Campus missionary leads students to make the most of relationships
CITY OF KANSAS – How do you connect with students when you can’t physically be on campus? That’s the question Campus Missionary Carson Conover asked himself as another semester began at Longview and Blue River Community Colleges in the fall of 2020.
With a handful of student leaders, his intern Emma and the staff at Collegiate Impact, Travis Hamm and Kerissa Breisch, Conover wanted to make the most of their weekly leaders meetings on Thursday. Given Zoom’s constraints and their inability to meet new students on campus, Conover knew it would take creative thinking – and a healthy dose of God’s power – to see a successful year of college ministry.
Conover decided to use the semester to equip his leadership team with some of the evangelistic skills he has learned over the years. âI was just trying to share what I learned with them,â he says. They spent the first few weeks examining the why, what, and how of evangelistic dating, a method of evangelism that centers on simply making a date with someone you know (or don’t know). to have an intentional conversation about Jesus.
For the next phase, Conover walked them step by step through a roadmap to facilitate the conversation about the gospel appointment. The roadmap has three parts: the story of the other person, your story, and the story of God. The group went in depth learning how to ask good questions to learn about people’s stories, how to effectively share their own testimonies in a clear and concise manner, and how to tell the story of God using the Three Circles evangelism tool. .
Each week, Conover encouraged the group to put into practice what they were learning. They wrote their testimonials and shared their comments with each other. They took turns sharing the Three Circles and discussed how to deal with the different responses they might encounter. They practiced telling their stories and the Three Circles with people outside of the management team so they could feel comfortable sharing.
As the fall semester arrived in the spring, Conover was still grappling with the same question: How do we meet new people? The students were still not on campus. The usual opportunities to connect with them were absent. At this point, his team was well equipped for evangelistic gatherings, but where would they meet the students to share with?
Conover focused on the network of relationships that already existed, asking the team, “What students and young adults in your life do you still see – in class, at work, your friends?” It took them a few weeks to visualize their network of relationships on an Oikos map, a simple tool to help people think more deliberately about their existing relationships. The goal was to have at least 50 names in each person’s sphere of relationships, and then identify whether they are Christians, not Christians, or uncertain.
âThe idea was to help them see that these are the best candidates to invite someone to an evangelist bible study,â says Conover. âIf we couldn’t make new contacts, we thought this might be the best way to keep evangelistic momentum. Conover gave the team some practical tips and examples on how to make an invite, then encouraged them to do one thing: invite.
âWe told them to invite a whole group because only a certain percentage will say yes. If you invite a lot, you will have enough to start this group, âhe says. “We reminded them that geography didn’t matter because it was going to be on Zoom.”
The executives were hesitant, especially since they hadn’t seen many guests on their lists for a long time. But over time, the leaders did extend their invitations, and a few had enough yeses to begin little Gospel Bible studies.
An executive, Jonas, invited a number of his friends and acquaintances, including a friend who is currently enrolled at a university in another state. During their study, Jonah led this student to Christ and helped him begin to grow. They are still on the line, discussing next steps and trying to put him in touch with a local church in his area.
Kerissa Breisch, director of administration and events for Collegiate Impact, reconnected with some of her college friends through this process who now live across the country. âBeing part of this leadership team has helped me prepare and motivate myself to reach out to friends and acquaintances who would not have spoken regularly otherwise,â says Breisch.
To his surprise, two of them – one of whom had been particularly hostile to Christianity in college – said yes to the idea of ââa Bible study. âIt has been a blessing to see the girls’ willingness to discuss topics about religion and faith,â she said. âI have been able to explain salvation several times. Although the semester is over, Breisch plans to continue studying the Bible with them on Zoom over the summer.
Emma Clark, a Conover University Ministry intern, had regularly invested in a young woman, Emily, at their church, Life Connection. Emma and another former student, Kylie, met her regularly to study the Bible. For long periods of time, Emily expressed more and more interest in Christ. Towards the end of the semester, something clicked. Emily expressed that she wanted to put her faith in Jesus. The group led her in this direction. She was baptized on June 13.
While this school year has turned out to be radically different from any other year in the decade and more of Conover’s university ministry, he is grateful for the fruits that have ensued. Sometimes we forget that we don’t need new connections to keep going in the ministry; all we need is loyalty in the relationships we already have, eyes to see the people around us who need Jesus, and the courage to do something about it.