My best planting work was always done in partnership with churches who were near the campuses that I served. But I didn’t dip my toe into church partnership until I had already worked as a missionary with InterVarsity for over 5 years.
I loved the churches around our campus and encouraged students to find a church home. I just didn’t realize that these churches could help out on campus beyond sending money our way and occasionally a speaker or two.
I want you to have an opportunity that I didn’t have. I want you to hear someone make the case for church partnership.
Here are 5 reasons you need to consider involving churches in your planting ministry:
1) The campus is their mission field too
God sent you to campus. Whether you’re an InterVarsity Staff, volunteer or student leader, we hope you walk on campus with a strong sense that God has placed you on your campus at this time for his big, kingdom purposes.
But God also sent churches to the city and towns where your campus is located. He’s given them a calling to make disciples in that neighborhood. I’ve often found that churches near our campuses long to minister to students and only need a small invitation and a small amount of guidance to get started.
When you’re planting LaFe ministry, one of the most important things you need to remember is that the mission to Latino students is God’s mission, not yours alone … and he cares enough about these students to send lots of folk, including churches, to reach them. Involving churches in your planting ministry honors the bigger mission of which we are a small but important part.
2) Students need abuelos
Students who come from families without a strong faith background miss out on the tremendous benefits that come from a relationship with our abuelos in the faith. And we in LaFe are often unable to give that to them. We can be hermanas and hermanos and even mother and fathers, but we don’t have many grandparents in LaFe.
Guess what … many of these churches near our campuses are full of abuelos who love the Lord, have walked with Jesus through hard seasons, and find themselves with free time. A wise planter could find ways to include them as mentors and supports to students who are connecting with a LaFe plant.
3) They have connections you need
Over the years I’ve met some of my strongest student leaders through my connections with churches near our campuses. Some of them have been trained in leadership in their youth groups. Others have been mentored by their pastors or wise leaders in their churches. Their connection with us is a way for them to live on mission during their season as a student. And they wouldn’t know about us if it wasn’t for the partnership their church had with LaFe.
Our local church partners have also connected us with faculty advisors, key administrators, financial partners, retreat locations, guest speakers, and cookies (lots and lots of cookies!!!). These connections helped our plants grow healthier and faster. And the leaders in the churches loved helping us make these connections.
4) They’ll be in the community for a long time
The average InterVarsity Staff stays in one place for 3-5 years. Student leaders graduate (hopefully!). But these churches near your campus will be there for a long time. Years and decades will pass and some of these churches will continue to minister right next door to the campus. If you make the bridge between the church and the campus, you lay the groundwork for 20, 30 or even 40 years worth of ministry on your campus.
One mark of our Latino community is that we care about our legacy. We honor our ancestors and our elders. And we want those who come after us to benefit from the way we lived today. Taking the time and making the effort to involve a church in your planting efforts is a legacy move.
5) Your students have something to offer the church
I know many of our LaFe students. They are gifted, talented and blessed by God. He’s equipped them to make kingdom impacts beyond their immediate campus context. The work that God’s doing in them has the potential to have ripple effects throughout the broader church.
I saw this so beautifully at a church in South Florida. They partnered with us on a re-plant at a community college. And as we met students on campus and gave them cookies, the students started participating in the life of the church. Their enthusiasm and spiritual hunger was infectious. All of the sudden, this church had new life. And both the church and the campus benefitted.
What other reasons can you think of to involve churches in your LaFe plant?
image credit:Aikawa Ke