There’s tension in college ministry–a balancing act. On the one hand, a college church group needs to be a close-knit community (knowing one another’s names, gifts, dreams and testimonies;) but, on the other hand, a Christian group must avoid being a clique, pushing new people away, closing off opportunities for others to join.
A man with two job titles knows about balancing acts. Tyler Burleson has served for nearly three years as Central Baptist Church Journey Campus worship and college pastor in Jonesboro. And, he loves it.
Last summer, Tyler and his college team outlined a two-fold vision to reach the 14,000 students at Arkansas State University, a mile and a half from the church doors. Their goal: include more students besides the 250-ish already plugged in Sunday morning.
First, they wanted to build a solid, Christ-centered community.
“That was our big focus in the fall because we had so many students here already that we didn’t know,” Tyler said. “We hadn’t heard their testimony. We needed to devote our time and energy to connect and build relationships with them.”
But, this spring semester has brought another direction. “What happens when you build that community is students become comfortable, so outreach can become really difficult. They’re content with 90 students on a Wednesday night, and it’s a comfortable place to be.”
His focus? Avoiding cliques. “We want to keep from being cliquish. It’s hard because you want community.” To be inclusive is “the biggest thing we’re trying to teach right now.”
Scheduled evangelism works (a.k.a. mission trips– like their trip to Seattle, Washington in May.)
Daily intentionality works, too: “Be in evangelism mode all the time,” Tyler reminds students. “Be an example in your classroom, in the cafeteria, on the court, working out in the gym. Get in conversations with people, and eventually your faith will come out because that’s part of who you are.”
Recently, they’ve seen success. In the past few weeks, three students have been baptized and not one came from a church background.