Nov 17, 2014


Starting a College Ministry in Your Church

Collegiate Collective’s Lance Crowell gives us a blueprint for starting a college ministry in a local church.

When it comes to exercising, running is one of those activities where you either love it or you hate it. However, even if you don’t relate to running, it provides an enlightening illustration of what is needed to develop a collegiate ministry in the local church.

In the world of running, you have two distinct kinds of participants. There are energetic starters and enduring finishers. Some sprinters hear the gun and they shoot off the line at breakneck speeds. They create distance between themselves and others very quickly.

On the other hand the great finishers are the ones who seem to “reel” in those in front of them along the backstretch of the race. They are the cardiac runners. Watching them makes your heart want to stop each time, but often they find just enough “kick” to catch those in front of them.

So what does all this have to do with starting a ministry? Well, I believe that to initiate and maintain an effective ministry, you have to encompass the strengths of both a starter and a finisher. This involves creating some momentum at the beginning, yet keeping it. The object of this article is to examine some of the keys to producing that effective start and lasting finish.

Keys to starting an effective ministry in the local church:

1) Know what has been done –You must know your church and your community. Too often we try things without really evaluating the past and the present.

  • Have you seen who makes up your community?
  • Who is reaching students?
  • How are they reaching students?
  • What kind of school(s) do you have around you?

This point is best accomplished by simply asking questions. Find out what has been done before, why it failed, and who is doing it well now. I am NOT telling you to see what someone else is doing and mimic it, but I am saying learn what is being effective. Determine if there is a way that you can retain the DNA of your church and still reach the myriad of unreached students.

2) Gather what you have—you need to find those in the church who have a heart for college student in addition to those who are actually students. This is often an overlooked step for many leaders. They assume that no one cares or that their church lacks a collegiate body. In most cases that simply is not true. The church is filled with adults who were personally impacted in college, and are just waiting to be engaged to serve in a way that fits their gifts. As for the students, themselves, in churches without a collegiate focus, they serve or hang out in other ministries. There are usually some who come with their families, but do not participate beyond worship.


3) Pray! Pray! Pray! – This is the step most underrated. We know that we need to pray. However, if you do all the other steps wrong, but this step right, you have an opportunity for the Lord to still move. However, if you miss prayer it really doesn’t matter what you do right. When you gather your initial group together don’t set a launch date, just begin praying. Anchor your core base of leaders that will be focused on the mission and will pray for the Lord to move.

4) Develop—The foundation of a solid ministry begins and flourishes through disciple-making. If you want to develop a college department that will last in the church you must have a vision that focuses on multiplication and replication. This is not how most ministries function. From my experiences, numerous leaders promote their ministry by gathering students together, and then putting together a service to build the group. This is not bad, but I do not believe this will effect lasting change in students’ lives.

To effectively build up a group that will grow and see life transformation for the long haul, you must begin discipling students. See some of the other Collegiate Collective articles on disciple making for more details.

5) Launch—Once you have gotten your core group together, and evaluated the aforementioned steps, then consider launching the ministry. The key for a successful launch involves reaching out to your your campus, and into your community to engage students. And when they, come, you need to be ready for them, by having ministry opportunities and follow up procedures in place.

6) Evaluate—Now that your ministry is off the ground, one of the key tasks is to set markers and to evaluate them consistently. To many churches, an evaluation usually consists of counting numbers. While, we need to be conscientious of numbers, we must evaluate other things as well.

  • Are we reaching new people?
  • Are we duplicating and growing believers through our disciple making process?
  • Are we hearing stories of people getting saved and lives being changed?
  • Are there events that have happened in our ministry that only God could explain?

Set clear goals and evaluate them regularly in your ministry.

7) Pray! Pray! Pray! – I circle back to this one because it needs to be reiterated. If the Lord is not in the center of your plans, then your ministry is going nowhere. As I stated in the evaluation section look and pray for the Lord to do things that just can’t be explained by human means.

While these steps are just the beginning of a long process, they will ensure that your college ministry has the start that it needs to run the race well.

about the author

Lance Crowell

Lance is the Director of Discipleship Ministries and Online Training for the Southern Baptists of Texas. He formerly served as a college and young adult pastor in the Houston area.