by Brad Baker, College Pastor–Saddleback Church
1 in 4 Millennials report not having a specific religious affiliation. What a perfect time to launch a ministry to reach and develop 18-25 year olds. If you’re wondering where to begin, allow me to share some ideas (most of which come from my mistakes and what I wish I would’ve done when I began 12 years ago).
#1. Think of yourself as a cross-cultural missionary.
Today’s access to technology (on average, Millennials own 2.4 Internet-connected devices) has fragmented this generation into thousands of sub-cultures huddled around their particular area of interest, talent, or expertise. Name the area of interest, and Millennials now have a global community they can access 24/7. This means that to reach people, we’ll likely need to “break” into their world a bit. Add to this that every campus has its own set of unwritten cultural rules, and “missionary” becomes the right title for the typical college ministry leader.
#2. Build a team from the start.
No matter how passionate and gifted you may be, you won’t be very effective in college ministry without first recognizing your limitations. The effective college ministry leader needs student leaders, parental-figure leaders, peer leaders, older mentors, and so on. Without sharing the ministry load, you’ll likely burn out or limit your ministry to the 10 or so you can invest in personally.
#3. Do everything with your end goal in mind.
Far too many ministries master meeting students “where they are” but forget to think much about where they want to take them after the connection is made. Self-feeding, local-church committed, and quickly advancing to adulthood (relationally, emotionally, and spiritually) are a few of the end goals I work towards. Keep in mind, they won’t be in your college ministry long, and you must do everything you can to integrate them into a local church. Isn’t that where we want them to put down long term roots? This is particularly vital if you’re a campus-based ministry leader and tend to operate somewhat isolated from the local congregations around you. If they fall in love with your campus ministry instead of the local church, you’ve done them a huge disservice. After graduation, they will scratch their heads wondering what happened to their cozy little community and context for spiritual renewal/growth.
The majority of the fuel for any space mission is used during the launch. If you’re at the beginning of your journey to reach and disciple college students, take heart! Starting a college ministry is well worth the effort, because the payout is “life-change.” Life-change lasts forever! Transformation only comes when God’s people are willing surrender to the work of leading others to Jesus. What could be more important? Nothing!
Brad Baker is the college pastor at Saddleback Church and founder of CollegeMinistry.com. He is the proud father of four and considers the discipleship of his children his highest ministry priority. He met Jesus on a snowy January night in the suburbs of Denver back in 1983. Since then, God has led him on missional adventures that spanned the globe and took him to some 30 countries. With over 10 years of college ministry experience, Brad is passionate about assisting fellow college ministry leaders in building healthy ministries that reach and disciple. Brad enjoys writing, traveling, wrestling with his kids, and speaking to college students. He holds degrees in theology and a master’s in leadership. He loves to lead and learn in collaborative environments and is currently working to complete his first book.