Jul 17, 2017


5 Hurdles to Effective College Ministry

Andy Abramson identifies five hurdles that often keep churches from attempting or being effective in college ministry.

I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside college students and young adults, in the local church, for the last 20 years across the country. In my ministry, I have been struck by how many churches actively chose not to engage this age group. We started Verge Ministries to strategically work alongside churches and campuses to reach this neglected generation. Over the past seven years, we began to find common hurdles to why church leaders don’t engage this age group. These distinctive hurdles are in various populations, geographical locations, church sizes, and varying denominations across the United States. Here are the five most common hurdles that we have seen.

1. Small View Of God’s Kingdom
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to invest our lives into someone only to see them leave a few years later. We can begin to ask questions like, “What is the point?” or “Why should I spend my time pouring into someone, only for another church to benefit from my investment?” These thoughts reveal our shortsighted view of the Kingdom of God.

Pouring our lives into someone, is not just about what they can do in our church right now; It’s about what Jesus is doing in their lives and their stories moving forward in the Kingdom!

2. A Narrow View Of “Giving”
The number one way we think about giving is in terms of money. I hear many church leaders lament that young adults don’t “give”. The problem is, this is a very shortsighted view of what giving truly is. Yes, part of giving is our money; but it’s also our time, energy, passions and creative resources.

When we look at giving in only a monetary way, we will never truly value what college students or young adults can bring to the life of the congregation.

3. Being Satisfied With A Broken Body
The apostle Paul teaches us, when parts of the body are hurting or missing, that the entire Body suffers (1 Cor. 12). Young adults provide something unique in the life of our congregations. I have seen churches around the country, that have actively engaged young adults in their community, experience the blessings of their engagement that have lasting impact across generations. They bring energy, creativity, spontaneity and life to the body.

When young adults and college students are missing, the Body suffers!

4. Forgetting Our Twenties
When I meet with pastors and church leaders, I ask them to reflect on their twenties. As they begin to remember, it becomes quickly apparent, that for most of us, our twenties set into motion the trajectory of our lives. They think of how they got married, had children, made crucial faith steps, chose a career, and often times walked through some poor decisions that have had lasting effects on them.

The further we move away from our twenties, the easier it is to forget how monumental and life changing this period of our life was!

5. A Different Generation
All of us acknowledge how quickly our culture is changing. For many of us, having a handle on these changes can be overwhelming. To look to a new generation and try to understand its uniquenesses and nuances can be daunting. Many church leaders acknowledge they don’t have the energy or desire to be a student of a new people group.

Engaging this age group is dependent on us being learners of the unique mindsets, problems, and strengths of current and future young adult generations!

These five hurdles can help us evaluate why our churches may or may not be reaching this generation. There is a lack of ministry to college students and young adults around our country and we, as the Church, are suffering. I want so desperately for leaders to experience the joy of having this age group engaged in the life of their churches. In doing this, we will raise up leaders to impact our world today, as well as the church into the future. My hope is that engaging young adults would be valued in every local church.  This will only start when this age group becomes a part of the discussions and decisions within local church leadership. When this happens, the Church will have a greater impact on the world for Jesus!

An earlier version of this article appeared on the Verge Ministries blog where you can find even more insightful articles on reaching the next generation on college and university campuses.

about the author

Andy Abramson

Andy is the founder and visionary leader of Verge Ministries. Verge Ministries has a heart to equip college and young adult leaders to effectively multiply ministry in their local contexts through training, networking and ministry development. Andy is passionate about college/young adult leaders. He is married to Jenn and has 5 children.