Engaging the College Campus

Chandler Young
Woman standing under a tent hands out gift bags to college students on campus

God transformed my life when I was a freshman in college. I had been blessed with an  opportunity to play college baseball, and I thought that was going to be the most influential and  important part of my college career. But God did what He is always able to do: God blew me  away! I learned that Jesus loves me, that He wants me to live in Biblical community, and that  the local church is more than just some building that I went to once a week. (More like once a  month if we’re honest.)  

God gave me a beautiful vision of what the local church can be because I finally saw what the  church was designed to do. The local church that I was blessed to be a part of engaged me  with the Gospel, equipped me with tools to share the Gospel, and empowered me to “be the  church.” 

I share my own experience because it has influenced the rest of what you will read here and it has shaped my definitive belief that God is ABLE to use the local church to engage the college campus – and it is so worth it! 

(A little side note: this is an article for those who are ready to stop expecting college students to engage the local church before the local church is willing to engage them.)

So, how do we do this? What is first and what is most important? In my time serving as a College and Young Adult Pastor, here are five practical applications that our church has seen be fruitful as we engaged the local campus: 

1. Pray for them.

This might seem simple and basic but this is an integral part to any ministry. Daily prayer  rhythms around Luke 10 have shaped our ministry in many ways. Every day we have alarms  set for 10:02 AM as reminders to stop and pray Luke 10:2, “He told them, “The harvest is  abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out  workers into his harvest.” This is a Gospel promise that is still true today. I have witnessed it.  The Harvest is Abundant on the college campus and Jesus is calling us to pray for the laborers  to go. But Jesus also answers this very prayer by saying, in verse 3, to “Go!” And that is the  second point: 

2. Go to them.

This ministry strategy is often the hardest but it is the most rewarding. This requires time, effort,  and presence. It might be meeting with students on campus for a meal, or playing ping pong in the student center. Maybe, it looks like showing up with no agenda and praying that God  would use this faithful step of just showing up. Our consistency to show up and be present  with college students for events that they have shows them our love for them. They will  remember that you were present. 

3. See them.

When Jesus sent out the 72 disciples, He commissioned them to Go and find people of peace,  and the same can be true for us. If you approach the campus with eyes to see and hearts to know and understand people then God is going to bring people. We have placed an emphasis on seeing people well in our ministry. This means that we smile at people, we greet everyone we see, and we learn their names. This is simple, but it tells a college student that they are  important, valued, and seen when you call them by name and remember their name.  Seeing is clearly important but the strategy doesn’t stop there, the local church must also: 

4. Feed them.

This is the part that changes everything. By feed them I mean both physically and spiritually.  We encourage, cast vision for, and invite families to provide meals for college students all of  the time. It is important because it shows them “family.” This is part of what the local church is: a family on mission together for Christ. But we don’t just feed physically; we also have realized  that college students are hungry for the Gospel. They are hungry for simple  “Gospeling” tools. They need and want to learn how to read the Bible, how to pray, how to  share the Gospel. So, invite them into this call that Jesus has given the Church: go, and make disciples. And yet again, the local church can’t stop here. There is more… 

5. Send them.

If we stop at feeding them, then we don’t get to see the fruit of what could be. The number one  reason that we have found that more college students keep showing up on Sunday mornings is  because their college friends are inviting them. We want to train college students to be  missionaries for the local church on the college campus. This is what I love so much about Gen  Z. In my experience they care less about what the ministry is doing for them and to them and  more about how they can go with the ministry. They are disciples who can make disciples on  the college campus. In our church we have embraced this beautiful tension of college students  needing the local church and the local church needing college students. We believe that no  one reaches college students like college students, and we don’t think that takes away from  their need for the local church and families within our church either. The beauty is that they are  just as much a part of the local church’s sending strategy as anyone else.  

So, I encourage you to pray for them, go to them, see them, feed them, and send them! Let us  make disciples on the college campus, teach them to do the same and see God transform  lives. The Harvest is abundant.

Chandler Young is the College Pastor at Hope Community Church in Shelby, North Carolina. You can follow him on Instagram @clyoung9 or the ministry @hope.cya. 

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