As a young pastor, there’s a recent conversation I’ve had with a lot of my friends in ministry: where are our next generations of pastors coming from? Younger and older pastors are asking. I imagine it’s a burden that pastors have always had. After all, there is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9). But the problem is real. Youth pastor searches are difficult. Senior Pastor searches are even more so. And many of our parachurch organizations are earnestly looking for young men to mentor and “pass the baton” to. The church is looking for leaders to stand in the gap.
For the past few decades, we’ve had a model for developing and selecting pastors: we train up our Christian high schoolers and send them off to Christian colleges we trust. As we look for our next interns and pastors, we go back to those schools and recruit the students to come to serve at our churches. I’m thankful for this model. After all, I’m a product of it! But something has happened. Now, when we go back to the colleges we trust to look for these leaders and future pastors, the pool is small. There are not enough pastors to go around. It seems that many men are ignoring God’s call on their lives to full-time ministry. Now, we’re left wondering what we should do.
Before I share one practical solution to this major problem, I want to acknowledge some wonderful promises that we can claim.
Christ will build his church and cares about its leadership (Matt. 16:18; Matt. 28:19-20).
God knows that the laborers are few, and He will answer our prayers to send laborers into His harvest field (Matt. 9:37-38).
When we ask God for wise solutions, He will give us that wisdom if we ask in unwavering faith (James 1:5-6).
These are bedrock truths that we can rest on. And as we pray for wisdom, I want to share a couple of thoughts that could be part of the answer to our question.
God has called us as pastors to be disciple-makers who produce disciple-makers. We are to then equip our disciples to “do the work of the ministry.” I’m not looking to completely dismiss the model we’ve had in recent years, but we definitely need to rethink it. We need to consider how our churches could become better at making disciples and equip our own for full-time ministry.
I believe there’s one key pool of laborers that strong, fundamental churches have been missing: the secular college/university campus. In local universities, there are thousands of students who are potential disciples of Jesus. We need to reach them. Why could a campus ministry hosted by your church be part of the solution to our lack of laborers?
Campus ministry is strategic: Students are in a transitional period of life when they enter college. They’re trying to determine how they can make their most meaningful difference in the world. They’re also solidifying their personal beliefs. You and your church can give these students a doctrinal foundation and a direction to fuel their world-changing mentality: great commission work in the local church.
The pool is huge: If you have a campus near you, there are thousands of students there. Imagine how your church would change if you meaningfully reached just 10 of them. What if God calls one or two of those students to full-time ministry?
Our students are going there now: The fact of the matter is, more students from our churches are going to secular campuses. Let’s not give up on them, but support them as they live out their faith on campus. Equip your students to be Godly ambassadors for Jesus while they live in this real-world setting.
Student officers get ministry experience in real life: Student leaders are taught how to disciple others and prioritize God amid their busy college schedules. These students become well-equipped to be servant leaders in the local church.
There are global opportunities: International students are on nearly every campus. We are told to make disciples of all nations. The nations are coming to us!
Because it’s already happened before: As Fundamentalists, there’s a ministry that we’ve often missed out on. Although we wisely would hold some apprehension partnering with mainstream campus ministries (due to doctrinal disagreements, separation from local church ministry, and worldly compromise), there is one thing we should realize. They’ve discipled thousands of college students into full-time ministry. We have a lot to offer, so we should jump at the chance to get on campus and enjoy those fruits as well.
Christ is building His church and sovereignly calling and equipping men and women for service to Him. As he providentially orchestrates that work, I don’t want to presume that campus ministry is the only way that God will accomplish that work, but it is undoubtedly a strategic way. As you evaluate your community, is there a university campus in your backyard? If so, I challenge you to embrace that important mission field. Who knows? Your church’s next pastor might just be on that campus.
For more information on how you could start a campus ministry at your local college, check out the website for Cross Impact Campus Ministries at crossimpact.org.