by Mitch Jolly, Pastor of Three Rivers Community Church, Rome, Georgia
One of my first memories of Bob Roberts and Northwood Church was a conference I was attending while a graduate student in Fort Worth. Bob told us about the local and the global and how they are not separate realities but that the local and the global are connected and that it’s not the professional ministry people who will be key in getting the work done, but the key would be those who engage their domains of society as agents of God’s kingdom. As a student I wanted to be one who engaged my domain of society, mobilized others to do the same and equip them for the work. I was a student being infected with the DNA of the kingdom at Northwood. It was not long until Bob and Northwood accepted me into the church-planting program and the infusion of the Northwood DNA began, and that DNA would be transferred to students like me all the way in Rome, Georgia.
As a graduate student Northwood was catching me at a prime time for harnessing one of God’s greatest seasons of life.
College students have long been catalysts for local and global good. Dwight L. Moody saw the fruit of college students when in 1886 his series of meetings led to one hundred college students pledging themselves to the local going global. Numerous examples like this are scattered across history. Some of the best, however, are right under our noses in our colleges and tech schools.
Three Rivers Community Church is settled in Rome, Georgia. Rome has 3 colleges and a technical school. Students from all over the southeast and even a few Yankees find their way to Rome for higher education. Due to the DNA of our fellowship, we get the honor of shaping many college students’ values and infecting their spiritual DNA with the kingdom.
Without a doubt, the local and global work of the kingdom is impacted with these amazing people seeking to advance the kingdom of God.
Over 12 years we have sent countless college students on summer assignments from across town to West Africa to Nepal to South Asia to North Africa and a host of places in-between in spite of our focus on one particular place. As a side note, the more we focus on one place the more students are raised up to engage other places. It seems to be a trend, but that is for another post.
Many students have tasted these summer adventures and decided to invest their lives in hard places, and some are currently still in those hard places bringing the healing power of the kingdom to bear in their domains of society.
We have watched our students spend summers sampling the world. Those students complete their degrees with a vision. Those students graduate and invest their lives all over the world building hospitals and teaching in schools doing some of the most incredible kingdom work imaginable. We are currently preparing to send one who graduates this May to our global work to be a teacher with a partner organization.
Students who have a global perspective also find their niche in the local domains of society as well. Just this past Sunday I had three young men who have been part of Three Rivers for several years volunteer their services in doing maintenance for a foster home we will be staffing and operating beginning this summer. These guys, as resident assistants in their dorms, pledged the dorms they oversee to the work as well. We have countless stories like these students engaging the local and global domains of society.
Perhaps our college students are our most ready human resource available.
What is it about college students that make them this powerful?
Here are some of my observations.
1. Principled Energy
I’ve been privileged to get to know an increasing number of students whose purpose was to give themselves to something they perceived to be more meaningful as opposed to a job that may net them more money but may also net them less joy.
Couple a principled end with the vigor that comes from being in one’s early twenty’s and the sky is the limit. These guys and gals need very little sleep, they heal fast, they need fewer resources to thrive and they are productive.
I love the word Oomph. It is another way of saying “full of life”. College students are bubbling with life. They bring life to the party. College students bring joy where circumstances may have done a beat-down on some of us dudes getting weathered a bit. College students can bring Oomph to us pastors and our churches.
College students worship with more vigor. College students volunteer faster. College students are hungry to know God. These things lead to an infusion of life.
College students are able to do just about anything at just about any time. Most of them are not married yet. Not all, but many have more financial resource that I’ve anticipated they would have. Many are learning the necessity of a value-laden degree not a debt-laden degree, and they are financially able to let go of trappings that can hinder their local and global service. This is a highly agile and mobile group of difference makers that can make a difference.
College students are still learning what singularly makes them passionate. So, they have many passions and they can flex to each one and be solid help in multiple domains.
4. Visionary Sacrifice
The college students involved in our work in Rome have been able to see to an end that they are not the center of, and they are willing to sacrifice the American Dream in order to have it. That kind of visionary sacrifice shows God to be bigger than other petty ends, and it inspires others to imitate their example.
What is the power of working with college students?
The past and the present tell us that this kind of principled energy, oomph, flexibility and sacrificial giving of oneself for a end higher than themselves not only achieves great kingdom gain, but it inspires others in the kingdom to do the same. College students are, arguably, the most powerful human force for good on the face of the planet. And this collegiate human force for good has historically been used by God to begin movements that have had ripple effects for decades. I’d call that powerful.