Ministry With College Students
With 80,000 college students flooding Leon County in the Fall and Spring, we know the fields are white unto harvest. If we visit the FSU, FAMU, or TCC campuses, we’ll find a variety of spiritual perspectives. According to Stephen Lutz, students today express their faith in five different ways. I’ve adapted his categories below:
- Committed. These are the average church hopping students you see on Sunday morning. They’ve grown up in a church, get involved typically in some sort of Christian campus group, and eventually plug into a church. They’re generally looking for a church that either meets their needs or is completely different from their church of origin.
- Unchurched. These are spiritual students but have grown disaffected by the church. They probably had some sort of church experience as a child but either because of problems with churches or difficulties in their lives, they’re in church drift.
- Apathetic. These simply don’t care one way or the other about church, but they are very interested in service and “making a difference” in the world. They’re likely more involved in fraternities, sororities, and service groups that allow them to give back and share. Sunday mornings are optional.
- Suspicious. These people have likely never been to anything related to church, but they are interested in talking about faith matters. They’re curious, articulate, and quite convinced of what they believe. Rarely do they believe in what you believe, but they’ll talk about it.
- Negative. These are either openly atheistic, involved in other religions, or just hostile to faith.
On an average Sunday, you’ll likely see category one or two at First Baptist. They’re interested, engaged, and have been invited by someone else. First Baptist Church has a responsibility to all five kinds of students. Ministry with categories 3-5 is much different than the approach to categories 1-2. It requires prayer, empowerment by the Holy Spirit, strategic relationships, and a supportive church family.
If it sounds complicated, it is. As Lutz suggests, we need an approach that goes deep and out. People need to dig deeply with college students through authentic meaningful relationships that are rooted in scripture and the incarnational life of Jesus. We need to extend outward to offer service and mission that meets categories 3-5 in their world.
In the early church, they learned from the apostle Paul what college ministry was like. When Paul visited the scholars on Mars Hill in Acts 17, he found a variety of altars to various gods. As a church family, we have much to learn about college ministry and the nuanced approach that it takes for this generation. The good news is that we have Zach Allen. This weekend, Zach leads a “Go Week” mission to college students on our own Mars Hill. Zach has a great vision for all the students on our campuses, and we have an exciting team of students and caring adults who are working with these students. Pray for them, and support their efforts.