NASHVILLE (BP) – As college students begin the new school year, North American Mission Board leaders Shane Pruitt and Paul Worcester are encouraging and challenging college students returning to campuses to plug into community as well as live on mission.
One of the ways Pruitt, national NAMB’s Next Gen director, and Worcester, national director of Collegiate Evangelism, are exhorting college students is through virtual conferences meant to equip them to live as a Christian while in college.
Both men will be speaking Tuesday (Aug. 31) during a virtual back-to-school event put on by Every Student Sent, an evangelical organization that focuses on connecting Christian college students to local churches and campus ministries.
Every Student Sent ministry partners include the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as other evangelicals organizations such as CRU, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Navigators. The ministry aims to reverse the trend of young adults leaving the church after college.
The virtual conference, which starts at 7 p.m. Central, is designed for high school students, college students, parents and student pastors. A registration link can be found here.
Worcester said he encourages Christian college students to view their time on campus not simply as something to survive with other Christians, but rather as a time to live on mission with other Christians to grow in community and reach unbelievers.
“A Christian student going into their classes, to the dorm room or to their major as a missionary can be such an awesome witness for Christ when they’re on campus,” Worcester said. “The best people in the world to reach college students are other college students.”
“Although the expression may look different from campus to campus, the one thing college students must do is be a part of a local church. And it’s also helpful to be a part of some type of collegiate ministry where they have peers and mentors that are investing in them. My advice is that they are both a regular part of a local church and some type of a campus ministry. The way to discover God’s will for your life personally is to get in on God’s will in general.”
Worcester went on to say churches also have a responsibility to help those entering college connect with local churches and ministries.
“As the church we’re often bobbling the hand-off from the youth ministries to the college ministries,” Worcester said. “Those first few weeks or that first month that a student goes to college is one of the most important times to reach them, and you almost have to re-reach them with the Gospel and church community. Many of them are looking for friends, they’re looking for community, and they’re looking for belonging, and they’re going to get it somewhere.”
Pruitt echoed this sentiment that there is an “obligation,” for student pastors and parents to assist college students with the transition of ministries, although the ultimate responsibility will fall with the students.
Biblical teaching and relationships are most often what keeps college students coming back to church, Pruitt said, which is why it’s key for college students to get involved with community as soon as they arrive on campus.
“Strong Bible teaching with a practical way of living it out are really important as well as relationships because college students travel in groups,” Pruitt said. “It’s easier for a student to plug in and stay plugged in if they do so as a group. That will add immediate accountability as well.
“That’s my challenge to college students is to plug into a local church or a BCM right away and don’t wait.”
Pruitt and Worcester also recently hosted a webinar designed for college students titled “Pursuing Spiritual Awakening on Campus.” The webinar featured prominent Southern Baptist voices including SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Ronnie Floyd, who has emphasized the need for prayer for spiritual awakening during his tenure at the SBC EC.
The unique challenges of this year, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, is what Pruitt said has really prompted these strategic efforts to encourage and equip college students to get involved on their campus.
Not only are freshman entering college campuses for the first time, there is also what he referred to as “fresh-mores,” who are in their second year of school but not yet familiar with campus life because of online classes last year.
Regardless of the circumstances, Pruitt hopes through the Every Student Sent event, students and pastors learn more about how to live on mission as they begin this season of life in college.
“Students should see their college as a mission field and see themselves as missionaries, and they are being sent with a Gospel that still works,” he said.