Why Campus Ministries Need the Local Church - Radical

Why Campus Ministries Need the Local Church

For several years, we were both active in leading campus ministries. Cole started and led an interdenominational campus ministry with his friends at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Yasmine worked on staff with The Bible Talks, a reformed evangelical campus ministry at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.

We’re extremely grateful for our time in campus ministry as we’ve seen campus ministries play a vital role in reaching the lost on college campuses. However, college students need more than campus ministries––they need the local church.

The Role of Campus Ministries & Churches

Campus ministries play an important role in the spiritual growth of college students, but they need the support and partnership of the local church to effectively fulfill their mission. If campus ministries and local churches want to reach the next generation, they need to understand the role that they each play in the Great Commission.

Campus ministries can provide an excellent space for evangelism, community, and instruction, but they’re temporary. Every four years, students come and students go. Students may get saved in a campus ministry, but spiritual growth takes time.

Students may get saved in a campus ministry, but spiritual growth takes time.

Local churches are instituted by God. If you search the Scriptures, you’ll never find a reference to campus ministries, but you’ll find plenty that point to the local church. We should value the church because the Bible values the church. But, practically, the local church provides the context for young adults to observe faithful, older men and women who model Christian faithfulness and who can help these students spiritually mature. The church provides a Christian community that will always be available––while they’re on campus and once they depart.

Why Campus Ministries Need the Church

Scott Logsdon once said, “We’re not looking for a large harvest. We’re looking for fruit that remains on the last day.” Remember that the goal is not simply to see students come to faith, but to walk with lifelong faith in Christ.

By God’s grace, we were able to be faithful friends to these non-Christians, sharing the gospel, seeing them come to faith, teaching them the basics of the faith, and modeling the Christian life on their college campus. Both of us have invested in students who have come to faith through the labor of campus ministries and are now committed to the local church. But, we couldn’t do it alone. We needed the support of the local church to walk with these students. If students are going to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives, they need the church.

In 2019, Yasmine’s church in Durban experienced rapid and unexpected growth in the number of student attendance. Early on, the divide between the students and the rest of the church was very evident, especially since students came in groups and stuck to them. However, after praying and brainstorming, the church began to be more intentional to get to know the students. The congregation was encouraged to invite students to their homes for a meal, to introduce themselves to the congregation and start conversations, and to volunteer for men’s and women’s discipleship programs for these students.

It’s one thing to have college students at your church, and it’s another to make them feel welcome as members of the church. This gives them the best picture and experience of what it means to be part of a local church and a wider Christian community, outside the one on campus.

How Can Local Churches Support Campus Ministries

Sometimes, in this discussion, we can focus so much on the value of the local church that we neglect the ways that churches can support the work of campus ministries. We are thankful for campus ministries and their gift to the body of Christ. We pray that churches would consider ways that they could support campus ministries in their work.

Providing Pastoral Oversight for Campus Ministries

Churches can provide pastoral support for the leadership of the campus ministry. Of course, this works best when the leadership of a ministry belongs to the same church. But, we’ve seen churches come together to support a campus ministry. When Cole was leading a campus ministry, four churches partnered together to provide ministerial oversight over his ministry. By God’s grace, these college ministers helped ensure that the campus ministry consistently remembered its role in the Great Commission.

Making Church Facilities Available for Campus Ministries

Churches can open their facilities to these organizations. Campus facilities often are restricted in terms of what they can be used for and what times they are available. With the various exciting activities that student ministries organize, partnering with local churches to serve as secondary locations may allow the ministry leaders to attract more students and to diversify their activities and events.

Financially Supporting Campus Ministries

Student ministries, like most ministries, require financial support to keep gospel work going. The planning and executing of activities often require a lot of costs ranging from fuel to snacks and printing out flyers and other advertising materials. Students often have very little money to spare. Churches can practically partner with student ministries by financially supporting them, offering to provide the snacks needed for an event, and offering advertising material to be printed at the churches.

Working Together to Reach College Students

Campus ministry leaders and pastors, get to know one another. Build lasting friendships around the gospel. Instead of seeing one another as competition, view one another as a co-laborer. Work together to make and equip disciples for the spread of the gospel and to build up the body of Christ.

Yasmine Erasmus

Yasmine Erasmus works with City to City Africa and George Whitefield College in Cape Town, South Africa. She is a member of Coastal Bible Church in Muizenberg and previously worked on staff for The Bible Talks, a reformed evangelical campus ministry in Durban.

Cole Shiflet

Cole Shiflet is the content manager at Radical. He is a member of Redeemer Community Church and an M.Div. student at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.


That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Together we can change that!