Cross Church is one church in 5 locations in the NW Arkansas/SW Missouri area. A multi-generational, multi-ethnic church, Cross Church offers a variety of ministries. Cross Church College, also known as C3, is one of those ministries that is based out of Cross Church’s Fayetteville campus. C3 is commissioned with the responsibility to reach the collegiate students in Northwest Arkansas and Southwest Missouri. This includes several different colleges within reach of ministry and influence. The University of Arkansas is a campus with 27,000+ college students out of which only a small percentage attends church. So, the mission field is very great!
The mission statement of Cross Church is Reaching Northwest Arkansas, America, and the World for Jesus Christ. Cross Church believes this is the Great Commission that Jesus talked about in Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:18–20. Cross Church is a missional church that strives to baptize and make disciples of all the nations. They do all these things and more because they believe People Need Jesus, People Need Each Other, People Change the World, and People Leave Legacies—the Core Four values of Cross Church.
We asked Cross Church’s College Pastor, Brian Mills, to share about the church, its college ministry, and the challenges and opportunities he sees in working with college students in Fayetteville. Here’s what Brian had to say.
BCMLife: Tell us about your college ministry and its mission.
Brian Mills: C3 (Cross Church College) focuses on our mission statement and our Core Four values as a church. We want to reach Northwest Arkansas, America, and the World for Jesus Christ with our focus being to accomplish this in and through college students by staying true to the Core Four values of Cross Church.
Currently, in C3, we do a weekly Wednesday night service that reaches over 1,000 college students. We start off the academic year at the beginning of school with a worship service at an outdoor Greek theatre at the center of the UofA campus. Around 2,000 students attend the C3 kickoff where they hear the gospel proclaimed boldly and can experience the Lord in a powerful night of worship right in the heart of campus. Each year, we are seeing hundreds of students come to know Christ, follow through in believer’s baptism and get connected so they can be discipled in their faith. God gave us a vision that each disciple within our ministry should be challenged to make an impact in one life, in one semester. We call it reaching your “One in One.” The college students of C3 have bought into this vision, and are reaching their community for Christ as a result. Many weeks, it is standing room only in our worship gathering, with students standing outside just so they can be a part of what the Lord is doing weekly at C3.
Community is a big deal to us because we believe that people need each other. As a result, we have seen our small groups grow significantly each year. These small groups are a place where college students gather together to unpack the Word of God weekly and build community with other believers in a host home setting. We are seeing these small groups be developed in fraternity and sorority houses, on sports teams, and in many other areas you would least expect. We say our small groups are the backbone of this ministry, and that couldn’t be truer of C3. When a college student enters the world of “adulting,” we desire for them to know God’s Word and know how to grow in their faith while being a Kingdom influencer in their place of employment. We don’t want them to just know The Word; we want them to live it out and to daily make an impact in the lives of those within their spheres of influence.
Serving the church has become a big deal to the college students in C3. Every Sunday, they attend one of our services, and many of them—300+—serve within the ministries of our church in some capacity; either in our children’s ministry, preschool ministry, with our students, on the worship or tech team, as a greeter, or even making coffee. We say all the time that C3 runs C3. It is not a ministry that is staff led; it is the people of God being The Church weekly that makes it so impactful.
Every year, we send college students on mission. Typically during fall break, we serve in a disaster relief area of some capacity. College students have been giving up their fall breaks and spring breaks to serve on mission, to sleep on floors, and to go out and be the hands of feet of Christ to others.
God is doing something special in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and he is using C3 to be a part of that. It is not often you get to be a part of a movement, but I truly believe in Fayetteville, Arkansas, we are seeing a modern-day movement of God taking place. The people of God have a passion to reach this community and their college campus, and it is truly amazing to witness all that God is doing here in NW Arkansas.
BCMLife: What do you sense are the challenges facing today’s college students?
BM: There are many challenges that we see on a weekly basis as the C3 staff, small group leaders, and other volunteers who meet with and disciple college students. We meet weekly with over one hundred college students one-on-one and learn so much about their lives, their hearts, and the challenges they face as college students. I believe many of the challenges they are dealing with are developed before they arrive at college. Many of them are not prepared for the challenges of life due to challenges they have faced in their own homes. The home life and family dynamics of our culture today have been under attack, and the students in the home are paying the price and are greatly affected by these challenges and carry that with them into college. We are seeing the real challenge that the choices you make today will impact who you are tomorrow. Life is full of choices, and, in college, you have the freedom to make those choices as you desire. If you do not surround yourself with the right people, you will make the wrong choices. As a result, they are loading up on baggage from their choices and will carry with them for a lifetime.
To name a few challenges we tend to hear the most from college students: Porn has become the norm with both male and female students and is destroying the hearts and lives of college students. We see it as the causing drive behind so many decisions that are made on a weekly basis. Alcohol seems to be the key to the “college experience.” There is not wisdom in the consumption of alcohol, and as a result, most decisions are being made while under the influence; many of which will have detrimental consequences in their lives, marriages, and family dynamics in the years to come. Identity is another challenge. Instead of coming to college knowing who they are, many college students are coming to college trying to figure out who they are. They are in search of social acceptance and validation, and it is killing their hearts. Spiritual Disciplines is also a challenge. Most students who we have a chance to sit down with will often ask us, “How do I grow in my faith?” “How do I read the Bible?” “What do I need to do to grow spiritually?” All these questions show that we have not done the best job in the church, especially when teaching teenagers the importance of the spiritual disciplines for their faith.
BCMLife: As a college ministry leader, what is the most rewarding part of your role?
BM: The students themselves. We call ourselves a family at C3, and that is exactly what we are. There is nothing more rewarding than working with college students. They inspire, energize, and encourage us as we lead them. They want to be leaders and want to serve yet crave vision, leadership, and direction. With all the talk in our society today of many worried about this next generation, I would say that I couldn’t be more encouraged by this group, at least the ones that I have personally gotten to know within C3. I truly believe that, within C3, we have some of the brightest young minds who will change the world as Kingdom influencers some day. I could write page after page bragging about these students and the impact they are making in the way they lead C3 and serve the Lord, both on campus and in the workforce. When college students catch a vision, watch out because they will set the world on fire with it. God is using them here to lead a movement that can only be described as a movement of God Himself!
BCMLife: What have been some great opportunities for outreach with your college ministry?
BM: We have unlimited opportunities:
“One in One”. As I mentioned earlier, they have caught the vision to make an impact on one life in one semester. Many of them have “their one” on their prayer list. It might be a family member, a teammate, fraternity brother, sorority sister, professor, coach, or a friend or co-worker.
C3 – Campus Outreach. Each week, we pick a spot on campus to give out free stuff from C3. We don’t just want students to come to us, but we want to go out to them. This is all led by our students. They run each site each week.
C3 – Small Group Leaders. We do not give our small group leaders students for their group. They go out and fill their group. If you want to be a leader, you must go and get those who need to be in your group. Many students from the ministry will sign up to be in their group, but then they will also go out and invite those within their spheres of influence. As a result, we see students in small groups come to know Christ each year.
C3 – International. We have just launched C3 International, and we’re praying God allows us to make an impact in the lives of our internationals students. We are hosting international parties called “Home for the Holidays,” in which we ask our church members to host international students in their homes who are here studying during the holidays. This is becoming a great and impactful outreach for us in reaching the nations.
C3 – Wednesday Night. Each week, we open up God’s Word and have an incredible time of worship. At the end of this night, we always give student’s a chance to respond to the Gospel and to surrender their lives to Christ. We are seeing students respond to salvation and be baptized during C3 Wednesday nights each and every week.
Daily life. We believe the best opportunity for outreach is right where God has you. We challenge our students to be Kingdom influencers right where they are and to share their faith with those around them. There is no better place to share than within the circle God has placed you.