University campuses don’t seem to provide much for Christians to be encouraged about these days. Student protests, fraternity initiations turned deadly, and sexual assaults make the headlines. But at Winona State University in Minnesota, the news this fall is more uplifting, thanks to the efforts of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A. Following a summer of prayer and planning for back-to-school events, 49 students accepted Christ as Savior at the very first service!
James T. Bradford, who now serves as general secretary of the U.S. Assemblies of God, walked that campus as a student in the 1970s, praying for a move of God. Leaders during the 1990s invested countless hours of hard work and prayer. Those efforts, continued by current leadership, are paying off. Last year, an average of 150 students attended Chi Alpha services, and at this year’s opening service, 270 showed up.
Since its beginnings in 1953 at Missouri State University, Chi Alpha has established ministry on more than 300 college and university campuses throughout the United States. As one of the “Seven Windows to America” of U.S. Missions, Chi Alpha seeks to “reconcile students to Christ, equipping them through Spirit-filled communities of prayer, worship, fellowship, discipleship, and mission to transform the university, the marketplace, and the world.”
The secular university campus is a huge and strategic mission field, with every religion, race, creed, and culture represented. Social, scientific, and spiritual theories on campuses today will be mainstream tomorrow. Chi Alpha offers Christian and non-Christian students alike a place to learn about God and discuss spiritual matters. Students, faculty, and campus staff can experience the love of Christ through the ministry of a local Chi Alpha group.
Many Christian students are living away from home for the first time, facing new challenges. Chi Alpha provides worship opportunities and fellowship to help protect the investment of time, money, and prayer into these young people by families and churches. Other students, though, have had no previous exposure to the gospel in an increasingly secular society. Reaching these future community leaders, business owners, scientists, or teachers for Christ is vital.
Chi Alpha also reaches out to international students. With well over one million students studying in the U.S., the campus is truly a place to impact nations. The list includes multiple nations where restrictive laws prevent students from ever hearing the gospel at home.
“God brings them to American universities, we believe, that they might come to know Him,” says U.S. missionary Steve Bortner at North Carolina State University. “Chi Alpha welcomes them and invites them to belong, even before they believe.”
Students who encounter Jesus through campus ministry may become missionaries to their countries upon returning home with their newfound faith.
At the beginning of the school year, Chi Alpha groups host back-to-school outreaches to connect with as many students as possible. Student leaders then follow up on the contacts made. The methods are as varied as the campus environments. They may include free Bible distribution, small group studies, fellowship activities, worship nights, or coffeehouse conversations.
This fall presented unusual opportunities for campus ministries in Texas and Florida. Student leaders mobilized volunteer teams for hurricane cleanup, and groups built friendships by serving together.
This Sunday, Sept. 24, is National Chi Alpha Awareness Day. Prayers of intercession are important to the success of campus ministry. Here are some ways to pray:
In addition to vital prayer support, local churches can bless campus ministries by hosting and partnering in events. Congregations also can welcome students who need a home church (or an occasional home-cooked meal). Other suggestions can be found here.
As fall semester progresses, reports similar to the one from Winona State continue to arrive. At North Dakota State University, over 50 students have made commitments to follow Christ in the first few meetings. At North Carolina State, Chi Alpha student leaders hosting an information booth connected with over 300 international students.
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