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Why the College Campus? Pt 5

November 23, 2022

This is the final article of a five part series. Click here for Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.


The Columbia River flows across the Pacific Northwest. It’s one of the largest sources of hydropower in the United States. Along this mighty river are a series of hydropower dams. The dams are massive structures that create large walled barricades across the river. As the water flows over the dam, it turns generators creating electricity. It’s an engineering super feat! The only problem is that these dams block fish, particularly salmon, from traveling upstream to return to their spawning grounds. To fix this problem, each dam has a fish ladder built in which provides a way for fish to swim upstream. Oversimplified, the ladders are a series of switchbacks allowing fish to swim up the dam and into the next section of river. At the Bonneville Lock and Dam on the Columbia, there is a place on the fish ladder where they are able to monitor and count every fish that comes upstream in order to maintain data on species population and migration. In order to ensure they can view and count the fish as they pass through, they narrowed the ladder to only two feet wide. At the visitors center, there is a place where you can view the ladder through a wall of underwater windows,. This is the place where every single fish that swims up the Columbia River passes and you can see them! The entirety of the Columbia River is shrunk down to a four-foot-wide channel making it the easiest and most strategic place for ichthyologists (fish scientists) to spot diseases, doctor and tag fish, and ensure the survival of the next generation.

The college and university campus is the four-foot-wide channel for our society! It is the place where everybody comes and is around the same group of people trying to achieve the same thing. Where else can you find a place where thousands of people about the same age live and interact in a mostly closed circuit all within a one- to two-mile radius? In any other context that would be considered a cult! This is the only time in a person’s life where they are mostly secluded from any other consistent influence of other generations. Before, they lived with their parents in a multi-generational setting. After college, they will join the workforce and spend 40+ hours a week in a multi-generational environment where people are in different stages of life, have different goals, and are asking different questions. Eventually they will have families of their own and the cycle repeats.

But the college years are the only time where almost everybody they interact with is asking the same questions. Who am I? What am I going to do with my life? Who am I going to marry if I marry? What career will I pursue? When COVID-19 hit the US in the spring semester of 2020, one of the first places to be evacuated was our college campuses. Why? Because disease spreads where thousands of people congregate and live that closely together. COVID-19 in a residential hall could infect 200 college students within a few hours. 

The reality is that it’s not just physical diseases that spread quickly on the college campus! It’s not just herpes that spreads like wildfire. Whole ideologies start on the campus! There is a reason so many of the movements throughout history have started on the college campus and spread. Imagine if a gospel movement starts on campus. It spreads quickly throughout the campus, because of the monogenerational nature of the campus and similar stages of life each of the students are in. Not only does it spread quickly, but it is set to be exported because of the transient nature of the college campus. Everyone who comes eventually leaves and moves on to the next place. The college campus is already set up to be a missionary sending agency!

How would our churches and ministries look differently if we viewed college ministry as a strategic mission field instead of the “Samaria” of our town—overlooked and ignored at best, despised and hated at worst? How would our nation and the world look different in ten years if we stopped looking at the university as a place we “lose” our church kids to and started looking at it as the place we send our missionaries to and send missionaries out from?  

Reflective Questions:

-Do your graduates leave with a “sentness” to be missionaries in whatever is next for them?

-What churches, ministries, and partners do you have that you can connect your graduates with?

-Are you asking your graduates to consider giving one to two years back to invest with you on the college campus in order to see the next group of students impacted with the gospel? Don’t pray for more workers for the harvest field if you aren’t going to even ask your own students!

This is the final article of a five part series. Click here for Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.