College students are one of the most strategic groups to reach for the kingdom of God. Every year, they congregate across the U.S. in major university cities, are trained for their careers and are sent everywhere in the world. 

What if college students were not only equipped for a job or lifestyle, but were also engaged with the gospel of Jesus Christ and mobilized for mission across countries? If you reach college students, you’ll reach the world.

From mission field to mission force

“Thank you for telling me Jesus came to save me. If I didn’t hear in college, I don’t know that I ever would have.” 

A friend named Z, who is an international student from China studying in the U.S., said this to me recently after we read the Bible together. Before coming to the U.S. for college, she had never heard that Jesus died for her sins and offered her new life with Him. 

She now wants to tell her family back home how Jesus died for them, too. 

Jesus says in Luke 10:2 that “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” What if college students aren’t just the harvest but also the laborers? When students have the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel, God can leverage their faith and flexibility for His kingdom in radical ways.

The college campus is a mission field. Every student is trying to figure out who they are, what they believe in and what they want to do with their lives. They are desperate for truth and leadership. What better time to reach them with the gospel and discipleship?

My friend Kirsten, now a sophomore, had grown up in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until college that she understood the gospel and decided to follow Jesus for herself. She is now an editor for the school newspaper and has started intentionally having spiritual conversations with one of her coworkers, Jenna. 

Jenna grew up Catholic but hadn’t heard the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection to save her from her brokenness. Kirsten shared the gospel with Jenna, and the two started reading the Bible together. As Jenna learned more about who Jesus is and what He has done for her, she surrendered her life to Him. 

Since then, Jenna has become an active member in her local church and is reaching her college for Christ.  

Last year, Kirsten and Jenna participated in a summer project through their church, called the Acts 1:8 Project, where they were able to serve with a church plant and learn from pastors and staff in their local church. For the last two weeks of the Acts 1:8 Project, they flew to a major city in South Asia, where they had the opportunity to share the gospel together with students who had never heard of Jesus. 

Life-on-life discipleship

While some say college is where faith goes to die, Kirsten and Jenna’s stories show the opposite. God is reaching college campuses and sending students to the nations. That is why it is crucial that we not only reach college students with the gospel but also disciple them to know, love and obey God and to teach others how to do the same. 

Life-on-life discipleship, in step with the Holy Spirit, is how college students go from lost to laborers. No one becomes a missionary only by hopping on a plane and going to another country. It is through practical discipleship that they learn how to be disciples who make disciples wherever they are and wherever God sends them. 

Another student named Leah has been serving in our local church. After going overseas this past summer, her heart was burdened for the unreached, and she decided to start praying to go two years when she graduates. In the meantime, God is preparing her now by giving her an opportunity to read the Bible with an international student at her university. She has used her God-given desire to reach the nations to inspire that same desire in her friends. 

As Romans 10:14-15 says, “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” College students are not just a mission field waiting to hear the gospel — they are also a powerful mission force, ready to be sent to the ends of the earth for the glory of Christ.

by Lauren Atkinson, college resident, Two Cities Church