Connecting college students to local churches is always a hot topic when pastors and campus ministers get together. There are a variety of reasons for that, some more noble than others, but at the end of the day, no one is really questioning if local church participation is a critical component of collegiate ministry or if college students are worth the effort to reach. We are partners in this mission field, striving to make disciples who make disciples, each in his or her own way.
The only real question is: how can we overlap in such a way that students receive the blessing of discipleship that leads them ultimately and intimately to a vibrant relationship with the local church? How can we work together to that end? All too often, the answer to that question is simplistically reduced to pennies and prayer requests.
Campus ministries need financial support and prayer cover. Let’s just be clear on that—I’m not saying they don’t. Students don’t tithe to the campus ministry, and even if they did it wouldn’t cover the phone bill, let alone a robust ministry plan with a minister on staff. The need for pennies is real, and so is the need for prayer.
That said, the value of boots-on-the-ground volunteers shouldn’t be underestimated but is often undersold and underappreciated. Without further adieu, here are 10 ways churches can directly aid in reaching the campus.
The first two weeks on campus are make-or-break-it time for campus ministries. They need help setting up, tearing down, manning the grill, saying hello, and a hundred other things that would be perfect opportunities for church members to meet students and get involved.
Note: Welcome Week is just a week away on most campuses, but it’s not too late to reach out to your local on-campus ministry and ask if they need help and what needs you can meet the first couple weeks of classes. They probably won’t say no!
International Friendship Families
Many schools have a program to connect international students to American host families who will befriend them through simple means: take them out for a meal. Bring them a care package. Let them come over for a holiday. Invite them to church… (You see where this is going, right?) It isn’t hard.
Mission Trip Volunteers
I have yet to come across a campus ministry that wouldn’t benefit from having adult volunteers from local churches help on mission trips. Similarly, churches might benefit from having students travel and serve with them on missions. Sounds like there’s a conversation waiting to happen.
Food. ‘Nuff Said
Feed them, they will come. Start a Sunday lunch for students. Maybe it’s at the church, maybe at someone’s home. The critical point is that it has church members cooking, hosting and hanging out, building relationships with students. Food is the catalyst, but it isn’t the end goal."Feed them, they will come." -Jon Smith #collegiatedisciplemaker 10 Ways Your Church Can Help Reach a Campus Click To Tweet
Feed them, they will come (part 2). Not every campus ministry serves a lunch on or near campus, but those that do nearly always depend on local church support to pull it off. There’s little or no reason why those members need to stay in the kitchen while everyone is eating and hanging out. Make plans to get involved.
Coordinate together on a plan to ‘adopt’ out of town students. Think “International Friendship Families” for American kids.
Fun fact: campus ministries are always looking for new venues for activities and programs of all kinds. That might be a local church building, or a member’s farm ten miles out of town.
Most campus ministries aren’t overloaded with students headed into ministry, but for those who are, consider offering connection points for them, limited engagement opportunities to serve. Let them preach if they feel the call. Let them play on stage if they’re musical. They might not be available every week, but making room for them to explore their call can benefit them and your church.
Having students lead other students is a tried-and-true formula in campus ministry. Churches, however, rarely use it, preferring adult leadership instead. Consider having adult leaders meet with students on campus. Oppositely, what if churches hosted student-led groups? Hmm…
They won’t say it, but as desperate as many churches are to hire students as part-time youth and worship leaders, many campus ministers are loath to make that connection. Why? Because they watch those students get chewed up and spit out time and again in unhealthy churches whose only consideration is the results, not the well-being of the underfunded, undereducated, and inexperienced future leader doing the ministry on a part-time basis. A proper internship, however, can require training, education, and support for the position along with outside reporting and accountability. It also has an end date so that both sides can walk away relatively unscathed if anything goes wrong, or negotiate a further relationship if things work out right. Who can say no to that?!
Reach the Campus, Reach the World
It is a commonly accepted fact that today’s college students are tomorrow’s world leaders. Reach the campus and we reach the world. Churches and campus ministries need each other if we’re going to make that happen. It’s past time to reach out and make time to meet, work and pray together for this critical task. Perhaps one of the suggestions on this list is helpful in that regard, perhaps not. What would be helpful is if you sat down with the people in your context and made a list of your own, one that works for you, but most especially one that works for the students you need to reach.