There is a Gap Between Passionate Students and the Mission Field.
Throughout history we have seen groups of students join causes, start movements and create social, political, and spiritual change. Today’s students are just as passionate and just as eager to leave a mark on the world, but all that passion needs to be directed in constructive ways (Phil 3:6, Rom 10:2,)
At the same time, mission agencies around the world have vibrant and vital works that will soon run into leadership voids as seasoned missionaries begin to return home. They need younger leaders to join teams, ready to learn from experienced workers, and ready to further the work of the gospel. Without ministries that develop students who are mature in their understanding and practice of evangelism, discipleship, Bible study and prayer, it will be hard to produce the next generation of laborers for God’s global harvest.
Between these groups stand influencers like you and me who can help bridge the gap between students’ passion and missions agencies’ need for mature leaders. You are in a prime position to, not only shape students spiritually, but to guide them to understand their role in the Great Commission and to challenge them to live it out. There is no better platform from which to build a bridge right into the mission field. Will you raise up students to go to the nations, meeting a variety of global needs, and stepping into the innumerable opportunities waiting for them? The harvest is still plentiful and the workers are still so few (Mt 9:37).
There are three ways you can “bridge the gap” and connect students to the global needs of the church:
- Grow mature, healthy believers with ministry experience
- Develop a deep-rooted sense of global vision
- Partner with proven missions agencies as you guide students to great missions experiences
First Bridge: Grow Mature Healthy Believers on Campus
As our world grows smaller and more connected, short-term mission experiences are more accessible. This means students can pursue missions earlier in their spiritual journey. Yet they often go overseas lacking practical ministry experience.
My friend Steve once asked, “Billy, you say you want to go overseas. Are you sharing your faith here? Are you building relationships with internationals here? Do you know how to study the bible on your own? If not, what makes you think buying a plane ticket will change those habits in your life?” Steve asked this early in my mission journey and it had a profound impact on both my personal growth and the way I coach others.
As campus ministers, you have the opportunity to ask your students some tough questions. When it comes to missions and their plans for ministry after college, help them think through what it means to develop their “ministry toolbox.” Challenge them to consider how they will bring value to a team overseas. How can they begin preparing now for what God has in store for them tomorrow? (see Vision of a Graduate for ideas) Help them to share their faith, to reproduce disciples who reproduce, and to find their most strategic role in reaching the nations (see Habits that Change the World). How can missions affect their devotionals, the books they read, the ways they serve at church, the ministry they do on campus? As they live out missions on campus, God will be preparing them to serve in his global mission for a lifetime. This will help them to thrive (instead of just survive) on the mission field.
Second Bridge: Develop Global Vision
Through bringing God’s mission into your ministry
Choose an unreached area of the world you can adopt as a ministry, and spend time discovering what the reality of the gospel is among that people. What would it take for the gospel to truly penetrate the hearts of those peoples? How many workers are needed? How could you begin praying for this group? How could you bring this group into your weekly gathering? What part could your ministry play? Help your students consider taking on this mission actively. Operation World and JoshuaProject.net are great resources to help.
Through Pre-field Coaching and Training
Neil graduates in May. He has already been on three short-term trips to East Asia and wants to join an agency to go back for two years. Neil wants to plug right into long term work, which means he would be working with missionaries who have had months of ministry training, possibly years of language study, and a significant amount of cross-cultural experience in their country. We have to help Neil see the value of things like pre-field training, language learning, and adapting to a new culture. These steps can feel unnecessary for students who have already experienced short-term service. However, the greater vision is for Neil to be well prepared for a positive 2 year experience that could lead to a longer term and a lifelong commitment to missional living.
Through Processing Their Missions Experiences
Short term mission trips are the greatest recruiting tool you have to cast vision for God’s global Kingdom. Yet, these experiences are usually not used to their fullest potential.
The accessibility and frequency of short term mission trips today can lead to students checking missions off their “List-of-Christian-things-to-do.”It is important that you help students connect their mission experiences to their daily relationship with God and ministry back on campus when the trip has ended. Their new perspective of God’s heart for the world should shape how they view God, what God might be doing in their lives, and to their next steps in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Third Bridge: Partner with Proven Missions Agencies
I met Rachel after speaking at a campus meeting about the world Christian movement and the tremendous needs that still exist. She came to me excited to share about how she was going to be working with orphans in western Africa that summer. I was thrilled that she already had a “next step.”
Unfortunately, the more we talked the more red flags came up. She didn’t know when she was going, how long she would stay or any specifics about what she would be doing. Then she confessed that, after the initial contact, she couldn’t get the agency to email her back and couldn’t find any other way to contact them on their website. Finally I asked her how she found them. Her answer: “Google.”
As a campus minister, you can help your students by building relationships with mission agencies that are trustworthy. Ask around and find out what experiences your local churches have had with different agencies. Bring some of the best mobilizers into your ministry to speak (like EveryEthne and The Traveling Team) and let your students learn from their experience and wisdom. Both are also usually available to meet with individual students. Don’t leave your students’ mission experiences in the hands of a search engine.
As we help students grow in their knowledge of God and in understanding the needs around the world, it is exciting to see how their passion and energy fuels the Christian movement. God will use their passion and energy in great ways. Church history tells us this. By learning valuable ministry skills on campus, gaining a larger picture of God’s heart for the world through missions experiences, and by connecting to proven missions agencies, our students will be the next generation of world changers, church planters, community developers, and missionary leaders. They will fill the tremendous need for laborers among the least-reached peoples of the world and will help complete the Great Commission. Let us help them in this great endeavor, remembering there is no greater mission they could give their lives to than taking the gospel to every tongue, tribe and nation.
Questions for Discussion
- How does your ministry serve as a bridge to getting students to live out God’s global mission? How could you see more on mission with God?
- What could you do to start cultivating more missionaries in all the areas of God’s global harvest (i.e. church planters, medical missions, logistics, teaching, business as mission etc not just campus ministry)? What could you do to develop relationships with proven agencies that will help them?
- Have you identified students in your ministry who are interested in missions? What principle or idea from this article could you implement with them?
Billy Dempsey is a Mission Mobilizer for United World Mission. Meet Billy and all our CMJ authors here.