College campuses are so transient. Working here at KSU Christian Challenge, I have seen students come and go. They enter as 18-year-old freshman, and we have the privilege of seeing them mature and leave so abruptly. As a student I saw many of my peers leave college and get jobs in new cities. Many thrived but some limped by, never finding a good church home. This breaks my heart, and as the senior ministry point person on our team I have the privilege to attempt to improve a graduate’s post-college experience.
My major in college was Agriculture Education. Even though I am not working in that field I still love using my degree. Interestingly, Jesus talked about agriculture often. Many of his parables were about seeds, fruit, and soil. Even church lingo uses words like church planting, bearing fruit, and reaping the harvest.
Continuing in this trend, I have taken the agricultural concept of spreading seeds and used it as an illustration for our graduating seniors here at KSU. They have been nurtured and cared for here at Christian Challenge, and now it is time for them to leave, plant, and bear fruit elsewhere.
I illustrate to them how we want them to reproduce their lives in one of the following three ways plants reproduce:
This is by far the most common way both plants and college ministries reproduce. Plants will produce hundreds of seeds at one time and scatter them all over the land hoping they will become a fruit bearing plant someday. Advantages of seeds are many can be produced at once, they can travel just about anywhere, and they require little energy to produce. However, the disadvantage of seeds is they have a lower germination percent (lower chance of survival) because many land in rocky soil, too dry or too wet of soil, or are eaten up.
Just like plants this is the approach many campus ministries use to sow their seeds (graduates). When students graduate we give them some names of people or good churches and then send them out to produce fruit. I have found this approach often has a lower germination percent just like seeds. Graduates might get connected to a church but may not flourish. This can certainly be an effective approach, but just like a good farmer we must be intentional about planting our seeds in fertile soil full of the nutrients it needs to grow.
2) Bulbs (i.e. onions)
Some plants use a bulb method to reproduce. Underground, a plant produces a large mass of nutrients with a shoot and root system already developed. This bulb then detaches and starts a new plant. Advantages are a bulb has an extremely good germination percent and a high chance of survival. They are quick to take root and bear fruit because nutrients are already present. The disadvantage is healthy bulbs require a significant amount of time and resources to develop.
When considering graduates, many of them develop deep friendships here in college so why not allow those to bear fruit post-college. We want to send them as “bulbs” or groups and plant them in cities and churches. However, this takes sacrifice and intentionality. The group must be healthy, full of good nutrients, and well invested in by each member and the mother plant, otherwise the bulb will not grow into a healthy plant.
3) Rhizomes (i.e. grasses)
A Rhizome is an underground root system that develops nodes from which new plants sprout. Rhizomes remain attached to the mother plant until they can survive on their own. They are typically invasive plants and overtake a field very quickly. Advantages are Rhizomes remain connected to the mother plant, gain nutrients and stability from her, and quickly bear fruit. The disadvantage is they are replicas of the mother plant and cannot travel far due to their attachment.
This system of planting is the replicating of a campus ministry or church at another university. The mother plant purposely sends a group of graduates and students to plant a new ministry. The advantage of this is the staff can easily provide assistance to the new group because of their attachment. Again, this takes significant intentionality and direction and is not something that can be done on a whim.
In the past, we at KSU have only sent graduates as seeds. Now, we are considering other options. We want to provide multiple options for graduates to plant so we are not limited to just one strategy. Most importantly we want to be intentional about how we send. All three systems can flourish if there is a hard-working farmer behind them that is putting forth effort. So, if you are a student, think about these options and ask God how, where, and with whom could I plant myself for His glory? If you are a ministry director or pastor I would encourage you to consider how you could intentionally plant graduates to best further the Kingdom of Jesus. For the rest of you, I would ask you to pray for us, for Christian Challenge leaders and our students. Pray that we would be better able to help send out our graduates well and that our graduates would take root and flourish for the Kingdom wherever they end up being planted.