By Rudy Hartmann,
Spring Kickoff Connection Groups
For forty-two years of college ministry, The Salt Company at Iowa State University has had similar rhythms from year to year. We know we have to reach students. We know we have to develop leaders. We know we have to disciple those God’s entrusted to us. We know we have to gather and send. We know we have to be focused on the Bible, Community, and Mission, motivated by the Gospel. These are non-negotiables for us – we live and die by the convictions we hold true.
And this year, we decided to write a new story, founded in those convictions, for the first week of Campus. We wrote last month about how we were planning to do a Mission Trip to Campus: Spring Edition, and now that we’ve done it, I want to paint the picture of Kickoff to you, our reader. Imagine 1,400+ college students in a room. Imagine the rhythm of a worship, announcements, and message. Do you see it?
Now imagine 1,400 students breaking into groups by living location and spreading out into every nook and cranny of our church into groups and holding connection groups right after service. That’s what happened on the first Thursday night of the semester. We had our students break straight into connection groups so that our visitors might experience the community we hold so dear and attribute so much growth of students and leaders alike. The stories of new connections, people opening up who never had before, and the shock of such emphasis on community being experienced on this night are unbelievable. What we know for sure is this: we have not done everything, we have not tried everything, the work is still large, our God is still larger, and the best is yet to come.
At Cornerstone Church of Ames and The Salt Company at Iowa State, we hold in high regard the development of leaders. It has been said by our staff that student leadership is our discipleship model. Yet, at the same time, we are defined by the reality that we are, as convicted by the Spirit of God and the study of Scripture, a Church-Based Collegiate Ministry. The tension we must address is this: how do we develop leaders who are college students doing work on college campuses as students are reaching students within the context of the Local Church? How do we avoid becoming a ministry-pariah who only connects with and cares about our own kind and our own affairs?
Say hello to one tangible means: All-Leaders Gathering
This is a yearly gathering held at our Church in which our leaders from every ministry are represented and different pastors lead different training breakout sessions. Our Salt Company student leaders have the opportunity to rub shoulders with community leaders who work in every area of ministry from the tiniest babies to the eldest connection groups. This was an expression of a multi-generational church that had the unique opportunity to collectively shepherd all levels of leaders and all ages of leaders. Students got to meet those who serve in the ministries of the local church and were given opportunities to build relationships with families from all over our region.
This is a high-value for our ministry for at least two reasons: First, our students get to see what it looks like to lead outside of college. This is crucial because — you guessed it — they will, one day, no longer be in college! To have a picture of leadership post-college will position them to progress into a place of serving and leading within the Local church for years to come. Second, these are often the roles that are necessary for our church plants when they get off the ground. Our aim is to plant churches that are Next churches — which means we go hard after college campuses but still make an impact on the community in which they plant! These events that cross-pollinate the leadership development of students and value of a multi-generational church are paramount to the holistic development of our students.