One of the biggest struggles that campus ministries and para church ministries faces is how to connect the kids we meet at school to the church.
Rule #1 of effective campus ministry is genuine service. That means being on campus to truly reach kids where they are… not just invite them to church. But let’s be honest, as relationships develop, some kids will be open to church… and making that leap to invite them isn’t always easy.
So how do you connect campus kids to the church?
Churchpotle of course!
As I read through the Gospels I’m reminded that some followed Jesus because of his teachings, but others probably began following him because of the goodies he provided – food and healing. Whatever the initial motivation, we know that many came to call him Lord. If Jesus used feeding as a draw… perhaps we should too.
This concept gave birth to what we know affectionately call Churchpotle. It began with one student – Nick. After spending time building a relationship with Nick the conversation went something like this, “Nick you’ve said you don’t go to church regularly, we’ll make you a deal – let’s meet at Chipotle for dinner and then we can go to church together.” To our joy Nick showed up, and Churchpotle was born. Some of our more at-risk and lower income kids heard that we were buying kids burritos and taking them to church…we began to hear, “Hey, I wanna come to Churchpotle too!”
The group began to grow, mostly unchurched students from the local trailer park and the apartments close to Chipotle. Those that can buy their own do so, those that can’t we covered. It began to get expensive and we were running out of room in our cars. More and more kids began to come. Truth is, many initially came for the burritos, but they all stayed because God began to draw them to the church.
My pastor’s wife heard the rumors of what we were doing and she sprung into action. After a few short months of flying solo – we now have a system down – and it’s still growing! The church bus makes a stop at the local trailer park and picks up kids – others get rides or walk to Chipotle. On a good night we have 30-35 students at Churchpotle – eating burritos and then filing onto the old church bus in the parking lot. Those who need rides are taken home after church.
Jesus fed the 5,000 – what a model for us. The benefits to my church have been obvious – more kids, and the chance to get more families connected to church. There have been other benefits we never expected also. Modeling for kids how to act in a restaurant…allowing others to go before us…teaching them it’s not okay to put soda in a cup given for water only…cleaning-up your own trash and even that of others…and being respectful of others. Wednesday nights are somewhat of a spectacle at Churchpotle… and it’s awesome. The manager now gives us a large discount and guests in line ask us, “what we you doing”, closely followed by, “why” – then the inevitable, “that’s cool!” Numbers of our core kids from church have begun to come and have dinner with us also – they buy theirs if they can – and it communicates loudly that all students are welcomed.
The statement to the kids is clear: we care about you and will invest in you. As the kid’s line up to board the old painted school bus laughing and smiling with the churches name plastered on the side the statement to the community is clear – glad somebody cares about those kids.
But what about the healing part? Stay tuned in the next CAMPUS CORNER for PART II of Churchpotle.
INTO CHURCH, YOU’D LOVE THE BOOK,
CONNECT: REAL RELATIONSHIPS IN A WORLD OF ISOLATION
is a 20-year youth ministry veteran who has worked full time for Campus Life for the last 14 years. He serves on two campuses weekly and runs several campus ministries both on and off campus in partnerships with local churches. Rob has been interviewed several times in Jonathan's podcasts on TheSource4YM.com and Jonathan drew from his expertise throughout his book, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. Rob serves on the national Campus Life team at Youth for Christ USA.