College students are flakey, immature, ignorant and the best missionaries to grace the church. Sure, you have to pick up the tab for an 11 AM breakfast that they are 22 minutes late to, but it is worth every dollar to hear of the missionary adventures students share. At Veritas Community Church in Columbus, Ohio, hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear about an Ohio State student giving up a weekend to take high school kids to a Young Life camp, a Capital student packing their bags for quick medical missions trips to Haiti or even the intellectual debates between know-it-all 19-year-olds. After all, college is the time to throw off inhibitions, speak your mind and find yourself. If there are a few things I have learned as a pastor in the shadows of the largest university in the world, the greatest lesson is never to underestimate the effectiveness of a college student on mission! Here are three things you must live out if you want to reach and mobilize students for mission.
I was invited by a college student I recently met to join him in his dorm cafeteria for a meal. He assured me his mom had given him some extra points on his “BuckID” and he wanted to treat me. So I stood in a line of pajama pants-wearing kids with a tray in hand, gray in beard, wedding ring on and the song “One of These Things is Not Like the Other” in my head. As the nice checkout lady looked me up and down, I smiled and remembered that I am here to lead these students to Jesus. Pastors, we must lead students! Discipleship can’t only be for the business man or woman who gives generously to the church. We must disciple the broke and often unstable students. (And actually we should probably help them think through money and debt. After all, this is often the biggest hindrance to future missionary mobilization.) Lead them! Teach them how to study and memorize the Bible. Eat meals together and share stories. Ask them to participate in family devotions. Lead by teaching. Lead by modeling.
Let Them Lead
Students have been branded and cast out of church leadership as ‘not ready for the big leagues’ of missionary work. But I have heard enough stories of gospel transformation and have watched the community church I pastor fill with college students leading God’s mission. So what if they are a little rough around the edges? At Veritas it is expected that students lead community groups, engage the poor, lead high school students, lead worship and preach. What a beautiful experience to see a 20-year-old girl serving the Lord’s supper to a retired school teacher! Students must lead important ministries in the church.
Let Them Go
The last thought is this: we must let them go. Students graduate and get jobs all over the world. You can teach them business as mission and give them opportunities to cut their chops, but there usually comes a time to send. In 2009 a young freshman found Veritas online and came exploring. He got involved, became my friend and I got to disciple him. In 2010 I convinced him to intern for a summer at the church and we took a short mission trip to Baltimore. Then, in 2012, this man joined our under-resourced staff, raising his own support to help fight human trafficking in Columbus. He started a whole movement of abolitionists who love Jesus and seek gospel transformation for our city. And this year, he and his wife will go to live in Africa as a conviction to go into all nations. He saw mission as not just a duty but a way of life. Students are the best missionaries to grace the church. What are you doing to lead them? Students, what are you waiting for? GO!
Published March 20, 2015