The following article appeared in the November 2009 print issue of the “Christian Chronicle”, an “international newspaper for Churches of Christ” whose mission is “to inform, inspire and unite”. The article was written by Chris Blair, who ministers to students on the campus of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, while serving as the Campus Minister for the Huntsville Church of Christ. This article is reprinted with the gracious permission of Chris Blair and the Christian Chronicle.
I think you will be inspired.
A simple sign can point a campus to Christ
Sam Houston State University has more than 16,000 students and is one of the fastest-growing universities in Texas. But very few students — even in our best, exaggerated estimates — are involved in any Christian organization on campus.
As a campus minister, this bothered me. I took inventory of what Christian organizations on campus were doing, and I discovered many strings attached to their evangelistic activities. “Here, have a free hamburger, but you must take this little flier that will tell you all about us and how you can really be involved.” Or, “Come to our building for this cool event, and please fill out this form so we can harass — I mean, contact — you when you don’t come back.”
It seems like students always are waiting for the catch. They are leery of the hidden hook, the bait and switch. They think with regularity, “What do I have to do for this group that I’m obviously not a part of so I can get the thing I want?”
The thought occurred to me, “What would it look like if I just made myself available for students with no strings — nothing in it for me or for our Kats for Christ campus ministry?”
It couldn’t be big. I knew it had to be consistent — students see right through inconsistency and insincerity.
I knew it had to be about the kingdom of God. The dominant image in my head was Luke 13:21 — the kingdom of God “is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
I decided to try something simple. In the fall of 2007 I went on campus every day for a couple of hours with a sign that read “Need Prayers? I will pray for you.” I took the sign, sat next to it and waited.
I saw God use this little sign to bring students closer to him in little — and big — ways. Students came asking for prayers, advice, wanting to talk and even wanting to pray for me. They told me how encouraging the sign was to them. Many were ready to talk about God, church, Jesus, religion and life.
Students who would never dream of coming to our Kats for Christ building on campus — much less any church in town — felt comfortable enough to ask me questions like, “Why are Christians such hypocrites?” Or, “How do you approach teenage pregnancy?” Or, “Do you think God will be mad at me if I get a divorce?”
Granted, these are not the first questions they asked. But, over the course of a whole semester, God drew them closer and closer through this little prayer sign — and through someone willing to be available.
I continue to sit next to the sign four days a week. I read a book or prepare for class. And I wait. Some students approach me after a night when their world seemed to come crashing down. They say something like, “I have seen you out here for a long time. I’ve never come by, but last night I remembered you and decided to come by. I need your prayers.” And then God’s presence opens up on the spot as our conversation continues — with no strings attached.
I try to stress that I’m not recruiting for a campus ministry. Nonetheless, several students have come to Kats for Christ activities as a result of the sign. In fact, one of the first two people to ever come by ended up being really involved in KFC. Others have come to our retreats, Wednesday classes, Thursday devos and homemade pizza nights.
The mission field on college campuses is ripe. My suggestion for anyone who feels a burden for campus ministry is to just make yourself available to the students God sends your way. Invest in them with no hidden agendas, no secret motives. Do it for the sake of God’s kingdom.
Our ministry to students should not point them back to us — our fliers, our programs, our organizations. Nor should we make it our goal merely to fill church pews with students. Our actions should point students to Jesus alone. And, as Jesus says in John 12:32, when he is lifted up from the earth, he will draw all people to himself.
After I pray with students on campus, I may never see them again. But God sees them every day. For a moment in their lives, God chooses to use this little prayer sign to advance his kingdom. He has given me a small glimpse into how he slowly is changing students’ lives on our college campuses. I praise him for this opportunity.
CHRIS BLAIR is campus minister for the Huntsville, Texas, Church of Christ. For more information on Kats for Christ, see www.katsforchrist.com.
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