The Campus Versus The Church

Fishing is a term long associated with proselytizing, with roots in the Bible. And according to Mark Moder, founder of "Reach the Campus" ministries, youth pastors and youth workers need to “fish on the other side of the boat…the Campus” in order to reach today’s teens.

Moder, in an article for the National Network of Youth Ministries – an umbrella group set on equipping youth ministry workers with the tools necessary to reach the latest generation of rebellious teens – explained that 21st century fishing can still learn from the Bible parable in Luke 5.

The passage records the story of Jesus meeting his disciples, who were fishermen. They were on the lake all day and didn't catch any fish. Then Jesus met them and told them to fish "on the other side of the boat." To their amazement, they drew up so much fish that the load almost tore the net.

In his Spring 2005 article titled, “Where the Students Are,” Moder explained that Youth workers must also “fish on the other side of the boat” where the youth are.

"And you know where fish swim, don't you," he asks.

"Fish swim in schools."

Although "Youth workers today are better educated, have more resources, go to more conferences and overall have greater support from congregations and church boards than ever before," they are not "catching more fish?" he exclaimed.

However, he was challenged to go to the campus by a friend one day, and his eyes were opened to a Campus Ministry.

"Campus Ministry is nothing new to many people," he states, considering there is Youth Life, Youth for Christ, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Student Venture, etc. but what is new is that "the Church has now begun to see it as a viable mission field."

"There are amazing opportunities for churches to impact and reach students in public schools," he states, notwithstanding the current headlines of legal debates across on the nation on the "separation of Church and state" doctrine.

However, he urges the Church to "think very differently" now.

The present mentality of youth workers is that they are only responsible for a small group of youth out of the larger congregation.

"I'm sorry, but that's bunk," was his reply. He considers the entire city his parish, and he must reach all 15,000 students in that city.

"We need to keep asking ourselves if 'every student' really means "EVERY" student!" states Moder.

His School-Based Ministry Paradigm verses Church-Based Ministry Paradigm lists nine differences to encourage youth workers at churches to reach out to their local schools and is a tool for workers to gauge their level of activity at schools.

Although there are several difficulties with working at schools. For example, nine years ago, Moder couldn't even eat lunch at the school he wanted to "fish" at, now, he has a fantastic relationship with most of the school and the school districts.

He lists three reasons for what changed: meeting a need of the school, becoming an asset, and not a threat, and building relationships with teachers and administrators, not just students," all of which are examples of serving the schools first and then reaching out to the students.

Greg Johnson, a High School counselor stated, "Youth workers help us in mobilizing students to care for other students, assist in connecting kids with other kids and love people in the school as individuals. You can't always say that about teachers. Youth guys do a better job of that than anybody.

"And you know where fish swim, don't you?" he asked.

"Fish swim in schools."