Here’s the ugly truth about college students and sharing Christ: Based on our understanding from research and personal experience, it’s clear that typical Christian college students do not regularly share their faith. Most Christian collegians have never even attempted to share the gospel with another person.
Eating the Elephant of Gospel Cloistering
In October 2011, a group of college ministry leaders gathered for an evangelism think tank to process the problem of Christian college students cloistering, or secluding, the gospel from their peers. Our mission became clear, and we arrived at a simple goal: To see every Southern Baptist Christian college student share their faith before the end of college. Now for some, this goal may seem, well, too audacious. After all, there are at least 75,000 college students actively involved in our SBC collegiate tribe. Others may dismiss it as weak since there are 19.7 million college students in the United States, plus another million in Canada.
Whether the target was too big or small, our minds were set. We wanted to see everyone in our herd sharing the gospel. But how do you “de-cloister” the gospel among Christian students? And specifically for us, how could we (a small team) influence these students to share Christ before they leave college?
Our response was simple. We applied General Crieghton W. Abrams Jr.’s principle of huge task completion: “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” And Engage24 emerged.
Generating the Concept
Essentially, we came up with a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound concept labeled Engage24. The basic idea was to ask college students to set aside one day (a 24-hour period) to share their faith with at least one person. To promote Engage24, we created a video around former football player Rob Warren’s conversion story. During the video, Rob explained how his friend Andy engaged him with the gospel, and how because of Andy’s influence, Rob came to Christ. The video concluded with Rob asking viewers if they would commit to take part in Engage24 on October 11, 2012. We then circulated the word via social media, inviting everyone, everywhere to take part by “making Engage24 your own.”
The Secret Sauce for Traction
We made several decisions early on to poise Engage24 for success:
- Target — Instead of focusing on winning people to Christ, the target was getting Christians to engage lost people. We absolutely wanted people to become Christ followers, but just as importantly, we wanted to see Christians sharing Jesus. We wanted to see believers move forward by sharing Christ and those who heard the gospel move closer to a relationship with Him.
- Timing — Instead of establishing a program, we locked down a specific day in order to request focused prayer and evangelism efforts collectively on a nationwide level and said, “Do what you want, as long as you share Christ.” Some people did evangelism on one day as we prescribed, and others made it a semester-long campus ministry strategy. One group in Kentucky did Engage24 as a week-long project in the spring instead of the fall. All these efforts were wins to our team, and we’ve celebrated with people along the way.
- Requirements — One of the best calls was having only one requirement: Share Christ. We just initiated an idea, made a 3-minute video explaining that idea, and used that video to invite other people to tell at least one person about Jesus. Everything else was flexible.
- Ownership — We didn’t own it. We uploaded the invitation video on YouTube and Vimeo and told everyone to use it at will. We fought hard to ensure it wasn’t branded as a Southern Baptist tool or product, and it paid off when others outside our tribe adopted it in their context.
- Wins — We know that at least 2,700 college students presented the gospel during the week of Engage24 last year, and nearly 9,300 individuals heard a gospel presentation. This information came only from voluntary reporting by participants post-event.
Preparing for the Future
We remain focused on our goal — engaging all 75,000 of our collegiate tribe in sharing Christ through Engage24. This year, we’re again inviting college students everywhere to commit to sharing the gospel with at least one person on 10-14-14. Join us. Lead a group of college students to pray for and participate in Engage24.
Brian Frye serves as the collegiate evangelism strategist with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio. He leads the Ohio Collegiate Ministries team, which consists of collegiate ministries and collegiate church plants on 13 college and university campuses around Ohio. In 2013, Brian joined the NAMB Collegiate team as national collegiate strategist. A graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., Ph.D.), he loves to think, read, lead, learn, strategize and develop people into followers of Christ. Brian and his wife of 13 years, Heidi, along with their three sons, live in Delaware, Ohio, where they love to eat ice cream, play Wii, ride bikes, talk about God, make Facebook videos and laugh really hard.