College As a Mission Field
And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.–Mark 16:15
It’s that time of year again. Where a majority of us will be returning to college campuses to either begin our education or continue it. As I prepare for my junior year, I reflect on the beginning of my college education. I look back at the summer before my freshman year. A naïve high school graduate, I signed up to serve in Berlin, Germany for seven weeks before classes started. During that time in Berlin, we loved the refugee population. Went into the poorer areas of the city and restored buildings. Loved the women in the red-light district, helped with a children’s VBS camp, and partnered with other ministries.
Returning to America to start university no longer seemed like the best option when I knew that I had found my calling in missions. While in Berlin, my team read a book together called “Brown Like Coffee” by Steve Shadrach. One of the things that hit me the most while reading this book was a degree is not the reason why you should be attending university. The only reason why you should be attending university is so you can spread the gospel. Think about it for a minute. So many of us go to a place where there are thousands of college students in a tiny area, yet our biggest concern is the degree that we get. We are concerned over whether or not we meet the love of our life, and maybe having a job or two to hopefully graduate with little to no debt.
What if I told you that the most important thing you can do during these four years is not get a degree, but spread the gospel. Sounds scary, right? That’s what I thought when I finished “Brown like Coffee.” Since birth, I have been taught that getting my degree is the most important thing that I could ever accomplish with my life. As a follower of Jesus, we are taught the opposite. We are taught that if we call ourselves followers of Christ, we are commanded to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” Everywhere. No calling to missions required. So, what does that look like? Here are a few tips that I have found useful while contemplating my purpose in college ministry.
- Sign up for a random roommate. Sounds crazy, right? While searching for the perfect roommate online, one of the top things could be Christian, right? I lived my first year in a suite with three other girls. While I didn’t get the chance to share the gospel with them, living with people helped me transition into building healthy relationships. Living with a non-Christian my sophomore year was one of the best things that happened to me. We were able to have spiritual conversations and by the end of the year, she started to attend church with me. All because of the seeds of curiosity and those late night conversations.
- Have lunch with a lonely kid in the dining center. Lunch conversations are the best! If you sit down at a table with only one or two people, they are highly unlikely to get up and leave for fear of being rude. Campus Crusade for Christ has this video called “Falling Plates” on YouTube (watch it, it’s awesome!), then ask the person what their thoughts are. There is also an app called God Tools that is produced by Cru and you are able to have a template of how to share the gospel. This is something that has been incredibly effective for many people that I know. Lunch time is a great way to meet introverts and bring the gospel to them. Don’t forget to leave your number with them in case they have any questions later on in the day or week!
- Pray for People. Never underestimate the power of prayer. I have shared the gospel with many people just by praying for them, in private and also in person. Just by asking a person if there is anything that they would like prayer for shows them that you are genuinely invested in their life. There are people who I have been praying for for years and just now, we are having spiritual conversations. If God is placing a person on your heart, there is a reason!
- Offer free five-minute conversations. This one is my favorite. There are some days when I will sit in a coffee shop and offer free, five minute conversations. Anyone is able to come and I listen to them. When people ask me if I have any questions, I will ask a question such as “what do you think about God” or another thought provoking question. By the end of five minutes, many people are left with that question burning in their minds. I have had wonderful follow up conversations which have led to prayer or the sharing of the Gospel.
- Ask people what are some things that people think about Christians. This one is the hardest because it is hard to hear answers and listen in love. So many college aged kids have been hurt by the church and by other Christians. I get it, I have hurt many people because of my own sinful actions. Broken people hurt broken people. But broken people can also reach broken people. As long as we are waiting for the coming of Jesus, there is going to be sin in this world. If you take the time to listen to these people and their hurts, apologize for what we have done. Apologize for the ways people have abused their faith. Donald Miller in his book “Blue Like Jazz” describes a confession booth where he sits and apologizes for how Christians have hurt people. 10/10 recommend that book just for that chapter. I do not use this tactic often. However when I do, I am blown away at the response from these people. Sometimes, the conversation ends. Other times, people begin to ask questions, hard questions, and allow me to pray for them. Sometimes, I get follow ups.
- When people ask you, proudly say that you are a follower of Christ. He died for you, wear that redemption proud! The greatest way to reach others is to live a life that reflects Christ. It’s a hard, narrow path, yet one that is the greatest testimony of all. Talk about Jesus. I know I do and I drive my friends crazy. But at the end of the day, talking about Jesus continues to open wider doors for the presentation of the gospel.
I’ve shared my faith with science professors, classes, friends, strangers, the girls in my dorm, my roommate, and other professors that I am close with. I am also going to be graduating with three degrees. Degrees in Music Therapy, German, and Honors with a minor in Psychology. My GPA isn't a 4.0, but I’ve learned when you seek the heart of the Lord above all else, He will make it possible for you to pass. I haven’t failed yet!
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. -Matthew 6:33