Recently, I found myself on holy ground. I was in our church’s fellowship hall surrounded by members of the Mount Olive College softball team.
They are in the post-season playoffs and were in need of a home-cooked meal. Because we are Baptists, we were happy to take care of that need.
This year, many of the players have been joining us for Sunday worship, Wednesday suppers and study as well as our Oasis college ministry. It kind of naturally happened with us reaching out and them reaching back.
It’s not a written part of my job description, but I do love college ministry. I guess that’s why I’m so sad about the recent move the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has taken in regard to college ministry.
They are basically cutting out a state-level approach to college ministry and are planning on asking local churches to pick up the slack. In all honesty, I don’t think that will happen.
College ministry isn’t a ministry that many churches see the value in. Let’s think about it.
College students aren’t able to really give financially to a church. Most college students don’t have extra cash sitting around, and some people see them as a drain on a church’s limited budget.
College students are busy, in general, and have to fit church activities in when and where they can.
College students are transient in nature. They are at school during the year and at home during the summer. After graduation, most students move away from their college towns.
College students aren’t a long-term fix to growing the number in your congregation on a Sunday morning. So, on paper it seems like a bad idea for local churches to invest in college students. I, however, know the real value.
I’ve been able to meet and get to know a lot of the local college students. For example, at our recent fellowship meal, I knew almost all of the softball team by name because I’ve built a relationship with most of them.
I’ve been to their games, fed most of them and answered questions about faith and church for them. I’ve had phone calls, Snapchats and Facebooked with most of them. I’ve even played a few games with some of them.
They aren’t just extra people in the pews on Sunday. For me, they are students I get to be in community with and watch God work in their lives.
College is the time when most young adults begin to figure out who they are and what is important to them. It is the place you begin to decide what kind of an adult you are going to be.
College is a place to grow and learn not only academically, but also spiritually.
I know from my own college experience that it is the first place I started really wanting to know God and follow God. My faith became my own, not just something my parents passed along to me.
College ministry may not seem like a great investment for many local churches. On paper, it actually looks like a lot of wasted resources with little to no payout.
But Christ isn’t about big bank accounts or packed sanctuaries on Sunday morning. Christ is about making disciples, and churches and state conventions should be, too.
There may seem like no payout now for the work and effort that a college ministry requires, but we have to do it if we want a church in the future.
College students grow up to be the mothers, fathers, deacons, Sunday school teachers and even ministers that make our churches strong.
Investing in the churches of tomorrow means investing in the college students of today.
Felicia Fox is the minister of youth and children at First Baptist Church of Mt. Olive, N.C. A version of this column first appeared on her blog, From the Mind of Felicia, and is used with permission.