college ministry missional community

College Ministry and Missional Communities

Over the next few weeks, I’ve asked several members of our team at The Austin Stone to write on different aspects of missional community in different contexts and ministries.

Today, Chad Kincer is going to share some learning points from practicing missional community in a collegiate context. Chad serves as the College Director for College at The Austin Stone.


College Ministry and Missional Communities


At The Austin Stone we are deeply convicted about the role of missional communities for effectively carrying out the life and mission of our church in the city of Austin. This conviction is especially true when it comes to the way we think about making disciples among the college students in our city.

We recognize that college students are in a unique season of life, and have thus been called to a unique mission because of where God has placed them on their college campus. The 4 to 5 year (and sometimes 6yr.) window that students have on campus offers them the greatest access to the largest mission field they may ever know. In addition, they are in a cycle of life that allows them to have more time, more flexibility, and an increased readiness to learn and try something new for the kingdom of God. For these reasons we are wholly committed to mobilizing students to live in community for the purpose of living on mission.


Over the years we have gone about assimilating students into missional community in a few ways. First, one of the easiest and most logical ways we have found to mobilze students into missional community is through having freshman specific communities. This naturally creates a space for freshman to find their place in the church and a place to settle in with other believers early in their college career. These communities create a place for upperclassmen to disciple freshman and to develop students from the first second they hit campus.

A second way to facilitate students into missional community can be based on their areas of study and involvement. We have found that major specific or Greek-life missional communities are the most effective at reaching peers in those specific groups. These communities are able to form and launch almost organically due to overlapping involvement and focus.

Third, and most commonly, we assimilate students into the life of a missional community through their own relationship networks. Consistently we find that these groups are the most effective. Very often we experience students being hesitant to join a missional community or dropping out of one because their missional community is a group other than their closest group of friends. We always coach students toward being in a missional community that is made up of pre-existing friendships. Something that we try to emphasize over and over again is for students to share life and mission with the people you spend you free-time and weekends with.


One of the things that we have seen work well with college missional communities, and one of the things that we now see as a non-negotiable, is that these communities be led by college students. Student leadership is vital for at least three reasons:

  1. Students leading students are better able to own their mission together on campus
  2. Student leadership provides a more relevant environment for students to explore what it means to become a confessional, repentant family, and 
  3. Student leadership creates an organic pipeline for identifying and developing future leaders in the church

The Major Obstacle to Effective Mission and Discipleship

College students are passionate and full of life by virtue of their youth. One the greatest things we can do in leading students is encouraging them to shift from seeing mission and community as an event to attend, and begin to see them as the common pattern of life for disciples of Jesus. We have seen from personal experience that a major obstacle to effectively doing college missional communities is letting students off the hook. Very often too little is expected of college students because of their busy schedules. Trial and error have shown us that the way to get college students plugged-in and engaged in mission isn’t by setting the bar low enough for them to fit it in to their schedule, but by setting the bar high, the way Jesus does (John 14:12).

Jesus never lets us off the hook or allows us to make excuses for not following him. Instead he captivates our hearts, minds, and dreams by being honest with us about our place in his family and his mission. He speaks to us honestly about the sacrifices we must make to live an obedient life of community and mission (John 4:34-38). Set the bar high for college students. Show them their high calling as disciples of Jesus. Hand them the ball and let them run!


college ministry links

College Ministry Links

There were two great posts about college ministry today that I wanted to point out to you:

  1. 6 Essentials of College Ministry from The Resurgence – this is some great practical wisdom for particular issues we face on college campuses.
  2. College Ministry Poles: Cooperation vs. Independence by Benson Hines – an excellent post on interaction with other campus ministries, and the variety of views between two ends of a spectrum.

For the record, I agree with all 6 elements posted at The Resurgence, and have personally faced each situation to which they speak.  With respect to Benson’s post, I fall on the full collaboration of ministries (with a few caveats…primarily ministry methodology and gospel centrality).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on either post!

college ministry

Freshman Ministry at The Austin Stone | Gentrified

Ever wondered what The Austin Stone is doing with Freshmen this fall?  Check out what my friend Logan Gentry and the College Team have cooked up for Freshmen below:

We’ll be dealing with 6 issues that focus on Gospel, Community, & Mission and answering the essential questions of what it means to believe in Christ and how we are supposed to live as Christians.

Week 1: The Gospel: What is the Gospel?

The very thing that make someone a Christian is often the most difficult for Christians to really understand. Often it is assumed that people know and understand the gospel, but this week will lay a foundation and establish a biblical understanding of the gospel as the power of God for salvation of all men.

Week 2: Gospel Repentance: What is sin & how do I deal with it?

The 1st of Martin Luther’s 95 thesis is “all of life is repentance” which comes from an understanding that the root of all sin is idolatry. This week will focus on identifying the roots of sin in our life and appropriately understanding the idea of repentance through the gospel.

Week 3: Gospel Living v. Religion: Parable of the Prodigal Son

The most famous parable, the parable of the prodigal son, actually reveals that you can be far from God both while living solely for the pleasures of this world and by living a religious life focused solely on morality.

Week 4: Gospel-Led Community: What is true Gospel-Centered Christian Community?

The gospel calls people individually, but calls them to be a part of a community of believers. This collection of individuals is then transformed to live sacrificially for each other and the context they have been placed. This week will examine what a true gospel-centered Christian community looks like.

Week 5: Gospel-Led Mission: What do you mean by mission?

Often the term mission can be accomplished out of a sense of duty or responsibility as opposed to it being a result of valuing the gospel above all else. This results in treating people at projects to be improved upon instead of simply caring for all people that they might know joy, peace, and truth. This week we’ll evaluate our motivations for social justice & evangelism & we will discuss how this is most effectively accomplished when do this together as a community.

Week 6: Gospel-Led Commissioning

Really it’s just a commissioning (Christianese for sending them out), but I wanted to see if I could put “Gospel-Led” in front of each week. It will be a night of prayer, worship, and sending them out as groups.

I’m really excited for how they will train freshmen at the outset with our DNA of gospel-centered missional community, and can’t wait to see the impact it has on campus!

college ministry

The Spiritual Openness Continuum | the SENTinel

My new friend Steve Lutz has done some good work on articulating the relative breakdowns of students at Penn State on their “spiritual openness continuum”.  I’d suspect it looks fairly similar on most state university campuses (±5%):

+2 Actively looking, open people (churched, professing Christian, or on the verge). 3% of the student population

+1 Have spiritual questions in the back of their mind; but open-minded, not closed. Willing to give it a shot. Nominal Christians, friendly non-Christians. 10%

0 Apathetic. Couldn’t care less, either way. Find both extremes to be shrill, obnoxious, and irrelevant. If you bring up Jesus, they shrug their shoulders and say “Meh.” 62%

-1 Suspicious, somewhat hostile, but might be willing to give you an audience. 20%

-2 Active, angry, antagonistic. For example, militant atheist. 5%

via The “Spiritual Openness Continuum” on Campus, and What to Do About It « the SENTinel.

I’d highly recommend reading his whole post, especially the implications for ministry structure and design (This is one of the several reasons we have moved toward a missional community structure in our ministry).

college ministry

Obedience Is Key | Learning to Trade

I love doing College Ministry, but more importantly, I love it when men whom you have invested your life into apply what they have learned to their lives.  Below is a post from a student whom I discipled as he is entering into the world of day trading:

I’m 100% sure that trusting God will make me a better trader.

Before you get up in arms about that statement, please hear explicitly what I am not saying: namely that trusting in God will make me a profitable trader. I don’t believe that at all. But being a better trader… that’s something that will happen. Here’s why:

Fear is eliminated. Pride is eliminated. Greed is eliminated. End of story.

If I’m founded in Christ, I have nothing to gain… I’ve gained it all. I have nothing to lose… earthly possessions are but a pittance to the love I’ve received. I have nothing to prove… Christ is my only focus and the only one worth serving.

I have much maturing to do.

via Obedience Is Key « Learning to Trade.