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The 7 Essential Components of Effective Campus Ministry

Raul Espericueta
Written By Raul Espericueta
On Sep, 17 2021
11 minute read


Organizing and executing a plan for success in campus ministry can be a daunting task.  Where does a campus minister go to see models of success?  Trying to imitate or compare your ministry to the big Newman Centers already known around the country can lead to frustration and discouragement.

But thankfully, we have found some some tried and true principles and practices that have been proven to make for effective ministry, no matter what your campus size.  

Our team has compiled some of these best practices to help our campus ministers with ministry planning and to equip you with the best road map to set your goals in the right direction for success! 

Here are the Seven Essentials:

    1. Eucharistic Adoration and Reconciliation are prominent in the culture of the faith environment 
    2. Campus Minister is connected to a supportive small group for continual improvement in his/her role
    3. Student leadership is promoted and impactful 
    4. The campus Ministry Plan is strategic, including an evaluation process for continual improvement
    5. Service opportunities are diverse and offered frequently 
    6. A formation process is in place to develop discipleship
    7. The Liturgy is vibrant, abundant and accessible 


Eucharistic Adoration and Reconciliation


 "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me shall not hunger.  He who believes in me will never thirst."  John 6:35


The Eucharist and Reconciliation are two sacrament magnets that by themselves do most of the work of attraction.  As Catholics we are uniquely blessed with the True Presence in both the Eucharist, and Reconciliation since the priest exists as the person of Christ in the confessional.  No other denomination can say that! 

Providing the sacraments is half the battle, but it does also require some creativity in getting students to actually attend. Simple things such as engaging flyers and personal invitations are extremely helpful. Accessibility and a safe environment for adoration and reconciliation are also a must, the more accessible the better. Guides for confession, such as a small how-to pamphlet and another one explaining why its important are great aids. 


“One of the reasons I work in campus ministry is because it’s evident as I walk around campus that all students hunger and thirst for the living God. The problem is that they’re looking in all of the wrong places.  Our biggest challenge however is that the hunger and thirst are misplaced and unless we passionately evangelize and form them, the Bread of Life will seem like no more than bread for students on our campus.” 
Diana Lopez, former campus minister for the Archdiocese of San Antonio


Want to understand and/or make a good confession? 

While there are a few hundred links about confession, our favorite and often go-to priest on Youtube is Fr. Mike Schmitz.  He’s got a few good videos on the importance of confession and how to do it.  Whether it’s your first time in a long time or you just need a deeper understanding of its value, Fr. Mike has a lot of good insight for you on this beautiful sacrament.  Here are a few of our favorite videos from him: 

Resources for Adoration & Confession:

  • Adoration - One holy hour or half hour (or even 15 minutes) a day in front of the Blessed Sacrament is a great place to start with students. This might include bringing a list of people to pray for, praying a rosary, journaling, reading Sacred Scripture or just sitting in stillness with the presence of Jesus. Encouraging students to just go and talk to Jesus like one would with a friend is always a good suggestion too.  Some students may ask if there is benefit from just sitting in front of Jesus and saying nothing…. This is good too.  Being in the presence of God has great benefit and over time it will make a difference in students’ lives.
  • Lectio Divina - Lectio Divina translated is “divine reading” and is a way to connect to God’s word during your time of prayer. Allow the Lord to speak to you through the “ear of your heart”. You can remember the 4 Rs: Read, Reflect, Respond, Rest
  • Holy Mass - Mass is the most beautiful act of worship for our Church and the place where we can come together in Christian fellowship to express our faith commitment and be filled with Jesus Christ.
  • Confession - Confession allows us to examine our conscience, experience concrete forgiveness and receive graces from the Lord that we desperately need to live a sanctified life.
  • Pray the rosary - The rosary is one of the most powerful devotions in the Catholic Church. Our Lady intercedes for us for the benefit of our salvation and is an advocate for all graces.
Campus Minister is connected to a supportive small group for continual improvement in his/her role: 

Jesus sent out disciples two by two. Why? Because we are not meant to go at it alone in ministry.  All campus ministers’ can benefit from a supportive network, whether it be internal to the ministry or external, among other campus ministers.  The idea is to stay connected to others who can support, challenge, listen, empathize and sometimes just have fun. 

Have you ever considered joining a small group of campus ministers? Our Newman Connection small group program will connect you with other like minded campus ministers where you can share best practices, navigate tough waters and feel supported. Meeting twice a month, you'll have the opportunity to learn from and support each other throughout the year. It is a great place to encourage one another both spiritually and professionally, as we navigate the spiritual battlefield that is the college campus.

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Join a Small Group Today!

Student Leadership:

For many prospective students not yet engaged in campus ministry, an attractive and compelling reason for their newfound involvement are students themselves. Opportunities for leadership among students are often attractions themselves to further the discipleship process for students.  And of course, it’s always good to have more workers for the vineyard. Leadership happens best when its planned and the process of becoming a student leader and their purpose within ministry is clear. 

One practical way to engage your students and call them higher as leaders is to host "Upper Room" events, directly tailored to building and strengthening leadership skills. Another way to do this is to plan a yearly leadership retreat- preferably off campus! Creating this space for them to learn and grow will help students to feel invested in and call them to take greater responsibility to put the tools into practice on campus. 

Pro tips from other campuses: 

  • UPenn has a self-perpetuating student leadership group that’s tasked with planning student activities, including retreats.  They elect their own leadership and ensure continuity by succession plans for leadership change. 
  • ASU Newman has leadership positions centered around the liturgy:  Mass Coordinator, Altar Server Coordinator, Student Ministries and Events, Service. 
  • NAU Newman invites students to take a leadership role when planning their annual retreats. They build in a training component for a new cohort of student leaders who shadow the current leadership team for training.
  • NAU Newman also invites student leaders to take the helm of their pro-life activities on campus 


Stay tuned for our next blog with the top practical tips and examples from these campuses! 

Strategic Campus Ministry Plan, including an evaluation process for continual improvement: 

Among the many gurus out there who teach and write about effectiveness there is a general agreement that planning, and organization are important factors when executing your mission.  A campus ministry plan built around a framework or logical model has proven to achieve the best results. 

Newman Ministry's Connect, Unite and Grow model was created to help you organize your ministry and make the most of the resources you have. Additionally, it helps you apportion your resources in the right places – where you can get the best bang for your buck!

If you have specific needs in one or more of these areas, contact a Newman Coach today to learn more about how to take your ministry to another level. We offer free coaching services that can be built around your individual needs. This includes a variety of coaching topics centered around both personal and professional growth, as well as tailored plans to fit your specific campus and ministry vision! 

Set up your Free Coaching Session!


Service opportunities for student involvement:

One of the most effective ways to reach out to students is to get them involved in doing something meaningful for others.  Not only is the service important for those who benefit from it, but it’s also a great way to get students connected to your ministry and to meet others.  

There are tons of organizations out there that provide third-party assistance in planning and executing volunteer opportunities, mission trips, and more. Some examples are Habitat for Humanity, Christ in the City, and FOCUS Missions!

Formation process to develop discipleship: 

Discipleship doesn’t happen overnight.  Remember that Jesus spent three years forming his disciples, and they still fled.  You’ll find that in every bunch there will always be a few students who want to go further and deeper.  An intentional formation program to meet that desire and capitalize on that opportunity reaps great rewards.  These are often that students that become student leaders and more importantly become disciples of our faith.  This process is often referred to as formation of disciples. 

Tips for Formation of Disciples: 

  • Don’t focus only on big numbers – remember, one well-formed student can make a great impact now and in the future 
  • Look for naturally occurring groups – for example, women and men’s groups, mixed service-oriented groups, students who love to pray, etc. 
  • Vocation discernment group – these work best when they are separated by gender 
  • Small groups for going deeper – students who want to learn more about the Catholic faith. The Search Series by FORMED is a great resource for this!  
  • Look for reliable and well-formed older adults/clergy to provide the formation experience 
  • If using volunteer formators, ensure that they are well-vetted and trusted individuals, and that you follow Diocesan policies for Safe Environment 
A Liturgy that is vibrant, abundant and accessible to students: 

The Holy Mass doesn’t need much, if anything to make it special.  It’s already special, just as it is because of the sacrifice and reality of our encounter with heaven. However, it is important to try and make our student masses an encounter of hospitality; Are the mass times accessible to students?  If we have music, are the musicians talented and do they understand how to select music that corresponds to good liturgy? Is the preaching compelling and directed to students in the pews? These are all good questions to start with.

Many students make it to mass without ever making it to a campus ministry event, so making the most of this once-a-week encounter to interact with those students is necessary! Consider passing out flyers with times and dates of upcoming campus ministry activities or standing (preferably with other students!) in the narthex after mass to greet people individually. 


Further Resources: 

Implementing Discipleship on Campus

Seven Must Haves for your Campus Ministry Toolkit

The Three I's of Evangelization

Don't forget to utilize our Newman coaching and small groups to support you as a ministry leader!



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