1. Reach students with depth.
As we engaged the campus a generation or two ago, we often could start with a set of assumptions and worldview that students may have accepted. However, those days are quickly fading, which requires us to be more in-depth. The depth with which we reach them first starts with proclaiming God’s love found in Jesus Christ, and that depth continues by working through deep doctrinal truths. Don’t be afraid to pull out a systematic theology book to read through with students. Engage students with conversations or studies on finer points of theology. Over the years I have been surprised and encouraged by the eagerness many students have (even those with no Christian background) to immerse themselves in more in-depth studies of the Bible.
2. Reach students by challenging them.
Many of the students we are trying to reach have some kind of nominal Christian background where they might know some general facts about the faith but not much more. As we engage them, we are not afraid to challenge them that if Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again from the dead, should it not mean everything to them? Should not that news affect all areas of their lives? Should it not affect the way they see the church? Often students are filled with ambition and eagerness so do not shy back from giving them gospel challenges as well as real opportunities to serve in the church. Our students continue to respond to the challenges we give them as they help in all the different areas of our church. Our students know that if our church is going to move forward they must respond to the challenge.
3. Reach students with love.
Love has always been the great Christian apologetic of how the gospel has advanced. Seek to find ways to show love to the students in your city. Make them meals during finals week, write out hand written prayers for the students you know at the start of the semester, have students into your home to watch the big game or offer rides to the grocery store. Even though students often live in a condensed area many are lonely. Simple acts of love can go a long way in helping you reach them.
4. Reach students through relationships.
Whether your ministry style is focused on one-on-one or highly attractional, relationships will be at its core. Most college students have many different events and opportunities pulling at their time which makes having relationships with them so important. Work hard to get to know students on a personal level. Spend time in the student union. Get to know the students who work at the coffee shops. Be accessible to students when they have questions about life. We have also found it helpful to work on establishing relationships with others who work with students, whether it be para-church leaders or people who work for the university.
5. Reach students with vision.
Students have many things pulling at their time, yet we are not afraid to challenge them to invest their time in the church. When we give that challenge to our students, we cast a big vision to help them see that Jesus is worth it, and all of their hard work is worth it, too. Often we put a 50 year vision in front of them to consider how God might use our church over those years and how their work today has a real impact on our future effectiveness.
Published July 28, 2016