Jan 01, 2018


We Must Go To Them

Mitch Tidwell writes about how churches must go to the campus if they want to meaningfully engage students and advance the kingdom on campus.

I get the great privilege of watching churches and ministries in Texas from a 30,000 foot view. It’s really a position of grace. I get to learn and see how churches are uniquely reaching college campuses all over this great state that most people don’t get to see. I’ve learned quite a bit from this role. I think more than anything I’ve learned a few principles to reaching college campuses with the gospel.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to reaching a campus. We must contextualize, but I do believe there are some evergreen principles out there. One of the these principles I’ve seen in churches with significant spiritual impact on campus is that they don’t wait for college students to come to them; the church or ministry goes to them.

I’ve been researching churches who are affiliated with my organization who are in a 5 mile radius of the 22 most strategic campuses in Texas and very few are having a deep impact on the college campus next door. Why is that? I would argue in most cases they are not going to the campus. Some of this may be out of lack of leadership, fearful of ideas coming out of the university, or the belief that college students don’t produce enough ROI. Whatever the reason might be, many churches aren’t going to the campus.

If we are to reach the most strategic mission field then we need to recalibrate the way we reach them. In most cases, the days are gone of the come-and-see model. We must go to them.

This may seem scary, but it’s really not; not when we do ministry the way Jesus did. If God is a missionary God then we are a missionary people. We go. Is there risk? Yes. Will it cost resources? Yes, but not much. Is it worth it? Yes. A great first step to take in order to go to the campus is to ask: “How can we add value to this campus?

What need can we meet in order to add value to the campus?

Before you meet a need, make sure it’s a need. Pray for your campus and study it. What is the mission statement? What is administration trying to accomplish? What are students trying to accomplish? Ask the Lord where you can begin to minister to your campus. And remember, you’re there to love and serve people regardless if they come to faith in Jesus or not.

In what areas do students need help?

This could be move in, tutoring, coffee during mid-terms and finals, or even food. Meeting these needs add value to the student body. It also creates relational equity between the church/ministry and the student body. Don’t just plug-and-play a need, but pray and seek how God wants your church or ministry to uniquely minister to the students; and if you need help, just ask the students “How can we help you?”

In what areas does administration need help?

What is it that your local campus is looking to accomplish? What is their mission statement and values? Approach them and ask “How can our church/ministry help you carry out your mission statement and values?” Take a posture of humility and ask the campus how your church can help fulfill what they’re doing. Just as with the students, this will create relational equity between the church/ministry and the university

Practical Insight

When we begin to think of reaching the campus by this principle, the church/ministry goes from being a stranger, and even competitor, to a loving neighbor. We start to look a whole lot more like Jesus.

So you don’t think I’m pulling any of this out of a hat, I recently interviewed a church who is doing it. Check out this short video interview on how Timber Ridge Church is making a dramatic spiritual impact on the campus of Tarleton State University by going to campus.

Also take some time to watch the Timber Ridge story. You will be blessed.

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.