“If we can win the campus today, we will win the world tomorrow.”
Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade, observed early on how strategic college campuses are in reaching the world. The university is a unique arena in which students from all over the world gather to discuss ideas, gain career skills and form world-views which will dramatically effect the trajectory of their lives. College students make up only a fraction of the population but could be the most strategic group in the world for church planting. I believe there are 3 reasons church planters should focus on reaching and investing in college campuses.
1. College students are the leaders of tomorrow.
I’ve found that college students want their life to count. Oftentimes, the American dream isn’t as appetizing to them as making a difference in the world. Their professors are encouraging them to make a mark, to do something. What if that drive and passion were harnessed to impact our world with the Gospel? College students are the future business leaders, doctors, and educators of our country. What if students caught a vision for reaching the lost, that they carried with them into the workforce? They’d work with greater purpose than just a job title, they would be employed in God’s mission for reaching the nations.
2. College students are highly mobile.
When I graduated college I could fit everything I owned into my 1998 GMC Jimmy. 22 year olds own very few things but even better few things own them. As we grow older, life grows more and more complex as good things like marriage, children, careers, and mortgages become our responsibility. Most college graduates don’t have those kind of responsibilities and are free to move anywhere and do anything. We encourage our college students to do what they do well for the glory of God and to do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.
3. College students are on the cutting edge of culture
Tim Keller calls the college campus “the cutting edge of culture.” Students on campus deal with many of the topics and idols that are shaping the culture in which we live. Students aren’t just dealing with these topics in theory but are experiencing them as a reality. Instead of just talking about homosexuality, many of their friends and classmates practice homosexuality. Keller says that the college campus is our best leadership development pipeline because it exposes Christians to our culture’s mindset. Students need the local church to train and equip them to engage these issues from the perspective of the Gospel.
Vision of the Now
At The Summit Church God has given us the privilege of mobilizing a large number of college students for church planting. Each May when students graduate they pack up to move, but instead of heading home many head off to join one of our church plants. Students like Brandon who decided to leverage his engineering degree in Wilmington with The Bridge Church. Or Nursing graduate Erin who knew she could get a job anywhere so she joined Restoration City Church in Washington, DC. Or Brad who’s interning with a plant because he wants to plant a church one day himself. These are just a few stories of how God is using students to help advance the gospel through church planting around the nation.
Vision of the Future
I’m not a church-planting expert, but if someone told me there was a place where I could disciple future leaders who are willing to move anywhere to advance the gospel I would be compelled to invest time in developing that resource. The truth is, this describes college campuses all over our nation. Can you imagine if our universities were not just places where students were trained to be doctors, lawyers and business owners, but were also being trained as church planters? Imagine if when students graduate their first thought is not how can they make the most money but how they could be most effective in advancing God’s mission. This could change our world and is why I’ve chosen to invest my life in college students.
Wes Smith (@wesmith3) serves as the Director of Discipleship for The Summit Church’s college ministry in Raleigh-Durham, NC.