College … Oh the Possibilities

College ministry is, in effect, a missionary effort in the urban church’s backyard.  The ministry will bring in, at most, inconsequential tithing from the students themselves and has the potential to cost significant sums of money to run the ministry well. 

The goal of any and every mission should be to further the kingdom of God within the community to which the missionaries are sent.  One would not go to Malawi and just start a church in a village hoping that the Christians in that village would show up.  It would make more sense to go into the community and establish relationships with its members, perceiving the needs of that community as you go and brainstorming ways to help provide for those needs. 

What if after having begun some relationships a church went onto a college campus with the intention of serving the students instead of simply attracting them?  What if the kickoff for the ministry itself wasn’t a program with a sermon and worship music and cookies, but it was a service project that would benefit the entire student body and students were invited to participate in it along with the other members of the church that showed up to serve? 

Within this strategy the church would be inviting students to become a part of a missional community that serves some purpose other than its own.  It is constantly an outreaching ministry by nature, but not for the purposes of grabbing and pulling new members in; rather, the reach is to touch the world surrounding the ministry in a way that carries the transforming power of Christ.  The ministry may grow as a result and that would be great, but it would not be the focus of the ministry.   

This kind of a ministry would also teach the students what to look for in a church when they are away from the shelter of campus ministries … to not be so tied to a ministry where they can  “come and be fed” but to look for a church that will send them out to feed the sick poor and marginalized. If we really think that there is a problem with consumerism in the American church then we should do something about it … like not create more ministries that encourage Jesus-consumption, as most college ministries do. 

And none of this is to say that we should get rid of sermons and corporate worship, and environments designed for the building up of the body itself, but rather to put them in their proper place and to understand them for their proper purpose … to not mistake them for the point of the church, but as the means by which the church is equipped to carry the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ into a world desperately in need of the salvation which only those things can provide.

We could equip our college students to be the church in their post-college, family lives by simply helping them to see the church in action and giving them the opportunity to take part in it.  And with a healthy vision of and for the church out of college and into families the hope would be that our graduates would then raise children who know what it looks like to be the church so that they can choose from an early age, “to be or not to be” rather than “to go or not to go.”  Let’s be honest … the choice to be is much more attractive than the choice to go … we just haven’t been providing the right options.

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~ by Will Norman on December 7, 2007.

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