For the fourth and final part of our series on the roles of the local church and parachurch on a college campus, my goal is to address our need to respond to the biblical emphasis on local church ministry. I’ll keep it short, so if you have any other thoughts, feel free to leave a comment.
- For local churches, outreach to nearby campuses should be a higher priority. Don’t be passive about it! Investigate ways to make your church more “college-friendly,” such as offering rides to campus or having church families “adopt” college students. Also, be sure to educate the young people in your church before they head off to college…not only through teaching, but by expecting participation in the life of the church and encouraging relationships with adults.
- For parachurch organizations, local church involvement needs to be emphasized. The goal of your organization should be to funnel students into a local church. If your students are leaving you in favor of deeper church involvement, that’s a good thing. Encourage it.
- Students should make local church involvement a priority. It should rank as a higher priority than parachurch involvement. If you’re heavily involved in Cru but your only involvement in church is to show up on Sundays, you’ve got it upside down. Reverse your priorities and start obeying God. (Caveat: if there are no solid, Bible-preaching, gospel-centered local churches, I’d rather have you be heavily involved in a parachurch organization that is grounded in truth.)
A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been so bold as to encourage students to leave parachurch ministries in favor of a local church. I would have thought of the two merely as different options among a smorgasbord of perfectly good alternatives. But as time goes on, and as I study scriptures to see the church in action, and then see the effect my church has on me, I feel more and more comfortable saying that every student needs a church—not just a place to show up on Sunday, but a place to grow one’s roots deep. The church is the bride; the parachurch is the bridesmaid. We don’t go to weddings to marvel at the bridesmaids but to focus on the bride. So let’s make sure that we’re not neglecting the local churches that Jesus Christ came to establish.