caring about future, far-away fruit

A common question about the prudence of investing in college ministry:

Why should we invest in people who will bear fruit for somebody else?

A common concern about college ministry is that we prepare students for lives of impact and service… somewhere else. While we may sow and sow, the harvest will regularly be gained by others.

(Click here if you need a brief retort to this concern.)

My present response to this concern has three parts. Feel free to pass these responses on. And send other ideas if you have them!

  1. The assumption that college students will move on after their time in college is not automatically correct. Students regularly stay on for years or even decades in the city in which they went to school, and they’re often glad to connect with the ministries that formerly nurtured them. And national groups – denominations, for example, or parachurch ministries – can see long-lasting, far-reaching connections as a result of the very students they formerly reached.
  2. We should remember the unselfishness with which we view other ministries – including both youth ministry and missions work. Ministry to youth is very much concerned with preparing students to bear fruit in the years to come, even though it often takes place beyond their present churches and communities. And our work in missions – whether across the state or across the world – continues with gusto, even though churches and parachurch ministries may see absolutely no future “return” on that investment. (Is anyone expecting their mission to a tribe in Africa to produce deacons for their local church?)
  3. It is a fallacy to assume that college students won’t bear fruit for local ministries now. Numerous churches, campus-based ministries, Christian colleges, and other organizations reap great benefits from the students presently involved – particularly if those students are shepherded and trained well. We college ministers know that; we need to remind others of that beautiful fact.

One Comment

  1. 4. This is the reason that we do college ministry. These are the people who are going to be leaders in business, the non-profit world, religion etc. Though they sometimes don’t act like it, these are some of the most intelligent, hard-working and capable people of their age group/generation. We invest in them because these are the people who will determine what the world looks like in the next 10 – 20 years, and this is the time where they are deciding what they want the world to look like. This is where we invest in a future world where God’s love and justice is more widely practiced than it is today.

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