Anyone attending Grace Covenant Church lately has probably noticed the multiple rows filled with “Gen Z’s.” God has blessed GCC with an unprecedented influx of college students for the Fall 2018 school year. These students have expressed an appreciation for GCC’s expository preaching, the worship, and the fellowship of believers who are anxious to speak into their lives in a deeper way.
The elders recognize that the number of students visiting this year is one we have not seen in the history of GCC. According to Pastor Joel, “It’s a stewardship opportunity that cannot be overlooked.” The elders have already reached out to these students by starting a weekly bible study on campus, providing transportation to the Sunday worship service, and hosting college lunches and discussion groups targeted towards the students.
Why is this ministry important? Ultimately the desire is to integrate college students into the life of the church. Pastor Joel notes this can sometimes be difficult since their particular situation naturally leads them away from this goal. “Often college students don’t see a need for the church because there are so many ‘spiritual activities’ on campus. But these activities are not a substitute for the bible’s emphasis on long-term relationships with a wide range of ages and types of people within the Body of Christ.”
Some might question the need to devote resources towards a group that already has access to daily chapel services and classes that teach theology and biblical literacy. But Pastor Joel challenges the congregation to expand their thinking. “We are concerned with handing down our faith to the next generation. Typically there is a gap in churches of college students and single twenty-somethings. They often don’t put their involvement in a local church as a top priority. While these young believers often return when they are married or start their families, it is our desire to fill the gap during the time church involvement is not as common. They are our next group of leaders.” Joel goes on to comment that most of these students won’t be staying in the Dayton area and won’t be part of our church long term. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be investing in them. Their time at GCC allows us to teach our biblical ecclesiology. They will be able to carry our ministry mindset wherever they go in the world furthering the Great Commission.”
According to Pastor Joel, there are many ways members can also serve these students.
The elders encourage people to make an effort to introduce themselves to the students after Sunday School or the worship service. Invite the students over for lunch or out to eat with your family. Assist the Clauson’s by bringing some food and attending one of the regular college lunches hosted in their Xenia home. Offer to help with practical needs a student might have such as a ride to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment. Think in terms of integrating them into your family activities and outings, but don’t be hurt if they refuse. College students are often over-committed and short on time. It might take some special efforts to become involved. Care packages with homemade baked goods and a note of encouragement around finals week can have a huge impact.
The goal of these small steps is an eventual discipleship relationship. Offering your time to provide accountability and prayer as these young people navigate a new stage of life can be an important part of their spiritual growth.
The Disciple Groups are also encouraged to become involved. The elders will be inviting regularly attending college students to sign up as part of a program that partners the DG’s with the students. DG’s will commit to praying for their assigned students and reaching out to them in practical ways. Even though the students may not be able to attend the weekly meetings, DG members should think of ways to connect with the students each month.
Pastor Joel reminds us that one thing everyone can do is pray as he encourages the students to attend the Intro to Grace class and eventually become formal members of our church body. May their fellowship in our midst reap lasting rewards to the Kingdom of God.