Return to filtered list

Why college students?

January 11, 2016

Why is it that, by and large, churches do not see the reaching, discipling, and mobilizing of college students to be one of the key ingredients to their overall mission?

I just don’t understand it. It absolutely baffles me. No matter what “logical explanation” I hear from pastors, it will forever remain illogical to me.

I consistently hear three rationales for why the church is not taking on this responsibility:

  1. There are no colleges in my area. You’re excused.
  2. College students don’t tithe. Okay, no one actually admits this out loud.
  3. College students are too transient. Other than filling seats for a couple years while they’re in our town, you can’t count on them to be a part of anything long term. Thus, it would be smarter for churches to build into the family unit and let other ministries reach the campus. This is a vision issue. Because if you feel ownership to see your church’s “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth” reached, you are most likely going to plot out a strategy of how to utilize a passionate, available, activist generation to give their lives to something way beyond a couple of years of sermon-listening.

Let’s face it, if your children’s ministry, youth pastor, or Sunday morning cleaning team are off their game, you are going to hear about it from your congregation. Loudly! But if you fail to reach college students in your city, they won’t scream about it. The students will just stop coming to church — and throw themselves into other far less eternal endeavors at their campus. And they’ll probably pick up a few scars along the way. But a local church that carries a vision for worldwide change can save a generation from collegiate-year-scars, and give them a vision that will rock the rest of their lives.

I’m fortunate to be a part of a church that is led by a former college pastor. From day one, he had a vision to see Antioch Community Church be a part of local AND international transformation — not one or the other. And he knew it would take an energetic, flexible force of people to get it done. He started a worship service for college students and then challenged them to pour into the local church by serving on Sundays.

The mantra was simple: “If the students leave, the church should feel it!” So the raw energy of college students was thrown into our children’s ministry, youth ministry, and the tutoring of inner-city kids. Then, he started missional small groups that would be based on college students discipling students. There, the values of prayer, evangelism, discipleship, and community were embedded with overseas mission trips serving as the icing on the cake each summer. Students came back ready to give their lives away to see their campus reached, their church served, and the world won over by the love of Jesus. And a movement was born.

How do I know? Because I was just a kid from a broken family coming to check out a youth group. And I had my life changed as sold-out college students and college grads poured into me. Then, as a college student, I was pulled into this phenomenal community. And I was offered great leadership opportunities to serve in, pouring back into the church and into our world-wide movement of churches filled with those who have come up through the college ranks. I’ve been our college pastor now for many years and I never grow weary of tapping college students on the shoulder and inviting them into the same eternal adventure I was brought into. Great organizations like Cru and Young Life have long been aware of this dynamic. And slowly, the Church is catching on. Why?

We’ve found that while college students’ schedules are getting busier, they still don’t have the demands of a spouse, four kids, and a job just yet. Therefore, we can fast-track the values of the kingdom in two-to-three years through a clear discipleship plan that could take much longer with a family unit. These students graduate and become ideal to hire onto our staff, invite onto church planting teams, or to stay in our city, get a job, have a family, and carry the DNA of evangelism, discipleship, and mission mobilization into the young adult and family arena.

Thus, a college freshman could walk into the doors of a church like ours just to check it out and leave with a lifelong purpose instilled in them by the Holy Spirit which transforms their life, their campus, their city, their local church – and even the world. So, no, your tithing base won’t go up, but your world-changing base just might. And that’s reason enough for us as the Church to get after it!