The first time I ventured into campus ministry I was nervous.
I didn’t know what to expect, what to do, or how the kids would respond.
I was like a lot of youth leaders: I wanted to reach out to students, especially those who didn’t know Christ, but my experience and skills were lacking. Being a bit uneasy I did what any anxious person should do… I prayed. It was the best decision in campus ministry I ever made.
A friend told me of how he would travel into the mountains to find a place to pray. “Gives a good perspective” he assured me. It just so happened that the community in California where I was beginning my ministry had a mountain range just outside the city limits. I took my yellow Chevy and wound my way up the side of that mountain.
It wasn’t long before I was gazing down on the spectacular lights of my city.
What a sight! It was a birds-eye-view of my entire mission field. Sitting in the darkness I started my conversation with God, which was, as I recall, classically self-centered. But true to his nature, God graciously began to speak directly to my heart. My eyes went to the vast array of lights below and I wondered: How many of those homes have teenagers, who are they, what are they struggling with, who among them knows Jesus Christ? That’s when I first learned how to pray for students, even teenagers I didn’t know.
As the year unfolded I saw why God lead me to that mountain.
It was a difficult year, but also a good year. The learning curve was heavy. The answers to prayer were faith confirming. We have all heard the saying: first talk to God about people, then talk to people about God. I don’t think the truth of that statement could have been more real than what I experienced.
God demonstrated his power in students like Allen, who, when he received Christ, told me, “I don’t know why, but I have this feeling kind of like I’m born again or something.” Up till then he had read very little in the Bible. I showed him John 3:16. His eyes fell on the table. He couldn’t believe it!
There was Larry, a rough, edgy football player who had as much physical contact off the field as on. He joined us on a student retreat one weekend, mainly looking for girls. He ended up meeting Jesus Christ. God so changed his heart that when one of his old adversaries blind-sided him with a punch later on campus, he got up, looked him in the eye and said, “Because of Jesus Christ I love you anyway.” It shocked the campus!
I remember sitting outside my apartment one evening, having a conversation about Christ with Sam, a senior baseball player at the high school. Tears were running down his face as he asked Jesus to forgive his sins and enter his heart. It seemed like every week, sometimes daily, God had an appointment for me with a student who was searching, hurting, asking questions that no one was answering for him. I discovered my role was pretty simple; be with students, enjoy them and share the love and Good News of Jesus.
I believe it was prayer that set it all in motion.
I would visit my mountain often and Jesus continued to honor and use my prayers, along with the prayers of others.
When spring rolled around all the high schools in our district erupted with serious racial strife… except our school. At a district hearing on the issue the question was asked as to why our school was not troubled like the others. The administration was stumped. Finally one of them acknowledged that it was possibly because of the number of students on campus who were involved in the Christian movement. The year had not started out with a large movement of believers on campus, but by spring dozens had trusted Christ. Prayer changed our school.
Prayer is a bit of mystery to me. When I join Christ in eternity I have several questions on the subject like, “How did that prayer really work? What was actually going on behind the scenes?” I’m sure I’ll be amazed.
I do have a dream and it looks like this: Christian students, youth leaders, educators, parents, at every school in every community praying for students, sharing the message of Jesus and serving unselfishly. That would change a nation and shake our world.
Students not only need to know Christ, many of them want to know Him.
But reaching students is a supernatural venture, and the truth about campus ministry is that students will be reached when we lead with prayer.
Chuck Klein gives direction to the Campus Alliance
© Copyright 2016 Chuck Klein