Reach some students. Disciple them. Help them graduate and find a job. This was our mission when we first began college ministry four years ago at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. I look back at that and know there was some good in there, but I had no idea what was to come!
In May 2017, our pastor, Richard Rogers, at University Heights Baptist Church, led a team from our church, to the SEND Conference in Dallas, Texas. Our team was made up of some lay leaders, a few staff, and our spouses. We attended a breakout session on “leadership pipelines,” hoping to learn a few new tips and tricks on discipleship in a local church. The first speaker Mark Vance, from the Salt Network, began to share how God was using their local church and college ministry to train up and send out church planters into new collegiate contexts. The next speaker, Keith Wieser, from Resonate, began to share a similar story. A story of God mobilizing college students for the purpose of planting new churches in unchurched collegiate contexts. As we sat there in this breakout session, God began to stir our hearts with a vision of what could be. Language we had never heard before, like “pipelines” and “collegiate church planting,” began to put words to some of what was already taking place in our church and our hearts.
A year later, we decided as a church to leverage all we do for the purpose of training up leaders who can be sent out to make Jesus known. We are prayerfully preparing to plant our very first church in San Marcos, Texas (home of Texas State University), to begin the journey of planting multigenerational churches that are a bridge between the community and the campus.
As we have begun to dream and cast vision of what God is leading our church to do, everything about how we do college ministry is changing. Now, like never before, reaching freshmen is absolutely critical, not only to long-term success at the sending church, but now for the sake of developing leaders who can be sent to help launch the new church in the new context. (We currently have several students who are praying about transferring schools to help us launch!)
Now, recruiting those freshmen to apply for leadership is not just so I can report “ministry growth” to my pastor, but because in five years, I am looking to those students to help lead and shepherd new movements on new campuses. Now, every minute we have with a college student is intentional because we are training every student to be a missional leader and multiplying disciple. When we began considering the cost of sending out key leaders from our church, we knew things had to change.
One semester into practicing mission in this way has led to a fruitful harvest unlike anything we have experienced before in our church. Students are sharing the gospel with their friends, roommates, and brand-new students on campus, all because they have ownership of the mission of God on their campus. Students baptizing students, because they were the ones to lead them to Jesus. Students launching out new missional groups, because they were the ones to train the leaders.
We were forced to start asking questions: “What would have to change about how we do ministry if every current key leader left to start a new church in the next two years?” “Is our vision bigger than just our campus and our local church?” “How are we leveraging all we have to reach freshman for the sake of sending them out as trained and mobilized missionaries when they graduate?”
These questions keep us up at night, and we are both thrilled and terrified at how God is leading us, and we think we’re just getting started! As we have gotten to learn from those who have gone before us, the Send Network and leaders like Brian Frye have helped connect us to the right people at the right time. Our thankfulness and dependence on the cooperative efforts of kingdom-minded churches has been invaluable in this season.
We are eager to see what God will continue to do, and ask that you join us in praying for a wave of college students being sent out to make Jesus known wherever God may lead them!,
Published January 3, 2018