction, Dickerson presents each of these ten common characteristics of successful college ministries as a chapter. While these ten chapters have titles that are far too long to list here, respectively they deal with staff leadership, overall vision, contextual uniqueness, empowerment of students, freshman-specific ministries, Christian community, programing to meet the needs of students, leadership training, public perception of the ministry, and the need for support and partnership from the wider church. Dickerson then concludes the book by briefly sharing the “7 Top Reasons Students Attended a Campus Christian Ministry for the First Time” according to a five state survey conducted by the Kentucky Baptist Campus Ministers. The entire eBook is the equivalent of 46 pages, taking less than an hour to read in its entirety. 



Arliss Dickerson served as Baptist Campus Minister at Arkansas State University for 32 years and currently serves as Leadership Development Consultant for the Collegiate Ministry Office at Lifeway. In addition, he has served as Chairman of the National Collegiate Ministries Summit, a triennial professional development event for collegiate ministers. Dickerson is also the author of two other self-published Kindle eBooks: The Big 50: 50 Ideas and Principles for Growing Your College Ministry… or Just Starting a College Ministry (2014) and Doing College Ministry Better (2013).

Most readers of The 10 Commandments of College Ministry will likely detect three major presuppositions held by the author. The first presupposition is that long term consistent staff leadership of a college ministry is paramount. This presupposition is not surprising in light of Dickerson’s 32 years of service at Arkansas State University. The second of Dickerson’s assumptions is that the average collegiate minister will be a fulltime staff person whose only ministerial responsibility will be collegiate ministry. This presupposition is made clear when he makes suggestions such as walking through campus every day, meeting with student leaders on a weekly basis (in addition to other ministry gatherings), and spending significant time building partnerships with campus officials, volunteers, and financial supporters. While these recommendations have great value and wisdom, they are, perhaps, unrealistic for collegiate ministers who work on a part-time basis or for full-time congregational pastors for whom collegiate ministry is merely one of their many ministry responsibilities. The third of the author’s presuppositions is that it will be the goal of all collegiate ministries to grow numerically. Numerical growth is regularly presented as the desired outcome of implementing these ten ministry maxims.



Although Dickerson is Southern Baptist, other than his occasional citing of Baptist sources, there is nothing in the theology presented in this eBook that is denominationally specific. In fact, Dickerson spends very little time discussing theology at all, assuming that someone who is taking the time to read an eBook about college ministry likely already has their own theological convictions. Rather than testifying to his own theological beliefs, Dickerson is much more interested in sharing practical advice based upon his decades of experience in campus ministry, which for him happens to have been in the Southern Baptist tradition. Although Dickerson is rarely explicit in his theological statements, the reader can glean from this eBook some of what Dickerson believes to be the theological foundations for collegiate ministry. These implicit theological foundations will almost surely be shared by Christians of all traditions.

According to Dickerson, the ultimate purpose of college ministry is to help all students to know that God loves and cares for them, to introduce non-Christian students to Jesus Christ, to provide Christian community and opportunities for Christian service to students, and to help all students to “walk closer to the Lord.”[2] It is also important to Dickerson that collegiate ministries help students to “understand forgiveness and [that] starting over again is vital.”[3] Dickerson believes that in order to accomplish these Christian imperatives, students, leaders, and collegiate ministers must respond to the Spirit’s call to grow in faith and to engage actively in ministry in ways that reflect the inclusive nature of God’s love. This is evident when he states that any “Christian ministry worth its salt is for everyone.”[4]



Dickerson cares deeply about college ministry and for collegiate ministers. He wrote The 10 Commandments of College Ministry “because of [his] care and admiration for those who do college ministry… most of whom are underpaid, overworked and not nearly appreciated enough.”[5] His overarching aim for this eBook is to encourage and empower collegiate ministers by giving them ideas and advice based upon his nearly forty years of involvement in college ministry. He intends for these ten common elements of successful ministries to help the collegiate minister to “hold a mirror up to your ministry” in order to assess the ministry’s current strengths and shortcomings by reflecting on these ten “commandments.”[6] He feels that it is his purpose in life, and therefore the purpose of this book, to help college ministries and collegiate ministers to be as effective and successful as possible.



The greatest strengths of this book are the background of the author and the simplicity of the presentation. Dickerson’s guidance can be trusted because he has been “in the trenches” of campus ministry for so long, and he did well enough in this field to now make a living as a consultant to other campus ministries. He has experimented, failed, adapted, and succeeded time and time again over the decades, which gives a deep integrity to his arguments. In addition to benefiting from Dickerson’s vast experience, this book finds much of its value in being brief, easy-to-understand, and practical. There is no erudite theological jargon, no tables of data, and no reliance upon psychological and sociological theories. He simply offers ten practical suggestions, writing as an older, wiser mentor, saying to those with less experience, “Here’s what I did that worked. You might want to try some of these things too.”

Although the strengths mentioned above are of great value in assessing the worth of this eBook for collegiate ministers, The 10 Commandments of College Ministry certainly comes with a few weaknesses, beginning with the format. While the Kindle eBook format allows for this book to be very inexpensive (only $1.00) and instantly available on a Kindle reader, this format is not without its drawbacks. There is no hardcopy version of this book available, which, according to numerous surveys, is still the preferred format of a majority of readers, even young readers. In addition, this eBook has been self-published, which as often happens, has resulted in numerous typos and occasional formatting issues. In addition, the practicality of the presentation becomes a bit simplistic, at times showing that in spite of his experience and wisdom, Dickerson is not an incredibly talented writer. Finally, this book makes no mention of two areas that are of great importance to many mainline college ministries and collegiate ministers in the 21st Century: social justice work and interfaith interaction.

Despite its weaknesses, the strengths of this book are great enough that, as long as potential readers understand that they will be reading an inexpensive, brief, practical, self-published eBook, collegiate ministers can find great value in Dickerson’s work. In fact, the chapter entitled, “A Specialized Freshmen Ministry is the Single Best Way to Reach More Students,” alone may make this brief book worth the small price and short time to read it. There is the potential for any collegiate minister to come away from this book with several practical and logical ideas to try out in order to enhance her or his ministry with college students. The 10 Commandments of College Ministry is so inexpensive and so quick and easy to read that there is nothing to lose in purchasing and reading this eBook. Even just one practical idea gleaned from this book will make it worth the minimal time and money spent on it.


[Review by Everett L. Miller]

[1] Dickerson, The 10 Commandments of College Ministry, 44.

[2] Ibid., 137-139, 312.

[3] Ibid., 362.

[4] Ibid., 506.

[5] Ibid., 44.

[6] Ibid., 51.