Engaging Students on Campus
DATE POSTED: 07/18/2018  |     |   Category: Outreach

Stephanie Gates

Texas Baptist Collegiate Ministry believes that 95% of the over 60,000 Denton college students are not pursuing a relationship with Jesus. That means that 57,000 students that attend UNT, TWU or NCTC are not actively engaged in a relationship with Jesus. As culture continues to shift, we can no longer assume that students will just walk through our doors (at the BSM or at a local church). The numbers literally tell us that the majority are not coming, or that if they do come, they do not stay. In response to that, we must find ways to go to them. Many would say that we are in a post-Christian culture, which means that “the biblical story that once shaped culture is no longer the narrative that gives meaning to life.”1  We have to put intentionality into campus evangelism and outreach.

It is impossible for the BSMs and other Christian campus organizations to reach all of these students with the Gospel. Luke 10:2 tells us, “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Our hope is that the BSMs and our DBA local churches will continue to partner together to actively engage Denton college students with the Gospel where they are, on the campus. I have noticed that there can be some confusion for our local church members on how to interact with students when they participate in a BSM event or come to campus. In response to those observations and conversations I have had, I want to share some insight to help others better engage students on campus.

How can participating in BSM events help you engage students?

1.) Make a connection: When I first meet a college student, my main hope is to have a meaningful conversation with them. I want them to know right away that I care about them. Students already feel like an unseen number on campus so they long to be seen, heard and valued. Because students desire “real” they can spot “fake” a mile away, so when new conversations occur, they quickly filter each encounter through their skepticism.  Helpful tips to conversations with students have been included at the end of this article.

2.) Do not assume a student is a Christian: As stated previously, statistics tell us that 95% of students are not pursuing a relationship with Jesus, so we must keep that in mind as we talk to them. How does this understanding impact my interactions with students? First, as I talk with them, I look for opportunities to share the Gospel. Second, I need to be patient and recognize that while some will come to faith during a first conversation, most of the conversions we see happen on campus come through consistent and intentional time together. UNT students are interested in talking about spiritual things, and many are open to studying the Bible with you. They just need to be engaged and invited in. Third, as we get to know each other and talk about spiritual things, I look for ways to practice hospitality with them. I invite them into my life, to share a meal, to spend time in my home, etc.

3.) Develop a relationship before an invitation: One of the fastest ways to get dismissed by a student (Christian or non-Christian) is to make it appear that you are only talking to them to try and get them to come to your church. Before inviting them:

  • Get to know them. Ask questions and get to know them and allow them to get to know you! Students are drawn to people that genuinely care about them. Christ’s love in us sets us apart.
  • Be patient, it will take time. Most of the time, it’s probably best to wait until the second or third conversation with a student to invite them to your church. As mentioned before, we have found that students are coming to know Jesus through inviting them into friendships with us and studying the Bible with them. During that process, we can share the Gospel with them multiple times before they become Christians, but the Spirit uses our intentional and consistent investment in them as a way to reveal Himself to them.
  • Work to remember the students you have met before. Students will remember the people they have a real conversation with, and it can be frustrating if the same person keeps introducing themselves to them.

Every aspect of ministry at the UNT BSM is an opportunity to engage students with the Gospel. Our hope is that as churches partner with the BSM, we can provide opportunities to engage students where they are, on the campus. If you or your church would like more information on engaging students on campus through partnering with the BSM, please contact me at 940-387-6331 or stephanie@untbsm.com.

Things to initially AVOID when starting a conversation:

  • Family / Upbringing – many students have difficult family situations and it can be uncomfortable to talk about those things with a stranger.
  • Faith / Church – Your first question to a student should not be “where do you go to church?”
  • Politics and Controversial Topics

Good questions to use to start conversations with students:

  • What brought you to UNT?
  • What is your major? Why did you choose to pursue that degree?
  • What are you plans for after college?
  • Are you involved in any organizations on campus?

Helpful hints to pivot the conversation to the Gospel:

  • If a student is at UNT because of certain interests / degree plans: you can talk about how God has created us with interests, gifts, passions, and abilities.
  • Students will often say they just want a job to make money. Ultimately, they are looking for security.  This provides an opportunity to share how you have learned that hope is found in Christ.

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