In just a week or so, college students from across the country will go off to their campuses and begin their classes. What are we doing to prepare them for this new adventure? Are they spiritually ready? Continuing the campus ministry question and answer series, Josh Ball gives us his thoughts. He is the campus minister at the Fishinger and Kenny Church of Christ in Colubmbus, Ohio.
Why do you think campus ministry is important?
Campus ministry is a tremendously important outreach in the Lord’s church that I wish more people understood. To say it simply, it is important for guiding young Christians to make their faith their own, and it is important for evangelizing to non-Christians in an impressionable time in life. In our college ministry at Ohio State, I claim two distinct but overlapping areas of focus: edifying the faithful, and evangelizing to those who are not.
For students who have been raised in the church, the transition from home to a non-Christian college is significant. At home, ideally there is an expectation of faith and discipline. Away at school, if a young Christian doesn’t carry those qualities with them, they will likely fall away. College ministry seeks to encourage those who are learning their faith, and to build up those whose faith continues to grow.
The transition from home to college for students who have not been raised in the church is a wonderful opportunity for evangelism. These young people, like their Christian friends, are re-evaluating themselves and what they believe. This is a perfect time to introduce the Word of God to them, especially through their Christian peers. College is a sweet spot in life where questioning, curiosity, and self-reflection all come together, and the gospel can make a great impact.
Why is campus ministry important? Because if we don’t do it, we can lose our young people to the world and miss out on bringing souls to Jesus.
Of all the obstacles that college students deal with, what do you see as being the most prevalent?
In my opinion, there are two equally dangerous problems Christian students face:
The first problem is apathy. Apathy is a universal problem for young people in college. Spiritual apathy in Christians is unfortunately much too common, and is ultimately deadly. I’ve seen students become spiritually apathetic for many reasons. Some gradually fall away because they get into the habit of not attending worship due to an unmovable class. Others have the same result from joining voluntary clubs, fraternities or sororities that have scheduling conflicts with the church. Some students slip into sin like sex or alcohol and stop attending initially out of shame. Then there are those who are just lazy and don’t bother. Students must fight against apathy, no matter what causes it, to stay faithful.
The second problem is denominationalism. There are over 100 denominational religious groups that are established at Ohio State next to our Buckeyes for Christ, and all of them are calling out for the same students as we are. Several of these clubs look very appealing to those not careful and grounded in the Word of truth. When we read the Bible, we see that how we worship and who we worship with matter. We fight this obstacle by lovingly teaching about the distinctive nature of the church, and the true unity we can only find in it.
Any resources you recommend for students at the university level?
For general religious books, I tend to avoid recommendations as I don’t care for them myself, and it is tedious to parse through them to separate truth and falsehood. There are some books in the brotherhood that I feel are wonderful though. One book series I find very encouraging for our students is the Truth for Today Commentary Series, edited by brother Eddie Cloer. What is wonderful about this commentary series is their practical application sections for every chapter. This is particularly useful for students who lead Bible studies or devotionals.
To answer more broadly though, the greatest resource students can find outside of the Lord himself is his church! I am blessed to work at a congregation where so many members are active in getting to know our students, and to show love and care for them. Our church members take our students out to eat, invite them into their homes, and pray for them daily. To students, I urge you to get plugged into your congregations as much as possible. To churches, do everything you can to welcome these wonderful people into your hearts and homes. When students are engaged with the church as a whole, everyone benefits.
Advice to youth ministers and parents as they prepare their child for college?
Do your research when it comes to universities and college ministries and have your child participate in the search. Once or twice a year I will hear about a student who has been in our area for months or even years at a time whom we have never met nor seen before. The more active you are in encouraging their faith long-term, the more likely they will follow that path. Beyond that, live faithfully, pray, and continue your good works!
Joshua Ball and his family live in Columbus, Ohio. A graduate of Freed-Hardeman University, he is the campus minister for Ohio State and it’s surround colleges. He works with the Fishinger and Kenny Church of Christ.