By Jeff Vines
America’s colleges and universities are on the front lines of spiritual warfare taking place in our nation. Our future legislators, marketplace leaders, cultural influencers, teachers, coaches, and school board members can be found there.
My good friend Bill Kershner of Christian Student Fellowship at Indiana University in Bloomington invited me to speak there just hours before the Little 500 race in April. This bicycle relay is, for many, the highlight of the school year. Fearless men and women form teams to compete in the race. Winning the Little 500 is a big deal!
Unfortunately, darkness comes over the IU campus in the days before the race. Students of all stripes binge on alcohol and many of them take drugs; these related factors contribute to an increase in crime, sexual assault, and arrests. Young men and women behave badly, to put it mildly.
Campus security is everywhere, but the high fences around the back lawns of the fraternity houses block the view of much of the debauchery. Campus and city police officers cannot enforce what they cannot see. Sadly, young, intoxicated girls searching desperately for significance wander into fraternity traps looking for hook-ups with young men whose brains are not yet fully developed.
WHY CONNECTING TO A CAMPUS MINISTRY IS CRUCIAL
America’s educational institutions have become risky arenas for our sons and daughters. The temptations are relentless and intense for even the most dedicated Christ followers. I shudder to think of the many lives that have been shattered at schools. Worse yet, most universities turn a blind eye to this and downplay the long-term risk to our youth.
Consequently, connecting the students who leave our churches with the leaders of our campus ministries is paramount! Campus pastors long to gather Christ followers into communities of accountability and encouragement. These campus ministries are lifesavers!
Consider for example, the many students who come to IU from churches in the Indianapolis area. Numerous healthy churches throughout the city have the capacity to work with our campus ministries to ensure a smooth transition. Campus pastors are a lifeline for our young people as they dive into the deep waters of secular and often anti-Christian cultures. I have traveled to many universities to defend the gospel and stress the importance of the Christian worldview. But campus pastors move in, drop anchor, and invest in these young, impressionable, often volatile lives. We must do all we can to ensure their survival and the success of campus ministries.
I appeal to all our churches—in Indianapolis and beyond—to support these ministries financially and prayerfully. Moreover, I implore youth pastors across America to make connections with campus pastors so our students make a smooth transition from one fellowship to another.
HOW TO TRANSITION TO CAMPUS COMMUNITY
I asked Bill Kershner, “What can local youth pastors and churches do to ensure a smooth transition from church community to campus community?” Before responding, Bill asked for some time to think and pray. I’ll summarize his response.
First, be intentional about introducing a student to the campus pastor. First impressions are crucial. If the student’s first interaction is with the campus pastor and other Christian students who receive them with joy, then they will gravitate toward this place of acceptance and belonging. When I entered university, the first people I met became lifelong friends. Never underestimate the power of firsts!
Second, invite graduating seniors to a campus event where Christ followers are leading and conducting worship services. Instead of orientating the student to the university, this is orientation to the university campus house. A student who finds comfort and acceptance there is more likely to return to that familiar place.
Third, meet with your high school seniors and prepare them for the temptations of university life. Clearly explain to them what campus life is really like and stress the role campus Christian groups play in pushing back the darkness. Young Christians typically do not lose their faith when attending university. Rather, a lack of genuine faith and discipleship are exposed in the university setting.
Finally, campus ministries are like churches—they come in different styles and flavors. Encourage each student to find a ministry that fits them well and compels them to remain an intricate part of the body of Christ. This is not the season for territorial battles. A campus ministry has no desire to take a student away from the local church. Rather, campus pastors strive to ensure the student remains involved in the local church long after their university experience ends.
Bottom line: We need each other. Campus ministries are lifelines to students who often sink into the abyss of university life and become confused, depressed, and isolated.
Jeff Vines serves as lead pastor of ONE&ALL Church in California.
Image courtesy of Christian Student Fellowship’s Facebook page.