By Stacy Murphree
Collegiate Ministry Specialist, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville
Currently there are more than 20 million college students in the United States. More than 345,000 of those attend college and universities here in our own state, creating a tremendous opportunity for Tennessee Baptists to reach this collegiate generation. In his book, Reaching the Campus Tribes, Benson Hines shares the necessity of viewing our college campuses and universities as missions fields in our own community. In reference to collegiate ministry, he elaborates on the great William Carey quote to say, “We should expect great things from the God who loves these college students even more than we do. And we should attempt great things for the God who has placed these missions fields before us.” Here are five reminders of the importance of attempting great things for God as we reach college students today.
(1) The Great Commission. Our college and university campuses are one of, if not the most, strategic missions fields we currently have the opportunity to engage. Many statistics show that approximately 85-90 percent of collegians do not have a relationship with Christ. This past year hundreds of spiritual surveys conducted on the campus of Austin Peay State University revealed a common answer from the question “What is your view of God?” Many students willingly admitted they believed in some form of a “god” of the universe, but felt that it in no way affected their daily or long-term plan for their life in any way. As the local church, we have the tremendous opportunity to not only share that there is a God, but He is a God who loves them and has a redemptive plan for their life. If we are focused and committed to the Great Commission, we cannot ignore the strategic privilege of reaching college students.
(2) The opportunity to train willing disciple-makers. It is often said that the most qualified person to lead a college student to Christ is another college student who is passionately and authentically living out their faith. This is not an excuse for others to sit on the sidelines in leading students to Christ, but rather points to the importance of investing in and developing students to reach their peers. Students are willing to make disciples among their peers. In fact, students are also willing to share Christ with their professors and others on campus. As we model disciple-making for them, we must be willing to equip, encourage, and give them the tools they need to do the same on their university campus.
(3) The future of the church. Yes, most definitely collegians are the future of the church! However, collegians and young adults are not just the future of the church. They are currently the church. They are part of the church who are eager, willing, and ready to lead and serve in various kinds of ways. We often think of college students as ministry interns in our churches for children and youth, and these are all great opportunities, especially for students who feel a call to serve in ministry after college, but college students can also do so much more. Think strategically how to use these students, even allowing them to serve on teams and committees to understand more about the function and ministry of the church. They have much to contribute! Collegiate ministry is so vital to the local church, both right now and for the sake of the future.
(4) Connection. Today’s college students are the most connected people that you will ever know. Sure, social media is responsible for some of this connection, but the fact is they are currently doing life in a university community with students from all walks of life and from all over the world. They have lunch with, sit in class with, study in groups with, and “do life” with others on a daily basis. They love living life in community and chances are, if they are attending your church, they will be bringing others with them, too! Their connectedness only increases your ministry opportunities to others.
(5) College students need you! College students need the local church and individuals who make up that local church body. They need guidance, encouragement, prayer support, and spiritual mentoring from others who are a few steps and even many steps ahead of them in life. They may not always ask for it, but an invitation from an older adult to invest in the life of a college student will not be turned away. It will be valued because students need you, and we need them! For more information on how to contact a TBMB collegiate ministry specialist near you, or to get connected with what Tennessee Baptists are a part of in reaching our college campuses and universities, please visit www.tnbcm.org.