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I was once a college student. I guess you could say that I took my leisure earning an undergraduate degree (six years). I attended five different schools, took time off to work, and was very uncertain about what I wanted to do in life. Though much of my time as a college student is becoming a distant memory, there is one episode that continues to impress upon my life even today – college ministry.

I had just transferred to the University of Florida and my roommate invited me to a dinner to meet other students. Though the spaghetti dinner filled the void in my stomach, what was really lasting was the exposure to the gospel that began to settle my very unsettled heart. I made lots of friendships with great people, but even better was knowing I was being prayed with and for during these very formative years. I attended worship, played intramural sports, and went to as many functions as I could. Over time, these friends began to feel more like family and that was what I was needing so desperately.

There is a lot of documented research that points to the importance of college ministry. The Barna Group, LifeWay,  and Christianity Today are among many organizations that have studied trends concerning the role of the church in the lives of college students. I am not going to provide any thoughts on the statistics except to say that college students need college ministry and I am living proof of the blessings of such work.

My denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, has a ministry for college students called Reformed University Fellowship. Here is how RUF articulates their mission:

Whether it’s getting a raise at work, the birth of a child, or crossing something off your bucket list, good news demands to be told. What God has done and is doing in the world finds its clearest expression in the society of God’s people called the church. RUF exists to announce and demonstrate to the world the words and work of Jesus. In addition, we strive to provide the basis for the transformation of the world and the “healing of the nations.”

Simply put, “Reformed,” describes the biblical convictions of historic Christianity. The movement of the church which sought to renew these convictions afresh ministered the Christian gospel under the banners of “Faith Alone,” “Grace Alone,” “Scripture Alone,” and “To God Alone Be The Glory.” In calling ourselves “Reformed” we claim the same banners for our work.

More than just a ministry on the university campus, RUF seeks to be a ministry for the university. We strive to serve in this unique stage of a student’s life in the world they live in, exploring together how the Lordship of Christ informs every area of life.

All human problems originate from our alienation from God, and those problems show up vividly in broken relationships with one another. God’s answer to human alienation is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and His answer to disintegrated relationships is the church of Jesus. RUF is the arm of this restorative people reaching out to the college campus.

My personal conviction is that Reformed University Fellowship is the most important ministry in our denomination. I know I should not use superlatives when speaking about ministry because the harvest is great in all areas. My intention is not to downplay other ministries such as overseas missions, church planting, or disaster relief. So what makes RUF so critical? Here are four brief areas of consideration for now:

1. Competing Worldviews. College is a challenging environment. Administration and faculty operate out of certain world and life convictions that they seek to impress upon their students. That is not a criticism, that is reality. College students, therefore, must be equipped to understand various worldviews, sift through what is right and wrong, and maintain focus on how a gospel world and life view fits into it all.

2. Marriage and Parenting. Many college students will have a family of their own. Some may be married and parenting children before they realize. It is critical for young adults to be equipped with the transforming power of the gospel so they may assume the calling of spouse and parent with Godly convictions.

3. The Workplace. I remember my first job out of college. I was excited and energized to get started on my new career. I felt ready to meet any challenge that came my way. As the newness of the job began to wane I started wondering if I was really making a difference. Was my job satisfying? Should I have changed my major? Do I want to do this long term? College ministry prepares students for these kinds of questions that will possibly be raised.

4. The Church. College ministry receives youth group kids (who, let’s be honest, tend to be narcissistic) and reintroduces them to the church as men and women with the capacity for leadership, ministry passion, and a longing to serve. The church should receive these people with great anticipation of how the Lord will use them for his glory.