More than a dozen Christian campus groups have renewed a vow to work cooperatively rather than competitively while trying to reach college students.
With national organizations such as InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Campus Crusade for Christ, and The Navigators each on many of the same college campuses, the groups decided to shake hands and commit to "unity in mission."
"Our human nature often leads us into situations where it’s natural to compete with others. In a campus environment, organizations may perceive themselves 'competing' for the same students," InterVarsity spokesman Gordon Govier told The Christian Post Wednesday.
"We want to prevent competition from getting out of hand and damaging Christian witness on campus. After all, we serve the same God, even if our organizational objectives are not necessarily the same."
Leaders of InterVarsity, CCC and Navigators co-sponsored a meeting last October in Chicago to renew a commitment that was initially made 40 years ago. At that time, conflicts developed between local chapters of the Christian groups when more than one of them started on the same campus, explained Jim Lundgren, senior vice president and director of Collegiate Ministries for InterVarsity.
As a practical means of settling those conflicts, local leaders from the three aforementioned ministries, along with Young Life, created the Trail West Agreement in 1971. By signing it, the groups agreed that they did not regard any campus as their exclusive field, committed to establish relationships with other Christian groups on campus, and affirmed that they were all part of Christ's body.
Most of the principles are preserved in a modified and updated version of the agreement. Much like the older document, the "Chicago Agreement" includes such points as: "We will speak well of and refrain from criticism of each other’s ministries and members" and "We commit to addressing problems on a local, regional or national level by humbly communicating with our counterparts, seeking the Lord together to resolve the issues."
Ministries that signed onto the new agreement also agree not to actively recruit students and faculty already in leadership positions in other campus groups.
Though only about a dozen were expected to endorse the Chicago Agreement, official assent was given by 17 organizations in January.
"As the Chicago Agreement states, each of our movements respects the distinctives that each brings to total work of Christ on a campus. We are eager to each preserve those distinctives," Lundgren commented.
The agreement comes at a time when youth ministers and pastors are sounding the alarm about the large exodus of young adults from the church, particularly during their college years. A survey conducted by America's Research Group for Answers in Genesis found that while 95 percent of 20- to 29-year-old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years, by college, only 11 percent were still attending.
Despite the exodus, campus groups have found that many students are open to hearing about Jesus.
Currently, the spiritual climate on campus "leans heavily towards the philosophy of 'spiritual but not religious,'" Govier noted. "We have found that this is a good climate to do ministry. In the past five years InterVarsity’s conversions through campus ministry have increased by 68 percent."
While each organization continues to expand to more campuses, in the end, the campus groups agree on the need for collaboration for greater impact.
Other ministries that have signed the Chicago Agreement include Asian American Christian Fellowship, Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Campus Ambassadors, Campus Outreach, Chi Alpha, Christian Union, Coalition for Christian Outreach, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Great Commission Ministries Churches, The Impact Movement, North American Mission Board, Reformed University Fellowship, and Student Mobilization.