Straight To The Heart
All of us yearn to be part of a campus movement that is exciting, growing, fun, and full of warmth and vision, right? But how do we get there? Does God mysteriously bless one ministry and withhold his anointing from another? Or are there principles He reveals in Scripture (and basic understanding of human nature!) we can apply to our ministries that will help build this kind of campus-wide movement? What would have to take place at your school so that your ministry is like a magnet ─ drawing hundreds of students from every corner of the campus, giving you what some call “irresistible influence”?
Students are Different
Admission #1: All students are different. They come to college with a pre-formed package of gifts, personality, family issues, goals, interests, and faith. They also are at different stages in their social and emotional maturity. I’ve worked with collegians for over 30 years and have learned that students always start off being part of one of these three groups:
- The Influencers (approximately 10% of the campus)
These are the mainstream students who come to college for the “campus life.” They want to socialize, join clubs, build a million friendships, and influence people. After a year they are right in the middle of things with an incredible network of relationships.
- The Interested (approximately 60% of the campus)
These are the midstream students that probably were never “big fish” in high school. They want to get involved, but don’t have as much confidence or experience and usually gravitate towards the groups connected with one of the influencers.
- The Isolated (approximately 30% of the campus)
These are the out of stream students who’ve tucked themselves away in a cove because it’s safe or just “checkin’ out college.” Perhaps they came from a dysfunctional home or simply would rather not socialize in groups. They’ll end up being lonely, but curious students until someone pulls them into the flow of campus life.
What’s at Your Core?
Admission #2: Most of the campus ministries at your school are made up of (almost exclusively) interested and isolated students looking for a social/spiritual refuge. As immature as it may sound, if a mainstream student came to one of those meetings, it would probably be their first and last visit! Have you ever observed a ministry where the core of that group is made up of influencers and they’re gathering more students than other ministries? Because of their focus, that kind of core will actually end up attracting and impacting even more interested and isolated students than if they had been targeting just those two groups in the first place!
Yes, we can go into denial and say, “Well, we’re interested in a lot more than just numbers.” Of course, but the key to your small-group and one-on-one multiplication is what kind of momentum you’ve built. The large group is the front door to what’s really going on inside. Momentum feeds multiplication and as you build deeply into student’s lives, they’ll in turn recruit to your large group. Your ministry can have both depth and breadth if you’ll direct your evangelism and discipleship toward the campus influencers.
The Bible Speaks
Where is this in the Bible you ask? When God chose someone in the Old Testament that could lead the Israelites and stand up to Pharoah, He selected Moses, who had credibility, experience, and wouldn’t be intimidated. In the New Testament, the Lord called a proven influencer with a long resume to establish churches all around the Mediterranean. He knew Paul would need extraordinary relational skills along with the confidence to confront kings. Here are four principles to ponder with Bible studies for each:
- How we view ourselves impacts how we relate to others (Numbers 13).
The 12 spies weren’t sent to the promised land to see if they should go in, but how! Ten froze with fear when they saw the giants and cried, “we became like grasshoppers in our own sight ─ and so we were in their sight.” Only Joshua and Caleb weren’t willing to back down. Don’t avoid the giants on your campus; they’re the ones we need to be targeting! Missiologists will tell you: win the chief and you win the tribe.
- Jesus said to focus on shepherds more than sheep (Matthew 9:36-39).
Jesus said “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” He didn’t then tell us to pray for more sheep, but more shepherds; people who have the spiritual, social, and emotional maturity to go beyond themselves to care about the needs of others. It’s not playing favorites when we select and develop these individuals ─ it’s what Jesus told us to do!
- The mature can connect with a broader spectrum of people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
Paul was willing to do and become anything he needed to win people. He believed he could relate to and witness to any person regardless of how high and mighty (or how down and out!) they were in the world’s eye. Paul possessed this perspective about himself and ministry ─ and so should we!
- We are to select faithful men who are able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).
Paul told Timothy to not only find “faithful men” to invest his life into, but men who would also be willing and able to pass it on to others. If we’re truly going to multiply ourselves, we must look for students who desire to reach out and influence others. Loners need not apply!
[Other passages to study: The Conversion of Cornelius ─ Acts 10; The Parable of the Talents ─ Mt. 25:14-30]
Believe It or Not
You may not agree, but the last two amazing truths I’ll share about this ten-percent slice of the campus called “The Influencers” are:
- They are the most unreached group on your campus.
No one wants to go after them. Hardly any of the ministries have these students involved, but instead are all battling over the ones that look safer or more responsive. Why not practice the “reach the unreached” principle in this culture like we do overseas?
- They desperately want someone to reach them.
Many of these students are really insecure and hiding behind their Greek letters, preppy clothes, heavy make-up, or cocky attitude. They may look like they have it all together, but many yearn for someone to see through them and be brave enough to enter their world on their turf. Go for it! Go straight to the heart of the campus and boldly plant the flag of Jesus Christ.
I pray you don’t feel overwhelmed by this. And it’s ok to have fears. I have them. But at some point in my campus ministry life I had to finally come to grips with “I’m 31 years old. When am I going to quit being intimidated by 19-year-olds?” So, don’t let fear control you or determine your decisions of which affinity groups on campus you will focus on. Walk toward your fears in the power of the Holy Spirit, deciding now you will not live or minister in your “comfort zone.” Tell the Lord today you will do whatever is necessary to have maximum impact on your campus, to not be satisfied with the safety of nibbling around the edges, but instead, to prayerfully, and boldly, go straight to the heart!