I was in college ministry for close to 3 decades–4 years as a student leader and 24 years as a full-time campus minister, primarily at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Funny, I had never dreamt of staying in CU after graduation, it’s what I did for the entirety of my time as a pastor. Though I don’t do it full-time anymore, I’m still closely connected with the university community and occasionally do consulting, speaking, preaching, etc. with different young adult/millennial ministries and churches hoping to engage nearby colleges.
U.S. college campuses are still one of the greatest mission fields in the world. In many ways, this is ground zero when it comes to intellect, business, and technology. We can’t turn our backs on the 17,485,475 students on our campuses.
They are the future leaders…the near future at that
Like it or not, these lazy, irresponsible, overbearing life forms will soon be taking up positions in boardrooms, courtrooms, operating rooms, and classrooms. It is our mandate to embrace students, invite them into our homes, nurture them, and prepare each one of them for the marketplace. For many of them, this is their last chance to be discipled before they decide to give up on God and church altogether. We so long for character and integrity in upper levels of society. Where else are they going to learn it other than in a caring local church?
They are a significant potential work force
They’re young, energetic, passionate, and want to do something significant. Hello? They’re potential nursery workers, ushers, parking attendants, small group leaders, ushers… Here’s another clue: they can lift heavy things J Build relationships with them and love on em, they’ll more than return the favor. Make a big enough impact, after they enter into their “kingdom” they just might be willing to invest in our building projects. Just saying. Use their passion for “social justice” to serve and reach local residents.
It’s a reverse Great Commission
“Reach the campus, reach the world.” We hear that all the time. But do we see the true potential? Missiologists will argue with me on this point, but God is bringing the nations to us. Here’s some statistics just from the University of Illinois:
- 7800 int’l students from 114 countries
- We are #1 in international students among public schools,
- #2 overall,
- #1 in Chinese students
- Fidel Ramos, former President of the Philippines received his civil engineering degree here. He returned to become one of the highest ranked military officers, and played a key role in the revolution against President Marcos.
60% of international Students come from closed nations. Cuba’s Fidel Castro grew in his hatred for Americans while in the U.S. and we continue to see the effects of that 60 years later. Right now, there are 47 major world leaders who were educated on American campuses. We’ve had several “awakenings” in Western nations. The majority of them began on college campuses. And they all launched amazing world-changing missions movements.
The pitiful result
It frustrates me, every year, the number of pastors and youth pastors who let their kids loose on campuses without doing everything they can to get them connected to a local church or ministry. 95% of Christian teens who go away to secular colleges, by the end of their undergraduate years, will no longer be following Christ. Most of them will never darken the doorway of any church. That needs to burn in our consciences. Yes, they’re responsible to work out their own relationship with Christ, but we’re still responsible to guide them as much as possible. If we leave our kids as open prey for unbelieving roommates and hostile educators…our investments, time, prayer, and tears will all have been in vain.