Campus Ministry within Mainland China

Most of us have heard stories about rapid church growth in mainland China. But what about campus ministry? With all the stories about Chinese church growth, it is harder to find stories about the dynamic campus ministry that has developed within mainland Chinese churches.

In this edition of ChinaSource Quarterly, we hear from several writers who have been intimately involved in the campus ministry there. Two of the writers (including myself) are foreigners who have lived in mainland China for many years, partnering with local believers in the campus ministry there. The other three writers are all mainlanders who are key leaders within campus ministry networks there. For security reasons, all the writers have used pseudonyms. I am grateful that these writers have shared their perspectives about the campus ministry that has been happening in mainland China for more than one hundred years.

In his lead article, Zhu Zi Jian gives us a fascinating history of campus ministry in mainland China. Zhu passionately describes how the Chinese church has navigated decades of challenges throughout the development of campus ministry.

Chen Xin’s article describes how campus ministry has helped shape today’s church in mainland China. He also reflects on the current state of campus ministry and the challenges facing it today.

With the articles by Zhu and Chen presenting the broad sweep of campus ministry in mainland China, the three remaining articles bring focus to particular issues. My article looks at the role of foreigners through the decades. From the beginning, foreigners have been involved with campus ministry, often taking leadership in pioneering situations. As the indigenous campus ministry faces a challenging future, foreigners still have a have a role to play, but quite different from what it was even just ten years ago.

Nyima Rongwu’s article sheds light on the particular challenges of ministry with minority students. Nyima states a compelling case for ministry with people from minority backgrounds, considering the whole person and patiently navigating cultural differences.

The concluding article by Qian Jia describes how campus ministry has become a growing force for cross-cultural missions. Qian acknowledges the challenges that young people face in living out their calling. She leaves the reader with a sense of hope for the future, as young people in mainland China seek to join in God’s global mission.

My book review brings attention to a decades-old book that still rings true today. In China: Christian Students Face the Revolution, David Adeney gives a firsthand account of the early development of China InterVarsity. Adeney’s insights from 1973, as China was just on the cusp of reopening, give the reader some interesting food for thought in light of the present-day realities that we see in mainland China.

On behalf of all the writers for this edition of ChinaSource Quarterly, I want to thank ChinaSource for this opportunity to shed light on the ongoing campus ministry in mainland China. Wehope that readers will gain a deeper understanding of how the Chinese church has followed the Lord into ministry on university campuses around the country. With the restrictions on campus ministry intensifying, and with the opportunities for foreigners to serve on campus decreasing, may we seek ways to support the mainland Chinese church in its efforts to serve campuses there. 

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Tim Brookings

Tim Brookings (pseudonym) grew up in Massachusetts and went to university to study engineering, but soon felt God’s call into student ministry. He has lived in western China for most of the last 11 years, with a four-year gap from 2011 until May 2015 to study theology.  Beginning in August …View Full Bio