This week’s question from our Connect Conferences is an excellent, practical question when it comes to Young Adult Ministry.
“How can I tell when I should start a college Bible study group and how should I go about it?”
One item to strongly consider is simple geography. Is there an institution of higher learning of any kind anywhere near your church campus?
If the answer to this question is yes, then you should be working on a ministry to college students as a part of Young Adult Ministry.
Sometimes, we get way too fixed on the stereotype of the typical four-year college experience and wrongly believe that if there are not 20,000 people enrolled
in a college in our city, then college ministry is not for our church.
With the cost of a college education skyrocketing every year, young people are getting creative when it comes to higher learning. They go to school part-time, they attend a two-year community college, they attend online, they co-op and take every other semester or quarter off to work for their education. In short, there are probably college students where you live.
So, what’s the best way to reach them through Bible study groups?
If you’re a small church in a small community or a church of any size that is just getting started in this ministry, then it’s probably going to be best to start with a blanket approach to young adult ministry. Start with creating a group that includes an assortment of college students, “gold collar” single young adults (Definition: They are the young people already in the work force who choose not to attend college and make a lot more money than I do with no college debt), and married young adults. They will have enough in common where they can relate well together in a group, provided the leader chooses to dwell on their common characteristics and not the ones that divide them. Once your group gets to the point where it’s comfortable to have separate groups for college students and other affinity groups, you can break them out more intentionally and have a specific college groups.
For a church with a close proximity to college students, connect with a campus ministry leader already on site to see what your church can do to partner with that person to reach that campus for Christ. It might that you would not need to launch a mid-week Bible study or worship experience to achieve your goal if the campus minister already has that covered. Your job may be to connect the people who come to those experiences with a Sunday morning or Sunday evening Bible study you create at your church. You also need to seek out newcomers no one has reached. Whatever you do, don’t compete. Cooperate.
If you would like to know if there is a Baptist Collegiate Ministry on a campus near you, check out http://ww.bcmlife.net
If there is nothing to connect college students to Christ on that campus, it’s probably time your church launched some kind of Bible study group on that campus. There are only 4,000 campus ministers in the U.S. and there are 1.9 million college freshmen alone this year. There’s a good chance you will find a need only your church can fill. There are just way too few people ministering to college students. Some churches even have gone to the lengths of starting entire new church locations in the shadow of college campuses to make sure those students are reached.
Don’t forget your home-grown college students who have gone away to pursue their higher education. Connect them with churches and campus ministries in their new college towns. Pray for them, write to them and send them care packages. When they come home for the summer, start short term groups just for them. Summer re-entry is sometimes very jarring for a college student who has just come home. A group full of old familar faces helps them make the temporary adjustment and gives them a forum for spiritual growth.
The bottom line is, if you’re called to Young Adult Ministry, you’re also called to College Ministry.