College Ministry Discouragement
I walked back to my car from across campus, discouraged and lonely. It was a long day trying to meet new students and build relationships with them. As I sat down to drive home I could just hear Satan whispering into my ear, “You can never do this. You’re by yourself. How could you ever start a college ministry on a campus where you don’t know anyone?”
In that moment I knew I wasn’t alone. Of course I knew God was with me; He promises us that over and over again in Scripture. In that quiet drive home, I remembered that I had a group of 120 people partnering with me to reach college students!
A Deeply Caring Church
This was a group of 120 people who had been praying for me and writing me encouraging letters months before I even came to the University of Akron to start ministry work. These were people who, like me, deeply cared for college students, people that I knew I could go to at any point and ask for help! In fact, just weeks earlier many of them took an entire afternoon to walk our campus and pray for the students and faculty. These people were all members of the small church near campus that partners with our ministry.
I don’t think that God meant for us to do ministry alone. The church is God’s main tool on his tool belt to reach a lost world. As a campus minister, I believe the local church is essential for me to do ministry and essential for seeing student’s lives changed.
Importance of Church Partnership
These are a few ways I have seen my church partner with me to do college ministry.
It is so encouraging knowing that you have an army of prayer warriors behind you and your ministry. Every week, I have little old ladies at my church walk up to me and share how they have been praying for students and myself. Something I have continually noticed is that when we invite people to pray for us, we invite them to do ministry with us. For some, walking up to a student they do not know may be intimidating, and they are not called to do that. However, for others, their ministry is to pray for those students and campus workers.
Diversity of Age
Most college students only spend time with other college students. The church provides a place for students to interact with those who are older or younger than them. It gives opportunities for relationships to be built that are not just between the same demographic of age but between different generations. In our church this has been encouraging to see, as the older people get excited to open up their homes for students to come and eat dinner with them.
Students can gain great wisdom from the local church members. I believe that this serves a two-fold purpose. If students are engaged by different generations of people and are in their homes eating dinner with them, relationships will naturally begin to grow. Through this, students have the opportunity to begin learning from older generations of people in the church about their careers and life experiences. Secondly, the church is a place for students to grow spiritually. Most students go to college to learn and gain knowledge of some sort; this is a time in their lives when they are discovering new things. It is naturally one of the best times to share the Gospel with them and help them begin to see who Jesus is. The church, when functioning properly, will help students begin to walk in relationship with Jesus.
Outlets for Service
As students begin to get more involved in the local church, they will have the chance to exercise their spiritual gifts. One of the most exciting things for me is to see a student excited about serving in the church. Giving students an outlet to serve in ways that they are passionate about helps get them excited about serving the body of Christ. We have seen students begin to serve in the sound booth at our church, working on the greeting team and we have one student who is beginning to plan and lead overseas trips.
Community After College
Lastly, the church offers a place for college students to call home. Community is such an important value among many college students and that is exactly what the church offers. Every year more and more college students are leaving the church, and I often times wonder why this might be. I think one of the factors is that they have not had a healthy view of what community in the church looks like. When our campus ministry partners with our church, the goal is to create community within the church for students. We want students to feel at home. We want them to have a place where they belong, and a place that, when they graduate, will still feel create a sense of community.
When I think about doing college ministry, I know I am not alone. There are people who pray for me daily, donate money to our ministry, bake cookies for students, invite them over to their homes for dinner, let them tag along with their families to do fun things and people who are sharing the Gospel with students alongside me. I am so thankful to call these people my brothers and sisters in Christ and my ministry partners at my church.
Hunter works with the CCO at the University of Akron and is the college and young adults pastor at Riverside Alliance Church. He ministers to students through small groups, one on one discipleship and helping them find their place in the local church.