One of the biggest challenges for church planters is the gathering of an effective core group. The planter is in need of more than warm bodies to fill those cold folding chairs in his basement. He needs devoted people who are passionate about the gospel and want to see it spread to their friends and neighbors. This group needs to have a pulse on the cultural context so they can effectively communicate gospel truth in understandable ways. These people need to be willing to stay up nights, talk to people they don’t know, go through a gauntlet of try and fail… Where would one find such a crack team of church planting missionaries? Every good church planter knows the answer needs to be “anywhere.” Everyone from the retired grandmother to the middle school teen can potentially add value to a core team. I would submit to you that one group that is ready made for this kind of ministry is college students.
I know what you’re thinking. We need tithers! It’s true that generous giving is a great need throughout a church’s life and that is never more felt than in the planting phase. While students don’t usually walk in with a stock portfolio, they do arrive with a wealth of other things they can leverage for the planting effort. Here are two: time and energy.
By God’s providence, we ended up planting our church MERCYhouse in 1999 with almost all college students. It seemed foolish at the time, but as I see our church become more multi-generational, I understand why college students were the perfect match for church planting in a very difficult context. To this day, the folks who show up more often and have the most enthusiasm about disciple making are college students and single twenty somethings. That doesn’t mean that others in the church aren’t excited or available. They’re just spreading their excitement and availability among many other obligations. This shouldn’t surprise us. Paul taught this truth in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34:
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.
Paul isn’t down on marriage (see Ephesians 5). He’s just being honest about who has the most time in their day to devote to gospel ministry. It’s single people. Who is the generation most likely to be single? It’s millennials, many of whom are college students. Why not harness all that energy and availability for the planting of churches?
Robert Krumrey is the founding pastor of MERCYhouse in Amherst, MA.