Much has been written about Gen Y and now Gen Z (just entering college). Tim Elmore offers excellent insights into the characteristics of both generations, growingleaders.com In campus ministry, some characteristics carry over into these upcoming generations.
- On college campuses in Texas, less than 5% are involved in a weekly Bible study or small group where spiritual growth is emphasized. Even when you consider those attending large group meetings, the percentage is no greater than 10% at best.
- Over 625,000+ are commuter students many living at home, balancing family, work and school. Major metropolitan areas have the vast majority of students.
- All students are digitally connected through social media such as texting, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. According to Elmore, “Generation Z prefers social networks like Snapchat, Secret and Whisper, and a quarter of 13 to 17-year-olds left Facebook in 2014.”
- Students entering college have grown up in a diverse, pluralistic culture. On the campus, the diversity intensifies. For example, The University of Houston enrollment consist of 29% white, 27% Hispanic, 11% African American, 20% Asian and 10% Internationals.
- No other place in Texas will one find the large number of people in one place, with one purpose open to interact with each other.
How are we engaging this generation?
To step on a college campus in Texas is to step into a different culture with its own rules and expectations. Thus, Texas BSM staff members are designated as missionaries who must know the characteristics and the gatekeepers of the culture and have a clear vision of why they are on the campus. The engagement is incarnational, broad based, highly relational with the goal of making disciples who make disciples. BSM staff’s role is equipping students in the process of making disciples as commanded by Jesus. Our priorities are evangelism, discipleship, missions, leadership development and church life.
No group on a campus will grow unless discipleship and evangelism are two sides of the same coin. Discipleship fuels evangelism and evangelism fuels discipleship. BSM has an inward focus of an intimate relationship with Jesus but also an outward focus of being like Jesus whose purpose was to “seek and to save the lost.”
Colossians 1:28-29 states, “we proclaim Him, admonishing everyone with all wisdom that we may present everyone complete in Christ, and for this we labor and strive according to His power that works mighty within me.”
This is accomplished through highly relational connections: one-on-one, in small groups and through a variety of avenues to engage non-believers. BSM students put their lives in the midst of a vast harvest field throughout the semester. The broader the seeds of the Gospel are sown on the campus, the greater the harvest (Luke 10:2).
Rather than a separate strategy, Go Now Missions is part of the discipleship process in Texas BSM. From local mission projects to serving around the world, missions serves as a catalyst in the discipleship process. The student is learning to trust God, understand how God is equipping them and seeing Him use them in ways never thought possible. The goal is to have a student return to their campus seeing that “the fields are white unto harvest” (John 4:35).
BSM consistently equips students to lead according to their gifting, personality and passions. Leaders are selected because they are growing followers of Jesus willing to in turn make disciples of fellow students. Training in sharing the Gospel, personal conferences with BSM staff, leading small groups, coordinating events at the BSM building and on campus that reach students for Christ, praying for the campus are a few expressions of the role of a leader in BSM. All leadership training is for the expressed purpose of growing mature disciples of Jesus who in turn make other disciples.
Since BSM is not a “parachurch” organization, but an extension of local Baptist churches on the campus, coordinating with and participating in the local churches is a top priority. When a student leaves the campus culture, BSM is not available. So, throughout college the student is encouraged and expected to connect with a local church as a means of their growth while in college and afterward. Also, the local church provides a weekly “prophetic” word from the pastor that reaches across generational lines.
How can churches join in this effort?
With over 1.5 million students in Texas, churches must place high value in reaching this generation. Ministry to students who go away to college, those who stay home and the vast number of students at the local community colleges, as well as developing your own collegiate ministry on a campus, are all needed from a variety of churches. The key is a commitment by the church leadership to reach college students. Often, the first ministry cut or reduced in our churches is the college ministry.
Consider what would happen if at least one church adopted a community college as a part of their mission field, just like adopting a people group overseas. “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers for the Harvest” (Luke 10:2).
For more information about Collegiate Ministry, contact us at (214) 828-5255.