Jan 16, 2017


Are College Campuses the Most Receptive Mission Fields?

Neil Reynolds makes a case that college campuses are the most receptive mission fields in the world.

I frequently get to witness college students give their lives to Christ. It’s one of the most exciting parts of campus ministry. This only strengthens my belief that college students are incredibly open to following Jesus.

Recently I was talking to a sophomore who was part of a mission team over the summer. I was inspired when they said, “My eyes were opened to a lot of things. So many people need the gospel.” It’s incredible to have these conversations every week.

I could share story after story. These transformation stories are why so many of us love campus ministry. But, recently, I’ve wanted to identify what factors create the window of openness during the college years. What is it that makes so many students so receptive?

Donald McGavran, the father of the Church Growth Movement (for a good description visit Ed Stetzer’s blog), did a lot of research on the circumstances that cause people to be receptive to faith in Jesus. His work on receptivity is fascinating.

There are three factors he identified that cause people to be open to the gospel that are present in college students…

1. New Settlements
McGavran discovered that people are open to new ideas, including the gospel, in newly developed areas. College campuses aren’t exactly new settlements. But, the school year rhythm creates a sense of newness each fall especially when you consider that 25% of the campus is new every school year.

It’s amazing to me how open new students are when they arrive on campus. They show up ready and willing to join something. What missionary wouldn’t want to be in an area when 1/4 of the population moves into town hoping to find community?

2. Returned travelers
McGavran describes how people groups are open to the gospel after travel exposes them to new cultures and ideas. While college students aren’t traveling out of the country when they move to school, they are being exposed to a new world for the first time.

It’s no surprise to me that some suggest the college years are some of the most formative years in a person’s life. You’re exposed to so many new things in college — new ideas, new people, new cultures. Most people form their worldview during these years.

3. Freedom from control
“Control inhibits responsiveness to the Christian gospel. Relaxing of controls encourages it. Most of the three billion who yield no allegiance to Jesus Christ live under rigid controls. When these disintegrate, people become free to consider the claims of Christ.” — Donald McGavran

Most college students are experiencing complete freedom for the first time. They can do whatever they want whenever they want for the first time. They’re free agents and this creates an opportunity, a sense of openness.

I’m convinced, there isn’t a more receptive mission field than the university campus. Do you agree?

Click here to get an infographic version of this post from Neil’s site!

This article first appeared on Neil’s website. There you can find more posts about college ministry, discipleship, and more.

about the author

Neil Reynolds

Neil is a campus minister with CCSC at Arkansas Tech. He lives in Russellville, AR with his wife Katie and their two daughters.