advice for Christians in college

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at Welch College. I began each message with a very simple mission statement:


My purpose these next few days is simple. I hope to encourage every student to use their unique situation (education + experience) to further the gospel in this country and around the world. Take this wonderful gift called education and use it to strategically place your life in the kingdom.
Regardless of your major, you can use your gifts to further the gospel. It will look different for each of you. For some it will mean moving around the world to reach foreign cultures for Christ. For others it may mean using your business or education degree to move into a strategic city in this country and partner with a church planting effort under way.
Don’t miss the opportunity to squeeze God-sized purpose out of your life here on earth. Forgo the assumed path of the American Dream, and devote yourself to something bigger than you. Live for more than the car, the house, the spouse and 2.5 kids.


I could have used the opportunity to really “sell” Portsmouth. I deliberately chose not to. I know the buzzwords to use when selling a city or region and it’s lifestyle to college students (coastal city, boating lifestyle, beaches 20 minutes away, downtown hipster environment, here’s a promo video that only shows our region’s highlights ). I did, however, speak with a few students one on one about their desire to attach themselves to Project Portsmouth or projects like it. One student has expressed a desire to move here, get a job and help out. Others may be open to partnering with Home Missions or International Missions in the future. I’d like to speak for a moment to college students pondering their future.

  1. Yes, we’d love for a handful of students to move here and help us reach this community. We’d absolutely embrace their involvement as we desire to start campus student ministries on the 4 college campuses in Portsmouth and Norfolk. We want to build a strong college ministry alongside this church plant.
  2. However, we aren’t the only opportunity out there. I want to encourage college kids to use their advantage (college degree) to move their influence alongside our missionaries and church planters around the world and within the US. What if every student with a general degree prayed about attaching themselves to a church plant or mission work around the world?
  3. Pray. Pray. Pray. At this point I know for a fact that I’ve talked a few people out of joining us. People generally expect me to try and sell them our plant. I do the opposite. Everyone that has contacted me about moving to Portsmouth with us gets the same line: “I’m not going to try to talk you into it. I’m going to encourage you to pray for guidance. I don’t want you to move here, get jaded after 18 months, and blame me for convincing you to do this. It has to be God that leads you here.” Let me make this clear to college students: every church planter or missionary would love to have you. We don’t turn down help. We have a knack for making God’s plan for our lives sound like God’s plan for everyones life. Make sure you talk to God about any plans you have for the future.
  4. When you don’t have a clear answer/calling, get to work where you can. In the New Testament Paul planted churches in areas he felt a specific calling or Spirit leading (Macedonia and Rome). He also chose to plant in areas of influence along the coast (starting next to his home region of Cilicia in South Galatia, moving on to Ephesus and Corinth). <great article on Paul as a planter> I believe some will receive a clear calling in life. Others will have a general desire to serve God. Right out of college I had a general desire, so I asked for advice. A professor told me “When given options in ministry, choose one and serve the best you can. If it’s not for you God will close the doors.” I joined Home Missions a few months later because it seemed like it could honor God and I was given an open door to walk through. I would encourage you to do the same. Make Christ and His kingdom your aim. Specifics and details will fall into place. Serve where you are now. Move on purpose to serve somewhere else.
  5. Realize that ministry is messy. I remember thinking I knew ministry. I can recall what I imagined it must be like. It’s awesome. I love it. However, it’s super messy. I regret to inform you that I’ve been hurt and I have hurt good people in the church. It’s an unfortunate consequence of humans being human. Be prepared to see the real side of ministry that sometimes can be tough, lonely and discouraging. Here’s where it gets better: it’s so worth it though. I’m just over 7 years in and I can’t imagine spending my life on anything else.
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2 thoughts on “advice for Christians in college

  1. I agree with all of the above. My conversations with college students these days has revealed the phrase “church plant” to be new buzz words. I’m always cautious of ministry fads among young adults. However, I have great hope for this generation! I would love for students to embrace #4 and break away from the ministry herds they usually travel in around the greater Nashville area. I’ve tried talking to students about gaining real-life-in-the-trenches ministry experience through my church (Franklin Community Church in Franklin, TN). While some students come visit and appreciate our diversity, they ultimately skip out on us, because we’re not the “glamorous” church that caters to young adults. My question to them is, “How do you expect to work and support a church plant in another state when you haven’t taken the opportunity to learn in a similar environment in the greater Nashville area?” Thanks so much for writing this. I pray The Lord would continue to prepare students to serve in Portsmouth and the world.

    • Thanks Jessica. I’ve actually been hoping to attend your church on a random Sunday and experience it for myself. Unfortunately most Sundays I’m in Nashville I’m speaking at churches (I guess that’s fortunate for me in a way since I’m fundraising now). I grew up in a diverse church body and our neighboring fwb church a few miles away actually now has diversity on their pastoral staff. Diversity is either our future or it will be our downfall. We can’t expect to last without it.

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