Nine million people is a lot of people. That’s almost 3 times as many people who live in the state of Iowa (where I currently live). If there was a city in the United States of 9 million people that was suddenly discovered and nobody was already trying to reach that city, there is no doubt that church planters would be licking their chops and doing whatever they could to get to that city and start something.
Believe it or not, that “city” exists. Let me introduce you to that “city.”
There are 9 million students attending community colleges in the United States, and very few people are trying to reach them.
I’m not the first to discover this “city,” but let me tell you how I recently stumbled upon it. In March of 2017, my wife and I moved from Denton, Texas to Ankeny, Iowa to join the Salt Network as future church planters. In the meantime, my role within the network has been to be the teaching pastor at one of our churches and start a Salt Company (college ministry) for the community college in Des Moines (DMACC)
Never in my life did I think I would go from leading college ministries on major flagship campuses to trying to start a college ministry at a 2-year community college. But I am so thankful God had a different plan. Without this brief stop before launching out to plant a new church, I never would have seen the nine million college students who might literally be the most ripe and ready to be reached group of people in North America.
I realize that the idea of building a college ministry for a community college is not the “sexiest” idea. It’s not easy (true ministry never is). While college ministry at a 4-year school is like ministry in a microwave, college ministry at a 2-year community college is like ministry in a pressure cooker. But, I want to give you a few reasons why I think reaching community college students is so strategic:
1. Almost nobody is doing it! Aside from a few anomalies, very few people are trying to reach these campuses. There is a ministry “market” of 9 million people who are virtually untapped.
2. Even if a college student transfers from a community college to a 4-year school that has a strong college ministry, it’s very unlikely they’ll be reached there. Very few college ministries do a good job of reaching transfer students. Therefore, if someone doesn’t reach them while they’re at their community college, they will likely never be reached.
3. Reaching community college students is very strategic for churches trying to plant churches. One of the big asks we make of our college students in the Salt Network is to consider transferring to one of the schools where we are planting a new church. That’s a hard ask to make of a student who is already at a 4-year school and deep into their majors. It’s not as big of an ask to make of a student who is already planning on transferring. Community college students could actually be one of the strongest, undiscovered church-planting engines we have.
4. There is one big benefit of ministry on a community college campus. While there are certain things that make reaching community college students more difficult (i.e. commuter campuses, 2-year turnover, less campus synergy, etc.), there are other things that make reaching community college students much easier than students at a 4-year school. For example, while at a 4-year school, you will likely have to deal with a crowd of other active student organizations vying for students’ attention. At a community college, your student organization will likely be one of the few student organizations that does anything on campus! We launched our ministry 6 months ago at DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College), and at our first event, we had over 160 students attend. We are now having 125 students gather each week to worship and about two-thirds of them gather each week in small groups.
Here’s my point: 9 million people is a lot of people, and it’s very possible you and your church or ministry is perfectly positioned to have a significant impact on this unreached people group! Could it be that God wants you to help lead the charge to reach the 9 million?
Austin Wadlow and his wife, Lesley, live in Iowa where he serves as the Teaching Pastor and Salt Company Director at Keystone Church in Ankeny, IA. You can connect with Austin via Twitter: @austinwadlow