Another school year is gearing up — a good time to focus on one of the fastest-growing “people groups” on the planet: college students.
Worldwide, the number of college students has more than doubled — to 130 million — in the past 50 years, according to Ken Cochrum, global campus strategist for Campus Crusade for Christ.
“If taken as a whole, this generation of college students would constitute the world’s 10th-largest country,” Cochrum reports in the August edition of Lausanne World Pulse. “Governments of developing nations have realized that their future depends upon a well‐educated population who can compete in today’s borderless ‘glocal’ economy.”
Those governments, joined by corporations and advertisers, “invest millions of dollars each year attempting to influence students and the choices they will make for the rest of their lives,” Cochrum observes. “What about the church? What level of urgency and intentionality do we give to making disciples and building Christ-centered movements among students today?”
Cochrum lists some of the major urban centers that have become magnets for students — Moscow with 1.2 million, Mexico City with 400,000, Rome with 250,000. The list grows, along with the hopes of millions of families riding on their sons and daughters seeking higher education.
I met several elite university students in Moscow a few years ago. They attended a professional development seminar based on Christian principles.
“Healthy student-led movements of spiritual multiplication serve as a leadership engine for the body of Christ,” he says. “Students don’t remain students forever. Within five years most of these 130 million will be on their journey to the marketplace. They will begin leading families and paying taxes. They will shape fields such as government, scientific research, education, sports and entertainment.
“Today’s students will determine tomorrow’s culture. … The next few years represent a significant window of opportunity.”
And let no one underestimate their spiritual potential. American Protestants counted fewer than 1,000 missionaries worldwide before the YMCA launched the Student Volunteer Movement in 1888, led by John R. Mott. By 1920, the movement had directly mobilized more than 8,700 missionaries for reaching the lost — and influenced many more to go — setting the stage for an unprecedented era of Christian expansion worldwide, despite the wars and upheavals of the 20th century.
A new student-led movement might do the same in our time.