I remember having a conversation with my minister of music and youth back in 2005. The topic? How to reach out to our college students.
Boone’s Creek Baptist Church is located in a rural historical area in SE Fayette County in a village called Athens. We are 1 mile off I-75, so we have close access to many homes. But we felt we needed to pray for and try to help those in our college aged bracket, seeing as how the age of 19 is the least represented age in our churches. What could our small, semi-rural, semi-suburban church do?Like most smaller churches, whenever our students went to college, they struggled in their attendance to our worship services. Y
Yet, in Spring of 2006 we had about seven or eight students who visited our church. They found our church on the 9 Marks church search website, so they gave us a try.
And I thought we would never see them again. Why?
I fell into a bad mindset that, to be honest, was fed by two things:
- Thinking we had to reorganize everything to ‘reach’ this demographic (style of music, architecture, style of preaching, etc.);
- Worry that our congregation at that point was mostly elderly. I didn’t think we could ‘connect.’
There were other reasons that I won’t go into, but needless to say, we were really wanting to reach this rather absent age bracket in our church.
What happened next I can only attribute to being an act of God. When the following semester (August 2006) rolled around, suddenly 15 college students showed up for Sunday School and church. In a few weeks, that number doubled. At one point in the last four years, we had approximately 50-60 college students coming, which was about 30-40% of our morning worship attendance.
Two of the leaders of this group was a young man named Kenneth Clayton and Kellyn Barker (now Clayton). They invited other leaders like Cameron Potts, Bo McMillan, and Clay Tabor, who then invited others.
I asked Kenneth last year why they liked coming to Boone’s Creek. We sing mostly hymns, some choruses, with a choir. I preach expositionally through books of the Bible for the most part, as opposed to sermons like “Seven Steps to Better Grades,” or “Four Ways to Have Obedient Pets.”
He told me, in essence, that they were fed by the preaching and felt welcomed by the members there. They already had a solid fellowship amongst themselves with their involvement in the Eastern Kentucky University Campus Crusade for Christ. But they were committed to being involved in a local church.
Now that it’s 2010, some of them who first came are graduating and moving on. In that amount of time, I’ve had the pleasure of training four of them for the ministry, discipling many others, and have done numerous premarital counseling sessions with various couples, along with a number of weddings as well. It has been a wonderful time.
We now have about 30 students coming, and it has encouraged other young couples to begin attending because they see that the name of Christ and His Word are being exalted, and that there is life in service to the Lord here.
So be encouraged, small church leader. You do not need a lot of bells and whistles to attract college students. You need to love God, love His Word by preaching it boldly, share Christ, and love the people that walk through that door. Give them an outlet to service in ways where their infectiousness can be seen by others who visit.
Just some thoughts. I’d welcome some of yours as well.