Nov 21, 2016


#BestIdeaEver – Unleash the Volunteers

Rudy Hartmann drops another in our series highlighting creative ideas from ministries of all shapes and sizes across the continent. This time: Unleash the volunteers.

Let’s set the scene: You’re the pastor of a church of 250 with a college campus five miles away. You know you have to reach the campus. You know that you wouldn’t be where you are and that campus wouldn’t be where it is without God having an express purpose for your church to be the engaged expression of the Gospel to the university.

But you’re the lead pastor, with a full time associate who leads worship and assimilation, a next-gen director who’s learning photoshop, and a Brenda who volunteers her time to kill it on the phone and set up the Google calendar.

You know you can’t justify hiring a college pastor.

Same scene, but you’re a member of that same church. You just sent your second kid out of state for college, and for the first time in two decades you’re a empty-nester. You also know the college campus is five miles away. You keep having this sense that God may be drawing you to be a part of reaching the campus. Your wife even mentioned something about it last week.

But your church doesn’t have a college ministry. You know the church probably can’t afford a staff hire. There are a couple college students coming, but there’s no specific community for them. You’ve never led a Bible Study, much less a ministry, so what help could you be?

What help could you be!

Justin Raulston would say that you could be the answer to your pastor’s prayer and meet the need of that college campus.

I asked Justin what was the biggest motivators for him begin a unique new role with Christian Student Fellowship and he gave a single word: Frustration.

“I was tired of hearing churches who were so close to collegiate campuses say ‘we don’t have, so we don’t do’ when it came to reaching the fifth largest unreached mission field in the United States: The University Campus.”

So, one day, Justin called up the president of CSF and pitched the idea of CSF Partners: “To be a ministry that partnered with the Local Church to raise up, equip, and coach people to do College Ministry across the midwest.”

“We came in with one thought, one idea, and it was this – you don’t have to be a full-time, bible-school trained staffer of a church to do college ministry.” He’s like the for college ministry “we find the campus with a need, and match the campus with a church who is willing to make the ask of their congregation to jump on board.”

This is where the process gets interesting, as Justin has found that “every church has someone that can do college ministry and wants to, they were just never told that the could or that they should. They’re college pastors – it’s just that they have a job outside of college ministry that pays the bills!” These volunteer leaders operating from a lay-leadership position within the local church are the key to bridging the gap between recognizing campuses that need college work to commence on them, and the focus-void that exists regarding collegiate ministry in these contexts.

“This is no full substitute for the 9-to-5, full time college ministry director,” Justin clarified, “but it’s something, it’s a Gospel work beginning on the campus and serves two major needs. First, two-year schools that aren’t on the radar for many parachurch organizations or local churches can now have a couple volunteer to own the campus. This also served to be the on-ramp to a church feeling like they might be able to validate making a part or full time hire toward college ministry.”

The delight is two-fold: First, the campuses without Gospel-workers on them are being reached by members of the local church who feel impressed by God to go after the campus and, through the work of CSF Partners and the local Church, have a clear avenue to do so. The Gospel is getting on the college campuses where it has not yet been, or where effort has not been focused. Second, local church members find their gift in getting to serve and equip students to reach students when these churches work together with Justin to make room for this ministry opportunity.

What he is seeing in the midwest is the knitting together of local churches leaders and members to reach college campuses with the Gospel that weren’t being reached before.

“We are seeing people across our four focus campuses step up and realize that the local church is supposed to love and reach college students – and it’s happening.”

Questions to consider:

  • As a college ministry leader, how could volunteers within your church be the catalyst to starting a new work on a different, local college campus?
  • How could more volunteers help you see growth on your primary campus?
  • What are your practices for finding and deploying adult volunteers to reach the campus?

about the author

Rudy Hartmann

Rudy Hartmann is a church planting candidate with the Salt Company in Ames, IA. He previously served in college ministry in Tampa, FL.