A New Kind of Mobilization
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2012 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Once, a group of mobilizers had a crazy idea.
What if 10% of Christian college seniors gave two years overseas to the least-reached people group when they graduated?
Could God use students in the 21st Century to complete the Great Commission?
These ideas didn’t seem possible until we learned about the secular organization Teach for America that, in 2009, mobilized 11% of all Ivy League seniors to apply for a two-year teaching placement in some of the country’s toughest schools.
That statistic confounded us.
While Teach for America was receiving record applications, only about 0.1% of college seniors were applying for global Christian service after they graduated.
Teach for America showed that there was a huge group of people who wanted to make a difference.
Why weren’t mission’s agencies seeing the same turnout?
As we investigated further, we became convinced that the number one reason why there weren’t more recent grads getting involved in global missions wasn’t student apathy or worldly ambition.
Instead, it was the mobilization and sending process that was the primary barrier.
Teach for America created a clear pathway for the non-education-major to give two years to one of America’s inner city or rural poor classrooms, but the same clear pathway didn’t exist in missions.
If students were interested in using their business degrees overseas for a few years after graduation, there wasn’t an easy way to find a place to serve.
GoCorps: A pathway for a new kind of goer
In 2009, we started GoCorps, a partnership of several leading missions agencies who linked arms to provide a clear pathway for recent college graduates, namely non-missions majors, to serve for two years in Christian global service.
We identified organizations that have quality, long-term teams that are doing strategic work among the least reached.
Then we developed a single application that is accepted by all our partnering organizations.
We raised money to provide a loan-forgiveness scholarship upon a goer’s completion of service.
Finally, we limited the timeline from application to overseas to six months.
This streamlined process was designed to address some of the major barriers that students face when considering global missions upon graduation.
So, fast-forward three years. What have we learned about mobilizing the 10% that directly pertains to campus ministry leaders like you?
Lesson 1: Mobilization is too important to be left to mobilizers
Gone are the days where it is enough for a professional mobilizer or missions agency recruiter to do all of the work of raising up “goers”’ for foreign missions. The local collegiate leader is more important than ever.
This generation is highly relational. It is amazing the influence that trusted leaders have over them.
While there is a place for the professional mobilizer to come to missions week and invite students to be a part of an incredible organization that is digging wells in the Congo, the reality is that students may get excited and even consider signing up that day. Then often after a week passes by, their excitement and resolve fades away in the busyness of life.
If the campus leader catches a vision for the world and invites his students to be a part of what God is doing in it, students will be more likely to consider this as a viable option and will fully engage in the process of considering global missions as a next step.
So what are some practical ways that the campus leader can mobilize their students?
- Talk and pray about God’s work in God’s world on a regular basis.
- Find out if there is a Perspectives Class in your area and then challenge students to take it. If there isn’t one in your area, consider hosting it on your campus. This course will ruin you for “life as usual”!
- Identify individuals on your staff who can be available to students who are interested in missions after they graduate. Be a good listener, ask thought-provoking questions, identify the barriers, lead them to scripture, and pray with them.
- Connect like-minded students with each other so that they can go to the nations together. Encourage them to meet together for prayer, encouragement and accountability, because the journey towards going overseas after they graduate can often be lonely.
Lesson 2: Mobilizing must be developmental
Students come from diverse familial backgrounds, have varied levels of spiritual and emotional maturity, and deal with different places of brokenness.
Often the mobilization process brings out these sensitive issues and forces students to grapple with big questions related to family, calling, sin issues, and theology.
If we take a developmental approach, more students will be mobilized. What does that mean?
- Don’t assume that they can sort through all of these questions alone. They want and need people, like their local campus leader, to ask them good questions, encourage them and speak into their lives. Include God’s global mission in your discipleship plans.
- They want and need encouragement and accountability. Have several touch points in which you follow up with them on prior discussions. If they have indicated that they want to apply for placement in global missions but they haven’t done so, ask them why. If they have confessed an area of sin in their lives, ask them periodically about how they are doing. Be sure to help them find information if they need it. (Launch Global, Campus Ministry Today, The Traveling Team and GoCorps are great ministries that can help.)
Applicants struggling with pornography, inappropriate sexual relationships, deep wounds from their family, and other obstacles are applying with GoCorps in increasing measure.
The professional mobilizer needs to partner with campus leaders to serve a student most effectively in the midst of these struggles.
Mission agencies are now trying harder than ever to handle these issues well, but we really need the help of local campus leaders in what to say and do in these situations.
Instead of students walking away from the application and interview process feeling like they are not worthy of being used for the Kingdom, we want them to see their potential while God’s grace brings healing and wholeness to their lives. But they will need local leaders to help them to grow in grace.
Lesson 3: Mobilize with a view of the student and the Kingdom
In missions, there is a perceived dichotomy between the sacred and secular.
Bible, missions, and intercultural studies students seem to be the ones expected to do the work of foreign missions. However, the whole body is needed and commanded to reach the whole world (Ps. 46:10, Mt. 28:19-20, Mark 16:13, Lk. 22:42-47, Jn. 20:21, Acts 1:8, Rev. 5:9, 7:9, to name a few).
We need doctors and nurses to treat the sick, lawyers to advocate for just laws, and IT experts to support the satellite that is beaming stories of Jesus into a land that has no other access.
Can we reach the goal of seeing 10% of all graduates mobilized to the nations if we educated all of our students and provided pathways that fit their passion and skills?
How can campus leaders do that?
- Tell stories of goers and senders who are using their degree to advance the Kingdom among all nations (or invite them in to share with the students).
- Host a senior only event(s) to talk about how students can effectively steward their time, talents, and treasure after graduation. It could be a special gathering, from 1-8 weeks with guest speakers, that explores being on mission with God, presents options, and challenges students to give their lives wholly to God’s great mission.
- Be willing to actively recruit students to other opportunities inside or outside your ministry or organization. There are many students who may not see themselves fitting into the paradigm of campus ministry, but they have a passion for working with women who have been trafficked in the sex industry. Let’s look for opportunities to mobilize students to strategic roles in the Kingdom that will capitalize on their gifts, passions and skill sets even if it means losing a gifted individual within our own organization. This is a greater good not only for them, but also for the Kingdom.
Can we see 10% of recent Christian graduates mobilized to some of the hardest-to-reach places in the world? I believe it’s possible.
By coordinating our mobilization efforts, seeking to be more developmental in the process, and seeking to mobilize all students to their most strategic role in advancing the Kingdom, this generation can complete the Great Commission in their lifetime.
What would change about your ministry if you asked God to send 10% of your seniors overseas for two years? For the other 90% to live out their most strategic role as non-goers? What would it take to make that your missions goal?
Do you agree that the “pathway” is the problem? Are there other big ones? How can you tackle these problems? What will you do this semester?
Julia Van Der Werf is a Collegiate Mobilization Coach for GoCorps.