At many universities, the nations come to you. The University of Washington has over 100 different countries represented, which means you can be a cross-cultural missionary by knocking on the dorm or apartment door across the hall.
The variety of affinity groups is astounding as well. It’s easy to connect with someone over a common interest. (At UW, there’s even a Fried Chicken Club.) The options are endless.
Arguably the strongest connection, however, is life stage. Most students are experiencing radical changes in their lives, including unharnessed freedom, real responsibility, solidifying worldviews, and an increasing pressure to “get it together.”
The college years are an amazing time to be on mission, reaching your friends with the life-changing good news of Jesus. How? Here are some ideas, in no particular order:
1) Know non-Christians
It seems like common sense, but too many campus ministries are set up to babysit nice moralistic, hypocritical, youth group kids and create a bubble around them. As Christians, we have to be outward focused. As the Father sent Jesus, Jesus sends us into the culture. It’s so much easier to share the gospel if you belong before you ask people to believe. (John 20:21)
2) Think about where you will live
Make your living situation missional: meet new friends and build relationships to see students meet Jesus instead of secluding yourself with people who all act and think the same way you do. Grab a Christian friend and move into the wildest apartment complex in the neighborhood. Don’t conform, but be a movement of change in an area where it’s desperately needed.
3) Join the Greek system
There’s instant community established by living in the Greek system, and people in sororities and fraternities know everyone. Once you’re in, you become really well connected and are able to be on mission in an extreme environment. Yeah, I know: they sin a lot. So does everyone else in college. (1 Cor 9:19–23)
4) Get involved (not just at church)
Join a club relating to your major, hobby, or interest. Stop saying “yes” to every church obligation and begin seeking how the gospel can apply into all areas of life. Build relationships by playing intramural sports on a team without all your Christian friends.
5) Start a small group in public
Instead meeting in a house or apartment, start gathering in a coffee shop or study hall. This will not only allow you to support the local community, but it might also allow somebody else to eavesdrop on a worthwhile conversation.
6) Serve the community
Get involved with a local non-profit or service center. By serving the community alongside non-believers, you’re doing the work that Jesus calls us to do by being missional not only to the populations you’re serving, but also to the people you’re serving alongside.
7) Practice radical hospitality
College students aren’t known for being the most financially well-off or generous people around. Buying a classmate coffee or lunch is a small sacrifice that can speak volumes and make a huge statement in demonstrating grace. This could also mean driving the drunks home from a party and sharing the gospel with them the next day as you take them to get their car.
You have a few short years to reach people who will scatter throughout the world and live for something or someone. The key to being a missionary on a university campus is believing Jesus is worthy of every student’s worship, for his glory and our friend’s eternal joy!