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Currently we live in a world where college students are avoiding Christianity more than any other time in history. So…discussing the role of church and para-church in the United States is kind of like two ants arguing over who is going to eat the elephant? Ultimately, it seems that para-church organizations exist because the church has not been doing its job in regard to effectively reaching and discipling college students. One of the most significant shifts in recent years is the declining reputation of Christianity, especially among college-aged students.

Most churches in the USA place strategic emphasis with staff and resources towards youth 0-18 and 30+ married adults with children. However, there is an enormous gap in most churches discipleship continuum where college-aged students and “twenty somethings” literally fall.

It is time for the Christian Church in the United States to take a deep theological reflection into how effective we are at walking/discipling people from childhood to adulthood. We, the Church, seem to be suffering from severe mission amnesia. We have forgotten why we exist. While most churches boast a mission statement that usually includes “making disciples” and “winning the lost” the bottom line is that they are not effectively doing it. If most churches were a business, and their goal was to make a profit (i.e. disciples), they would be on a crash course with bankruptcy. Dallas Willard explains: “Non-discipleship is the elephant in the church.” The further we go down the generational food chain, the less effective we are at reaching emerging generations. Thus, I think churches and para-church organizations must be creating strategic partnerships in order to more effectively reach college students to introduce them into a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ and each other. While at the same time we need to be continuously challenging church leaders to address the discipleship continuum problem in their churches and in our nation. I believe God is consistently looking for godly and passionate men and women who have the courage to stand up and be a prophetic voice in our nation and call church leaders to pull their heads out of the sand and start building a bridge for college students.

Vince Beresford is the College Pastor at Friends Church in Yorba Linda, California and is also an Affiliate Professor of Leadership and Youth Ministry at Spring Arbor University.

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