While God is preparing you for a lifetime of ministry in college, you can still be actively involved in missions. Here are twelve ways you can be a "missions-minded" college student:
Pray for workers. Pray for people. Pray for missionaries. Prayer is so essential to any effective ministry, and as Oswald Chambers wrote, "Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work." Not only is prayer the entire foundation for missions, but prayer also fuels a passion for the Gospel and a heart for the unreached. This year I have been praying for one country every day through the Operation World book, and never have I felt such a burden for the peoples unreached for the Gospel. As well as partnering in the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world through prayer, my passion for God's glory among the nations is being ignited.
Lifting up missionaries in prayer is vital, too. They can't assimilate to another culture, learn a language, build relationships, plant churches, or make disciples without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit or God's strength in their lives. Sometimes it's hard to know where to start, but here are some printable prayer guides to help you know how to pray for your missionaries and the spread of the Gospel: Seven Ways to Pray for Your Missionary, How to Pray for Missionaries, Praying for Missions, Warfare Prayer, and A 6-Week Personal Prayer Guide.
2. Connect with International Students on Campus.
According to Intervarsity, over 800,000 international students come to the United States to study—many from countries that are closed to the Gospel. This may be the only chance they have to be exposed to the Gospel, and you have the opportunity to welcome them, befriend them, and serve them. Because full-time missions in another country should only be an extension of your ministry here and now, connecting with internationals is an opportunity begin a cross-cultural ministry... and to be involved in God's global work—without ever leaving your campus!
3. Sponsor a Child
You can actively influence a child's life for Christ across the world simply by sponsoring them on a monthly basis. Just browse some of the children waiting to be sponsored with Compassion or World Vision—your heart will break for them. Even as "poor" college students, God has blessed us immeasurably wealth and a comfortable lifestyle, as compared with the rest of the world. It IS possible to sponsor a child while paying for college, though it might require you getting a job or giving up your daily Starbucks drink (horror of horrors!).
There's definitely a lot to consider before sponsoring a child, and I believe that for certain people college isn't the right timing for donating $40 every month… But I would suggest carefully weighing your motives before you push the opportunity aside: If God has given you the resources to provide education, food, water, healthcare, and the hope of the Gospel to a child in need, what's holding you back?
4. Start a Prayer Group on Campus
During my freshman year, I happened to discover a group of students who met together once a week to pray for missionaries. They printed out the newsletter updates the missionaries would email out and then prayed specifically for their prayer requests. It has been so cool to be a part of such a likeminded group of students and know that we are actually impacting the work of those missionaries. It's also sparked a lot of good discussions about mission work and current global events, and it's given us plenty of opportunities to encourage and connect with real missionaries.
5. Go Short-Term
There's countless opportunities to serve on short-term missions over fall break or spring break. (Personally, I think summer break is best because I more time in my country of service for the amount of money it costs.) Go with a Christian college group, go with your church… If you desire to be more missions-minded, take the chance to spend some time actually serving on a cross-cultural mission field.
6. Encourage Missionaries You Know
What better way to familiarize yourself with the joys and struggles of day-to-day mission life than to be in direct contact with a mission team or family? You can usually get in contact with your church's missionaries through your church secretary or directory; or, if you know them personally, you can contact them through Facebook or email. Most missionaries today have some form of an e-newsletter, so don't be afraid to ask if you can join their mailing list. This provides a perfect opportunity to reply to emails and let them know you're praying for them.
Immerse yourself in different cultures, experience the challenges of living in a foreign country, see firsthand the transformative power of the gospel—through books about missions or missionaries. Just a few of my favorites include, Bruchko by Bruce Olsen, Reckless Abandon by David Sitton, And the Word Came with Power by Joanne Shetler, Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis, and biographies about David Brainerd, C.T. Studd, Adoniram Judson, and Amy Carmichael. Other good books about missions include Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper and The Missionary Call by David M. Sills. What other books would you add? Leave a comment and let me know!
8. Raise Money to Give to Missions Organizations
For a couple years in college I was involved in a group that organized events and put on activities in order to raise money for a ministry that supported orphans in Sudan. It was a fun job—talent shows, bake sales, movie nights, even rubber duck races around the pond!—we organized and promoted events on campus that would generate some funds we could give to missions. Consider getting a small group of students together to do something similar: focus the mission of your group toward supporting one particular missions organization or cause, and then brainstorm ways you can raise money.
Investing your own savings in missions is a sure way to be missions minded in college. When you give of your own money to support a missionary, you become a personal partner and team member with that missionary. Again, college students aren't known for having much surplus when it comes to finances. But don't discredit the impact a small commitment of $5 a month or a simple missions offering at church. While our current calling to be college students often limits what our financial contributions can be, what God really desires is our willingness and faithfulness in being disciple-makers, whether we send or go. Even in college, there are opportunities for us to give.
10. Educate Yourself
Do you stay up-to-date what is happening around the world, what believers are experiencing in other countries? In order to be missions-minded, it's important to familiarize yourself with world events and how they are affecting the state of the church and the spread of the gospel. One way you can become aware of world events is through Christian news publications such as World or Christian Post (you can sign up for e-updates as well). You can also to sign up to pray for persecuted believers around the world through Voice of the Martyrs. Lastly, one way that I educate myself about missions and world events is through Twitter—I follow feeds such as Gospel for Asia, Persecution.org, World Watch Monitor, Morning Star News, Mission News Network, and more. Educating yourself about believers and missionaries around the world helps to inform your prayers and to make you more united with your suffering brothers and sisters (Hebrews 13:3).
11. Attend a Missions Conference
Many local churches host missions conferences, which offer great opportunities for meeting missionaries your church supports. On a larger scale, there are student mission conferences such as Urbana or Cross where you can hear many well-known speakers, authors, pastors, and missionaries along with thousands of other missions-minded students. Sometimes large Christian universities will hold missions conferences as well, like Biola or Moody Bible Institute.
12. Start Preparing Now
There is no better time to get involved in missions than now. Are you called to go? Start reading books and articles, start researching sending agencies, making connections, talking to missionaries, grounding yourself in the gospel, and sharing the good news with those around you...now. Are you called to stay? Start supporting and encouraging those who are going, start sharing your faith, getting involved with a local church, praying intentionally, and giving generously. Whether you stay or go, use your money and resources wisely so you can use what God's given you to have the maximum impact they can on the kingdom.
College is not an excuse to put your responsibilities as a Christian on hold. It's important to view these 4+ years with an eternal perspective in mind: we are the body of Christ, we are his ambassadors, we are called to make disciples. While college is a time of preparation, it is also a time of unique ministry opportunity. So how will you be faithful to the Great Commission in college?
What others ideas do you have for being missions-minded as a college student? I'd love to hear your thoughts!