If you look at the collegiate landscape you will notice a plethora of college ministries represented on campuses across America. A lot of these campus ministries are para-church organizations; most schools have the standard, Campus Crusade or Navigators ministries, some have Young Life which takes Christian College students and helps them invest their lives in the youth of the community. Are these para-church organizations helpful or harmful to the ministries of the local churches in those communities?
I for one came to know the Lord through a para-church ministry in college and as I was exploring things of faith the approach of this particular ministry exposed me to a God who is relational. I am now a Pastor at a local church in a college town and I for one love working alongside the para-church ministries that reach out to college students and try to emulate traditional para-church strategies in the ministry that I serve. Para-church organizations usually have the flexibility to have multiple staff on a campus or in a region and are able to walk alongside college students in a more intimate level then local church Pastors are able to do. As a college student there is nothing worse then not being able to connect relationally with others, and the strategies of most of these para-church organizations usually allows for more of a relational approach to ministry. As I try to apply the principles of para-church organizations into our young adult ministry that reaches out to college students I find myself enjoying the relational and life connection that I am able to have with students. The biggest thing I was able to do that enhanced my ability to connect with college students in a more relational way was to unplug from the office and go to campus. I realized that I can do as much work on campus in the student center then I can in my office at church, the only difference is that I am now visible and available to connect with my students that are on campus. Para-church missionaries typically don’t have offices and are forced to be on college campuses, this visibility helps in connecting with students.
There are many different ways in which ministers of the Gospel are gifted in sharing and communicating the Good News, praise God that we have para-church organizations that work alongside local church ministries to bring truth to our University campuses.
Reza Zadeh was born in Abadan, Iran. His family emigrated to the America when he was young and was raised as a Muslim in Orange County, California. Reza met the Lord while attending Colorado State University through a campus ministry focused on reaching athletes at CSU. Reza studied Sports Medicine at CSU and after his college career was over he spent 3 years as an assistant coach with the Football team. In the Winter of 2003 was called to Full time ministry at Timberline Church in Fort Collins, Colorado where he oversees the young adult ministry. Pastor Reza has a passion to walk alongside those that have questions about faith and help people explore how God wants to use them in this world to make an impact in the lives of others. Reza lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife Allyson, his daughter Olivia and his two dogs.