So You Want College Students to Come to Your Church?

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the Belmont Wesley Fellowship blog. An edited version is reprinted here with permission.

by David Hollis

I have been serving as a pastor for seven years. Every place I have served has offered an opportunity to work with college/university students. I am now appointed to serve as a campus minister and work daily with students. I’m routinely asked by pastors and church members about attracting students to their church. So, here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

Rejoicing and questioning

First, when anyone mentions a church reaching out and being hospitable, I rejoice. I am especially thankful when churches have a heart for college/university students. I also want to encourage a considerable amount of reflection, questioning, and listening. By nature, I typically start with the “why” on anything. I believe in beginning with the end in mind. And it needs to be said at the outset that most students don’t make great pets. So if a church/pastor/member primarily wants students to attend in order to make their church look younger and to be able to say “We have students at our church,” this mindset could invite problems.

It is great to sit for a while and ask (five times) “Why are we doing this?” This is helpful for any decision, but especially when you are considering launching a student ministry. I want to be clear though: I think having a flourishing ministry to college/university students is well worth the sacrifices and something many churches should consider.

Taking stock

Once you have gone through the “why” question you must come to the likely tougher question: “How are we equipped for this?” Again, having college students at your church is a great thing, but being a church that has a flourishing student ministry demands a certain approach. Many churches are notorious for not playing to their strengths (gifts) and attempting to be everything to everyone. Only recently has much serious consideration been given to the fact that churches, like people, have a particular set of gifts, contexts, and callings. For instance, a church with only one or two healthcare professionals which seeks to launch a community clinic has an uphill battle. This isn’t to say that having such a clinic is not a worthy goal or that such a church will be unable to accomplish this task, but churches and many agencies face the task of choosing a mission and purpose in a field in which all things they do are in fact “good.” So let’s focus on the big questions to ask concerning student ministry:

This list is neither exhaustive nor definitive. But it does offer a great place to start in your listening, praying, and conversation around ministry to college/university students. Remember, there are people everywhere with a heart and calling to see this particular group fall in love with Jesus and devote their lives to serving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Find them, and listen to what they have to say.

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Rev. David Hollis is the Director of the Belmont University Wesley Fellowship in Nashville, Tenn. In 2012, he founded loverb whose mission is to inspire and support faith communities in sharing stories of compassion meeting action (www.loverb.us). David strongly believes Christians have a responsibility to love God and neighbor by caring for creation.

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