Jun 18, 2018

Reach

Adapting to Reach the Unreached on Campus


Mitch Tidwell draws an analogy from the Dallas Cowboys to make the point that we need new strategies if we want to reach the unreached on campus.

If we continue to do what we have always done we will continue to get what we’ve always gotten.

I’m a huge Dallas Cowboys fan and I recently watched their series on Amazon Prime called All or Nothing. It chronicles the life of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys and it gives a heavy dose of their head coach Jason Garrett. Garrett’s motto is “Fight.” If they lost, the Cowboys didn’t “Fight” hard enough. The problems weren’t in the philosophy or the strategy, but in the “Fight.”

The Dallas Cowboys have been average to above average at best for Garrett’s tenure. One could certainly argue, it takes more than “Fight” to make it to the Super Bowl. Humor me and let me play armchair coach for a second: They need to keep fighting, but they likely need to address and adapt their philosophy and strategy.

Alan Hirsch writes in his book The Forgotten Ways that 90% of churches (and ministry types) are structured liken to a contemporary church-growth model church/ministry. Simply defined, a contemporary church-growth model church models itself around a come and see approach. In the United States roughly 40% would be interested in being a part of this type of church. It doesn’t mean 40% of the U.S. population is going to this type of church, but they would be interested in this type of church.

If what Alan writes is true then that means that 60% of our population would never want to be a part of most of the ministries we have going today. We can continue to “Fight” but I would argue we need a philosophical and strategic change in our approach.

The picture Alan paints is likely similar to the picture on college campuses today. Don’t get me wrong, we are reaching a lot of students! However, we are missing a lot of students as well.

Where do we go from here?

Here are three things to consider, among many other things the Holy Spirit may bring to you:

1. Gospel
Ground ourselves in richness of the gospel. It is good news of great joy for all people. If the gospel is for all people then we must do what we can to develop our ministries in a way we can reach all students of the campus. How are do we continue to engage the 40% but also the 60%?

2. Adapt
If we continue to do what we have always done we will continue to get what we’ve always gotten. We must adapt to remain nimble to the changes in the college campuses and to the needs of the campus. This might mean continuing with “come and see” type of ministries such as worship services and worship nights, but also beginning “go and tell” type units across campus to reach pockets of students who would never step in the doors of our churches and ministries. We need to let go of some control and release the students to carry the gospel forward.

3. Diversity
The college campus is one of the most diverse places. If diversity is not present in our ministries it must change. If we have worship environments filled with middle class white kids, we likely will not reach anyone that doesn’t look like that. We’re hindering our reach by being focused on a small piece of the population pie.

What can this look like?

Imagine if you equipped your students to incarnate themselves on the college campus? The influence of your ministry wouldn’t rest on a nightly event, but it would have a 24/7 impact all across the college campus. The gospel would find itself filling cultures and subcultures you would never be able to impact with singular event.

What if you began to reach a people group that was much different than the one you’re currently reaching? The campus might take noticed and see a unity and peace that is not present in our culture. A diverse ministry gives the university a more robust look at what the kingdom of God really looks like: people of all background, races, political views, gathering and scattering in worship to Jesus.


about the author

Mitch Tidwell


Mitch serves as the Collegiate Associate at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Mitch’s desire is to assist churches in advancing God’s kingdom on college campuses in Texas. He lives in Fort Worth, TX with his wife, Olivia.