In some ways, last month’s Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) training meetings in Atlanta were par for the course–the national campus ministry of the PCA hosts training events for its campus ministers and interns twice a year as a means of developing them in the RUF philosophy of ministry. And this year many wives attended and participated in training designed specifically for them.
But the crowd of 250 in Atlanta reflected an interesting trend. Several of those at the training event were there as church planters, representing a growing contingent of former RUF campus ministers turned church planters who have a vision for reaching entire cities for Christ. More than 60 former RUF campus ministers are now planting churches or serving as senior, associate, or assistant pastors. Nearly 50 of those have actually planted a church or are doing so now.
“These [former campus ministers] see the value of RUF’s philosophy of ministry and decide to apply it to church planting—which is good for the PCA because we’re constantly helping start new churches and providing good church homes for both RUF ministers and students to attend,” said Rod Mays, national coordinator of RUF.
It’s a natural transition for many of these church planters, he says. “RUF ministers preach, teach, develop leadership, counsel, train small group leaders, and gather people—which are the same things that a church planter does. Both roles share a lot of the same characteristics: great theological integrity, understanding God and themselves, understanding demographics, being winsome and outgoing, being a good communicator, loving people.”
In some cases, RUF is sending out two people (with the cooperation of Mission to North America and presbyteries) to a new area at once: one to serve as a campus minister, and the other to plant a church in the same area. That model is in place at the University of Minnesota, Purdue University, and Western Kentucky University with plans to expand to UCLA, the University of West Florida, and the University of Michigan.
And RUF church plants tend to attract former RUF students, says Mays, who “make great teachers, leaders, elders, deacons, and mercy ministry leaders” and who are often interested in being part of a new work.
So, while this trend develops, RUF plans to continue focusing on training. “Training is the backbone of what we do at RUF,” said Mays. “So, just as we pastorally take care of our campus ministers by mentoring, visiting, and training them, that same vision applies to the way we support our church planters. One of the best things we can do for them is to provide structure, pastoral care, and practical help with their ministry.”