What is every college student on your campus looking for? What is their deepest desire – the thing that they long for? What is the thing that often drives their decisions? Oftentimes, it’s the desire to belong.
In the fall of 2002 I was headed to North Carolina Central University to begin my college career. I hadn’t spent much time away from my family, so I was anxious about being on my own for four years. One of my deepest concerns was about making new friends. When classes began, I immediately noticed how others dressed, how they talked, and what they valued. Slowly, I began to adapt. I would develop a new set of values and motivations based off of what I saw around me, and if that didn’t work out, then I would just adapt again.
A desire to belong
Deep within me was a desire to be in a community with people who accepted me the way I was. I wanted a place where I could just breathe and be the real me – a place where I didn’t have to cover up my weaknesses. I wanted a place where my flaws, imperfections and insecurities would be accepted. I wanted to belong. I wanted authentic community. I wanted a family, and as a student, I wanted this from those on my campus.
This is common for many college students across the world. They want to belong – and they can.
“So, in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others,” (Romans 12:5).
A desire for community
College ministries have something other organizations on campus don’t – the ability to create gospel-centered community. These ministries can be a place where believers come together and find strength, love, hope, accountability and correction. It can be a place where shame is swallowed up by the grace that others extend – a place where needs are met. College students can find a place where the people of God can thrive as they seek to follow Jesus and spur others on toward maturity in Christ (Colossians 1:28). College ministries offer students a place to belong.
Scripture reveals to us that God’s desire from the beginning of time was to create a family (Genesis 1:28). He desired to create a community where everyone belongs – both to Him and to one another. It pleased the Father to create mankind to exist in fellowship with Him and with others. Through Christ, believers have a place to belong. They not only have a place to belong for the sake of just belonging, but a place to belong with a mission. God doesn’t invite us into community to merely co-exist, but rather, to live out the truths of His Word together.
A desire for the mission of God
Almost every organization on a college campus has a mission. The people who seek to belong to that organization are seeking to carry out its mission. Collegiate ministries and churches have a great opportunity to create a space for students to belong, but also to instruct them how to live on mission for God. This is an opportunity to create community that reminds students of the good news of the gospel and what it means for their lives.
As you seek to reach college students this year, remember that you have a great opportunity to invite students into community. You have an opportunity to paint a picture of what it means to be a follower of Jesus – to belong to a family that seeks to obey Christ and follow His mission for the glory of God.
For help implementing a college ministry at your church, please contact the Collegiate Partnerships team.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Darrick Smith is a senior consultant with the collegiate partnerships team of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. This article was originally published at ncbaptist.org.)