Reaching College Students

It’s fall. Or, close to it.

Leaves are changing, temperatures are falling, and perhaps most importantly, college football is just around the corner. The thrill and agony of watching 22 young men carry the hopes and dreams of thousands of fans each weekend is a pretty fascinating cultural phenomenon.

The life-altering impact college football has on its fans can serve as a microcosm and reminder of the importance of college students on our society and our churches. This weekend, as you watch your favorite college football team, consider these points.


1. The vast majority of all international students never step foot inside the house of an American.

These young men and women come to the U.S. from around the world. They come from important families, and they will return to serve important roles at home. Many have come from countries with little access to Christianity.

Think about the ways we could fill this gap and make the most of this God-given opportunity. International students are away from their families. Can we use hospitality and friendship to fill this void and show the love of Christ? Many of our holidays are rooted in Christianity. Can we include other people in our celebrations and talk about the meanings behind them.

2. According to Lifeway Research, two-thirds (66%) of American young adults who attended a Protestant church regularly for at least a year as a teenager say they also dropped out for at least a year between the ages of 18 and 22.

Many of these young adults were active in church as teenagers, but when they left the student ministry, they also, at least temporarily, left the church. Of greater concern is the number of college students who leave the church for good, whether it is because of their newfound freedom, the infusion of new ideas that run counter to Christianity, or that they never believed the gospel to begin with.

The college years provide opportunities for decisions, relationships, and opportunities that shape the rest of life. It is actually important for these young men and women to explore their faith as a way to make it their own. When we are younger, we accept the faith of our parents or peers with very little questioning. However, this second-hand faith rarely sustains us.

Consider the role the church can play in this faith journey. As we provide safe places for questions and provide opportunities for mature Christian ministry, we demonstrate the strength and life-changing implications of the faith.

3. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are nearly 20 million students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities.

This number is one we dare not ignore. Within this population are many who are searching for the hope and abundant life Jesus gives. Also within this number are believers who, by virtue of their birth dates, live in one of the most fertile mission fields in America.

What difference could each of us and our churches make if we will commit to a few simple ways that could affect college students with the gospel?


Pray for the college students (ministry) in and out of your church and for the students in your community. Ask your college minister how you can be specifically praying for college students and if there are specific needs you can help meet.


Connect with a college or university in your community and offer to host an international college student in your home for a meal or to celebrate a holiday with your family. You can also offer to help students with shopping trips, doctor appointments, and other activities if they do not have transportation.


International students may miss their home country and its food and culture. Look for opportunities to attend international festivals and restaurants with international students to learn more about their culture. This would be a great opportunity to ask them about their religious beliefs and then to ask if you could share your faith with them.

As we enjoy the sport and fandom of college football season, let’s also be reminded of the gospel potential available among these same students.

Read more from D. Scott Hildreth »

This article originally appeared on and is reposted here by permission.

D. Scott Hildreth
D. Scott Hildreth

D. Scott Hildreth is the director of the Center for Great Commission Studies and Assistant Professor of Global Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Together on God’s Mission and is co-author of Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out.