5 Ways to Connect Your Movement to Churches
The biggest correlation to our Destino students long term spiritual success has been the depth of their connection to local churches. Over time we’ve noticed that the students who are most involved in church are the most likely to be walking with the Lord when they graduate. After four years in Destino, our ability to involve churches in our movement has become make or break for the long term viability of our Destino movement.
How Churches Can Help Your Movement
Involvement of local churches, especially Hispanic ones, can do the following for your movement:
- Provide a place of continued growth. Let’s face it, students have had 18 years to learn to live a certain way. Two hours a week of Bible study is simply not enough time to help them learn a new way of relating. You can’t be there for them 24/7 to help disciple them, it’s just not possible. The more that you connect them to churches the more time they have to be around believers that can help them grow in their faith.
- Offer a glimpse of Godly familia. One of our key leaders shared with us, “I’ve never seen a relationship work out.” No marriage in their family had lasted and they had broken up with every boyfriend they ever had. Churches provide a place for students to learn how to relate to someone in healthy ways. They can see older believers who are seeking to honor God in their marriages. “Life is better caught than taught” is a huge reason why you want to work hard at involving your students with churches.
- Help students learn from older Hispanic believers. Many of the staff in Destino are Anglo, so it is imperative for students to see that older Hispanics do walk with the Lord. One of the best ways to do this is by having relationships with many different churches in town, specifically Hispanic ones. For many Anglo staff this will be a stretch. It is easier just to connect with the churches we are familiar with (often Anglo ones). But, you can never overestimate the value of Latino college students being around older Latino believers. For more on this, see “The Only people I’ve seen dream big are white people”.
- Accelerate reaching your campus. It has long been a maxim among the catalytic side of Campus Crusade that “there exist within two miles of every campus the resources to reach that campus.” We’ll never have enough staff to reach all the Hispanic students, much less all the students, on a campus. We need churches to partner with us.
- Help fund ministry. Not only can churches provided funding for ministry activity on campus, but if students have relationships with local churches then it makes it all the easier for them to raise support for venues like summer project. For many students they have come to faith in college, so their Christian community will only be Destino and the church you connect them with. Without that support raising will be very difficult for them.
A Hesitation That Keeps Us From Developing Church Partnerships
One common fear is that by connecting our students with churches that we will lose them from the ministry. If they get too involved in church then they won’t be able to be involved in the movement on campus. We’ve definitely felt this dynamic at our school. What changed our minds was realizing that we were losing students for many reasons (financial, moral, no longer walking with God). We came to the conclusion that if we “lost” students to churches that it was the best place for them to go.
In reality, we’re not losing students. God can use our movements to be funnels that help connect the lost Latino student with local churches. Many of these churches will never be able to afford full-time campus ministers, so we should consider it a blessing to be able to serve them, even if we “lose” students from our leadership chain as a result. The sooner we can see our relationship as symbiotic and not competitive the better.
Five Ways to Help Connect Your Destino Movement with Churches
When talking with various staff I’ve never heard anyone disagree that churches are crucial to the health of our Destino movements. People are sold out and committed to local churches. However they often struggle to know what first steps to take to begin to develop those partnerships. Here are five examples of steps you can take to begin to partner with local Hispanic churches, even if you are on a busy schedule:
- Start of the year. For the past 3 years we’ve had one Latino church in town commit to having a beginning of the year BBQ to welcome students back to campus. We split the budget and they provide the location and cook all the food. We have it the first Friday night of classes and have seen 100 people attend each of the past three years. It serves to bond students to Destino and introduce them to a church that cares about their spiritual growth. We’ve also experimented at having a “Church Open House” the second or third week of classes in the fall. We invite local churches to come to our weekly meeting and share with students.
- Adopt a College Student program. One of the best ways to get students involved in church is to connect them with families. We’ve worked on creating an “Adopt a College Student” program where we pair up families from local churches with two Destino students to be their adoptive families while in college (this is particularly meaningful if not on a commuter campus). We’ve created a flyer you can download to learn more about how we explain the program to the churches: “Adopt a College Student Program”.
- Monthly pastors lunches. Often community pastors already connect with each on a regular basis. Find out when those meetings are and join them. It offers a great chance for you to network. If they don’t already meet, consider buying lunch once a month for the Hispanic pastors whose churches have expressed an interest in helping Destino. You’ll be able to bless them as they become more involved in Destino.
- Provide opportunities for volunteers. Keep a list in your mind of places in the movement where you would love to have volunteers. It could be as a speaker at your weekly meeting, giving a presentation during a free lunch on campus, cooking BBQ for a tailgate party, or as a mentor for some of your key leaders. If you’ve thought through these opportunities beforehand then when you meet someone in the community (or on a support appointment) you’ll already have ways they can get involved. You’ll be able to tailor the opportunities to their specific giftings. For example, we have a local pscyhologist/rock star come and give talks on “How to Deal with Stress” or “How to Choose a Major” during free lunch on Wednesdays.
- Partner in Service. Students in our movement already have a heart to serve in the community. We asked a local church to provide free food for the students after one of the service projects was over. The students loved the food from the Abuelitas that reminded them of home and they were able to have another touch point with the church. The church also became more invested in seeing Destino succeed.
What are some of the ways you’ve helped local Hispanic churches be invested in your movement? Please share the wealth!
photo courtesy: whizchickenonabun