by Brad Baker, College Pastor–Saddleback Church
1 in 4 Millennials report not having a specific religious affiliation. What a perfect time to launch a ministry to reach and develop 18-25 year olds. If you wondering where to begin allow me to share some ideas (most of which come from my mistakes and what I wish I would have done when I begin 12 years ago).
#1. Think of yourself as a cross-cultural missionary
Today’s access to technology (on average Millennials own 2.4 internet connected devices) has fragmented this generation into thousands of sub-cultures huddled around their particular area of interest, talent or expertise. Name the area of interest and Millennials now have a global community they can access 24/7. This means to reach people we’ll likely need to ‘break’ into their world a bit. Add to this that every campus has its own set of unwritten cultural rules and ‘missionary’ becomes the right title for the typical college ministry leader.
#2. Build a team from the start
No matter how passionate and gifted you won’t be very effective in college ministry without first recognizing your limitations. The effective college ministry leader needs student leaders, parental-figure leaders, peer leaders, older mentors and so on. Without sharing the ministry load you’ll likely burn out or limit your ministry to the 10 or so you can invest in personally.
#3. Do everything with your end goal in mind
Far too many ministries master meeting students “where they are” but forget to think much about where they want to take them after the connection is made. Self-feeding, local-church committed and quickly advancing to adulthood (relationally, emotionally and spiritually) are a few of the end goals I work towards. Keep in mind they won’t be in your college ministry long and you must do everything you can to integrate them into a local church. Isn’t that where we want them to put down long term roots? This is particularly vital if you’re a campus-based ministry leader and tend to operate somewhat isolated from the local congregations around you. If they fall in love with your campus ministry instead of the local church you’ve done them a huge disservice. After graduation they will scratch their heads wondering what happened to their cozy little community and context for spiritual renewal/growth.
The majority of the fuel for any space mission is used during the launch. If you’re at the beginning of your journey to reach and disciple college students take heart! Starting a college ministry is well worth the effort because the payout is ‘life-change’. Life-change lasts forever! Transformation only comes when God’s people willing surrender to the work of leading others to Jesus. What could be more important? Nothing!