I had a great conversation with a missionary friend the other day. He works and lives in an atmosphere that is very different than mine: A intensely liberal college campus, rated one of the top party schools in the country. So when we found ourselves landing on the exact same ideas about what God was up to in the Church, we knew it was bigger than just us.
In his context, the “large group” model is facing challenges that he hasn’t seen before. Simply put, people aren’t as interested in coming to a large group gathering anymore. What was working was the medium-sized “cluster” groups of about 10-12 people. These groups met weekly and allowed for a deeper connection between the people in that group. He said large group gatherings still held a place in his ministry, but it wasn’t as prominent as it was just five years ago.
These changes and shifts are happening on not just his college campus, but others around the country as well. Large group gatherings don’t have the “pulling power” that they used to for younger people. My own alma mater saw a 50% decline in attendance at the college ministry large group gathering over the last five years while school enrollment steadily increased.
How Can Churches Reach Young People?
What does this all mean? For starters these ministries will necessarily need to change their approach in order to survive, even thrive. The always-sharp, technologically savvy team at LifeChurch.tv has picked up on this and is making an effort to bring LifeChurch to college campuses. Why? From the LifeChurch.tv blog:
God has put a passion in our hearts for college students. We could not be more excited about what he has in store for us in this opportunity. I believe that college students are in a unique place. They gather just about every day in a central place. They are connected to each other in more ways than many other people groups. They are passionate, creative and just plain awesome. We have the opportunity to give them a place to belong and a place to grow in their relationship with Christ while theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re away from home.
This is a huge opportunity and one that weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re uniquely positioned for. Church Online is everywhere. We have been blessed with leaders and volunteers from all over the world, many near colleges and universities. With some time and a lot of effort, I believe that we can create something unique to reach college students where theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re at.
Some Pro-Active Steps
A few thoughts when reflecting on their vision:
- What if we stopped complaining and whining about how young people/college students and gave them the resources that allowed them to join the church no matter where they lived?
- Churches learned from the models that are working on campuses across the country and began to shift in focus towards more “cluster” groups? Providing resources online to allow these groups to thrive and grow where they already are?
- What if we saw this as our chance to invest in a younger generation using tools that they know and are comfortable withÃ¢â‚¬â€œFacebook, Twitter, YouTube, chat rooms, etc.?
- What if translating the message of Christ to college students necessitates we begin speaking the language of “digital”? Any good missionary knows that to reach a people group, you must first be able to communicate. Most times that includes knowing the language. Can you speak “digital”? You’ll need to.
Keep in mind that the college students of today will be the church attenders of tomorrow. These young people will be the ones who will “take the torch” from the current generation and build upon the foundation that has already been laid. Also keep in mind these young people will build in the way that makes the most sense to them, not necessarily what has worked in the past. This is a generation that has tried on the armor of Saul and found, much like David, that it doesn’t quite “fit.”
Next time you’re on a college campus, stop and look around. These young people will be the ones shaping, molding and driving a completely new model of ministry.
Are you ready for that?