Guest by Rich Birch from Unreasonable Churches
Unreasonable Church Reaches Out to College Students By Holding Services on Campus
Jeremy came to Lubbock to study engineering at Texas Tech, but his car had broken down and he didn’t have the money to fix it. He scraped by with a borrowed bike for months, and figured that it would just be cheaper to continue using a bike. Selling the car would help pay for his school bill, and where was he going to go, anyway? He didn’t have time to go anywhere else, and he worked on campus with the maintenance crew.
A girl on the crew asked him to come check out her church. Not wanting to turn down an invite from a girl, and not wanting to bum a ride from her, he stumbled for the answer. “Oh, I don’t know, I may not be able to get there.”
“That’s okay.” She replied with a smile. “It’s right here on campus. Tuesday night. See you there!”
To reach out to students on the college campus, the unreasonable church does what it takes to get the job done—including being creative in where to meet!
Worship over “Where”
For many people, the word “church” brings images to mind of stained-glass windows, cold wooden pews and organs. The church is often considered to be a building but according to the Bible, this is not what a church is. The word “church” comes from a Greek word ekklesia, meaning, “a called-out assembly or congregation.” It is an assembly (or group) of people called by God who gather together.
The type of structure people gather in, the schedule of service, and the time of meeting should always be secondary over people gathering together to worship the Lord Jesus Christ! What is most important is bringing Jesus to unreached people, not trying to bring them to church. And sometimes this means taking unreasonable steps—including taking on a missionary mindset and letting creative juices flow!
Reaching Out to Millennials
Planted in 2007, Experience Life is a non-denominational church in Lubbock, Texas. The church began meeting in a rented skating rink, not in a school, because there were rules against allowing churches to meet at local schools. When Pastor Chris Galanos and his wife came to start the church in their hometown after graduating from seminary, they sent out letters asking for support because they didn’t have a sending church. One generous couple called and told Pastor Chris that they would cover his family’s living expenses for two years, giving him the opportunity to focus on launching the new church.
Experience Life Church now has around 4,000 people meeting in five locations. One of their locations meets on the campus of Texas Tech University. The university church site is called Raider Church after the school’s nickname, the Red Raiders.
With Chris as lead pastor and Clayton Walker as the executive pastor, most of their congregation consists of millennials and their children. More than 60 percent of the young adults attending Experience Life have not previously attended church anywhere.
Church ministry to young adults is a tricky business, as any church in a college town knows. Experience Life evaluated their existing ministries to college students and studied the church structures and environments. None of them were focused on plugging students into Experience Life as it was. So instead of trying to bring the students to the church, they decided to make something new. They would bring the church to the students. Experience Life made the decision to plant a church on Texas Tech’s campus.
When Raider Church began, it started at a church site close to the college campus, and 500 students came the first night to a building that only seated 400. With standing room only, the unique church launch quickly outgrew that facility and moved to its second iteration. They went to a bigger church site campus, which was quite far away from Texas Tech. That night the church had 700 in attendance. Within just a few weeks the leadership team realized that many of the Tech students would never be able to go to a site so far away.
Immediately they went back to the Tech campus and rented a university auditorium, where the young start-up church has about 1,000 students in attendance. The location was a key component for Raider Church. Because they are located on the Texas Tech campus, most of the students can even walk to their service.
But starting a church on a state-funded college campus meant that many typical church processes and models had to be tossed out. Experience Life was comfortable in breaking the mold, but they had to break it even more to launch this church of college students. The Experience Life leadership team asked, “What would work?” instead of “What has been done?”
With Raider Church, the leadership team presented the entire service live, with an in-person speaker. Since the church asked “What would work?” they found that the students were more drawn to an entirely live service rather than sermons streamed on a screen.
The calendar of events at Raider Church is also unique. The leaders learned to work with the ebb and flow of the college schedule, rather than work against it. Instead of meeting on weekends, the church meets at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday nights. Executive Pastor Clayton Walker teaches weekly at Raider Church, with teaching geared for the students.
It can be difficult to define success in a ministry to an ever-changing group of young college students, but Experience Life is focused on new believers and mature disciples.
Raider Church is the result of a missionary mindset. Pastor Clayton says that, “Even in America, we’ve got to live and think like missionaries.”
To read more about Raider Church and stories of other UNREASONABLE CHURCHES, visit http://www.UnreasonableChurches.com
by Rich Birch