This morning I had a great conversation with my friend Colby May. We met to discuss something awesome that God is doing on campuses across Texas and other states. Many campuses now have Christian retreats for incoming freshman just weeks before students start their freshman year.
Twelve years ago God spoke to a student at Texas A&M University, telling her to start Impact. Since that time God has spoken to students on many campuses and the movement has multiplied. These retreats are 100% student led and now they are forming partnership with one another to encourage even more campuses to do the same. I have observed how God has used Ignite, the retreat for incoming freshman at the University of Texas, to impact the freshman class at UT in several meaningful ways.
God uses these retreat to build community. Every year I meet new students praying at our Campus House of Prayer and ask them, “How did you guys meet?” They say, “Ignite.” The retreat provides Christians a chance to meet other believers before classes even start, and the bonds built over the several days at camp last long into their college career. Many campers become counselors for next year’s camp, so they are involved in planning the retreat for the following class of freshman. The time spent in prayer and planning for the retreat deepens their relationships that much more.
The retreat gives students the opportunity to connect with campus ministries. Every retreat has several hours set aside for a ministry fair. Staff and students from the campus ministries come to the camp for several hours so students can peruse the many tables and meet staff and students from dozens of campus ministries. The ministry fair allows them to get acquainted with the different ministries so that they can more thoughtfully consider where God will lead them to connect once they get to campus.
Many incoming freshman are inaccurately told that the campuses they are about to attend are spiritually dead. As a result, they come to campus with a retreat mentality. These camps expose this lie and show students that the Body of Christ on their campus is alive and well. As a result, students come to campus with an advancement mentality, believing God is going to use them and their new friends to impact the campus for God’s glory.
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the misssonal community movement at the University of Texas.