December 1, 2023

Developing a “Sending Culture” for a “Going Generation”: The benefits of a college ministry that values the local church


By Iley Harrison, CCO Campus Staff in Partnership with The Grove Church in Port Saint Lucie, Florida

A lot of college age people are on the move for the better part of their 20’s. They are “going” people; so churches must see the importance of ministering, discipling, and equipping college students despite the fact that they may be sending them as soon as they are trained. We may only get a couple years to help them soak up the gospel, but those few years are more than enough time for God to change a life that may influence an industry to transform the world just a little more into God’s Kingdom. One of the most important benefits that I’ve experienced as a CCO campus ministry staff member is the opportunity to develop a sending culture for our church by ministering to a “going” generation.

Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) is a college campus ministry that I stumbled upon in early 2019. At that time my church staff had been praying for a fresh vision of ministry to our city. A unanimous thought came to our minds, we are a church surrounded by schools and filled with teachers. Less than a mile from our doorstep were three elementary schools, a middle school and a state college. Pretty quickly we figured out how to serve the elementary, middle and high schools but the college campus was a struggle. 

We knew through past efforts that as a church we couldn’t simply walk on the campus and begin gathering students unofficially. I knew this because I had tried and was told in no uncertain terms that unless I was a student I wasn’t permitted on campus. So, I began searching for an allowable way in. My search led me to a ministry friend’s social media post about a new Christian Club at our college called CCO. I immediately googled CCO, found their home page (ccojubilee.org) and watched several videos that explained the vision behind the ministry. CCO didn’t just commit to telling students that church was important, they included the local church in the equation for successful ministry to the campus. I had all I needed. I looked up the local partnering church and connected with the CCO campus staff, Jason, to set up a meeting. 

I still remember the meeting. I introduced myself and quickly cut to the chase asking how our church could help CCO to minister to college students. Jason, not knowing me from Adam, understandably pumped the brakes a couple times. But after I told him I had already freed up an entire day of my weekly schedule to dedicate to volunteering with CCO, he caved and asked if I could take a couple students and start a bible study at a sister campus. Which we did. During that year Jason and I became good friends, and he suggested that I should look into becoming a campus staff myself.

Fast forward to February 2020, I visited the CCO national student conference called Jubilee for the first time. Of the many things that I could list, I always share two things from Jubilee that I love. One is the intentionality to show the unity of the church through the various and unique forms of musical worship.The worship sets were filled with Anglican hymnody, African American gospel praise choirs, reggae instrumental bands, a volunteer student and staff choir, and even the token bearded stoic reformed guy with a guitar; I truly felt like this was one of the best examples of what musical worship could be like throughout eternity. The second is the intentionality of the breakouts for the students. CCO did the work in finding what seemed like 100 different professionals, blue collar, white collar, entrepreneurial leaders all explaining why the gospel is important to their specific vocation and how to practically live out the Great Commission through their work. It was awesome and I was sold!

So, amid Covid shutdown I applied and was hired for a CCO campus staff position in partnership with The Grove Church in Port Saint Lucie Florida. Since then, I have worked alongside Jason to reach college students at our local campus with the gospel of Jesus. We work with students to run their CCO club and mentor and teach them how to lead bible studies, connect with their non-Christian friends in community and make sure that they are active in a local church. Those students who land at our churches are plugged into discipleship communities, service opportunities, and guided to foster lasting relationships within the congregation. 

Here at The Grove Church, we’ve been blessed by these benefits of partnering with CCO:

Time spent on campus:  At our campus and many others across the country outside organizations are not permitted to just come on campus and begin interacting with students. Especially Christian organizations. So, CCO has offered my church the contact with students through the legitimate means of the school’s student government club system. I know first-hand that without CCO I would be extremely limited in how I could minister to students. 

CCO ‘s financial model: Partnership with CCO makes it possible for a very small church, like mine, to have a full-time college ministry staff position that otherwise would not be possible. CCO staff serve as employees of the CCO but serve as local missionaries funded in partnership between the CCO, the church partner and the CCO staff raising a portion of the funding. Through this partnership the church has a CCO staff person serving within their local context with a full employment package, training in campus ministry, a network of CCO regional colleagues, resources, and ongoing training, for far less expense than a church could do alone.

Most importantly:  Developing a culture of sending in our church for sharing the gospel with an emerging generation!

A growing number of ECO churches are partnering with CCO. If you’d like to learn more aboutthe possibility of partnering with them to engage in campus ministry, learn more about CCO Partnership on their website or reach out to CCO’s Partnership Department for more information.

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