For the past three years, my wife and I have been serving with a college ministry at our local public college. We have loved this ministry and the students and relationships it's helped us to form. We have however seen two things over these three years that are really sad. First, a lack of interest in local churches to support an on-campus, nondenominational ministry. And secondly, the failure of some of those same churches to start up their own college ministries.
Here are 5 ways I believe the church can make a real impact on college campuses around the country.
1: Be On Campus
Unless your church is well known and close to campus, don't expect to start a college ministry up and expect it to go very far during the semester. College students are busier than we all remember, and they have everything they need on campus. Pair that with long walks to cars, or no car at all it means they don't often leave the campus without a real need.
2: Don't Forget About Them
Listen, once your current youth pack up and head off to school it does make it easier to just focus on the high school students you have. But forgetting about the students that just graduated is a massive missed ministry opportunity. Text them, call them or chat on Facebook from time to time. Don't forget that you're just checking a box on an attendance sheet.
3: Focus On Small Groups
It's more important now than ever that ministries focus on connecting believers with believers in small groups. If you are looking to create an on-campus college ministry then it's essential that you craft small groups that students can join. As we know from other small group environments, this is often where a person will grow the most. Don't miss this opportunity because you want to focus on large group settings and events.
4: Don't Preach For An Hour
Think about the group of people you are working with. They sit in classrooms all day listening to lecture after lecture. Now, how different does your sermon sound than all the other lectures those students just heard all day long? (not much) Instead of crafting long sermons, take time throughout to allow for students to have conversations among themselves. This fosters community and makes them actively participate in the lesson.
5: Be Relevant To Students
College is the first time many people start to question some of the things they were taught growing up. Many of these questions will come up in the application of faith to their life. With each year of school is broken down into semesters, it's really helpful to lead off the first semester, when you will have the newest students, as a time to talk about more relevant topics to them. The answers to these topics, like "what does it look like to have a godly dating relationship," or "how to glorify God in your career." Then take the second semester to dig into a specific book. By this time you will have more serious students locked in for the year, so now it's time to dig into some chapters.
I hope these 5 tips help you with your college ministry. I truly believe that without a major emphasis on the church on the college-aged students we will continue to see a more expansive post-church movement.