Campus Ministry and the Local Church: Mobilizing Student Missionaries

In college, God used my local church and my campus ministry to teach me his love for the nations and his vision that all peoples will worship him. During that time, I was able to serve overseas on short- and mid-term trips with the IMB. Both my local church and campus ministry played an irreplaceable part in helping me catch the vision that God has for the nations. They showed me how to go, sent me out, and supported me well.

Missions was a big priority at my church, which strove to be outward focused in all aspects. From the time it was first planted, my church formed international missions partnerships. They always commissioned those who were being sent out from the church, even if they were just moving to a new city.

“God used my local church and my campus ministry to teach me his love for the nations and his vision that all peoples will worship him.”

My pastor loved college students, and he and the other leadership made a point to recognize students who were going out on summer missions. The leadership made room in our church budget to give money in support of student missionaries. They generously supported me numerous times.

Further, when I was sent out, they prayed over me and commissioned me in front of the whole church. Even though it was mid-term missions and I wouldn’t be gone for very long, it was prioritized just like a long-term missionary or a short-term team from our church would have been. I trusted they were praying for me while I was gone, and I was given the opportunity to share with the church what God had done when I returned.

A Mutually Beneficial Partnership

One of the reasons my church was so in tune with what was happening in student missions was because my campus ministry and my church partnered together. My campus ministry partnered with several churches in our college town, always stressing the importance of students’ involvement in the larger body of Christ. Pastors and other leaders from local churches, including mine, would come to spend time with us, teach, preach, and encourage students to find a local church home.

Our campus ministry leaders encouraged and provided opportunities for students to get involved in a local church from the very beginning of the school year. By the time students were going to be sent out to missions, they could make sure their local church was there to send and support them. While our campus ministry was vital for community on campus, it was not a substitute for the entire body of believers present in a local church.

Campus Ministry as a Catalyst for Student Missionaries

At my campus ministry, the same emphasis on missions was present as at my church—perhaps even more so because, as a parachurch ministry, they had the capacity to focus specifically on college students’ involvement in missions. From the outset, they put missions in front of everyone. I remember hearing other students give their testimonies from summer missions, long-term missionaries share their experiences with our group, and missions mobilizers exhort us to action.

Missions was presented to us as something that everyone could do and should do. We were encouraged to leverage our time in college for missions before we had added responsibilities after graduation. It was at my campus ministry that I learned the most about the IMB and how I could serve through summer and semester missions.

“The missions education and mobilization that I got from my campus ministry was indispensable.”

Not every student served overseas, but there were plenty of opportunities for every student to participate in the global work of my campus ministry. The entire group was exhorted to participate by supporting our peers who were going. We had an annual fundraiser for our student missionaries. We had a prayer wall where each student missionary was given a “mailbox” for fellow students to write encouragement and prayers for them to read while on the field.

At the end of each school year, we held a big commissioning service. At the beginning of each school year, returning student missionaries were given opportunities to share publicly about their experiences. The missions education and mobilization that I got from my campus ministry was indispensable. They supplemented the local church by giving students focused opportunities to hear from other missionaries. My campus ministry was able to specifically highlight student missions. Even so, my campus ministers knew that their ministry was not a replacement of the local church but an extension of the body of Christ on campus.

I could not have served internationally without my church or my campus ministry. Both played indispensable parts in mobilizing me and sending me out. Both cast vision for missions, focused on sending missionaries well, and were strong support systems while I was on the field. They worked in harmony with each other to further the Great Commission.

Rebecca Hankins is currently pursuing a master of arts in intercultural studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She also works for SEBTS as a photographer in the office of marketing and communications. She is a member of The Summit Church and plans to continue serving in cross-cultural ministry after completing her graduate studies.