Cornerstones of evangelistic outreach to college students—concerts and pizza parties—are harder to find these days. One is just as likely to encounter nights spent with the homeless, meetings about human trafficking, and out-reach to gay students.
"There has been a definitive shift in how campus ministries think about connecting with students," said Kara Powell, executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary. "More and more campus leaders are realizing that the gospel is both personal evangelism and justice."
Scott Bessenecker, associate director of missions for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said students within the organization's 850 groups on 562 campuses have focused more on social causes in recent years.
"[We] want to engage students with a Jesus who walks among the marginalized," Bessenecker said. "InterVarsity is trying to help students embrace and engage the social dimensions of the gospel in a way that will inspire individuals to say, 'I want to follow this Jesus.'"
Advocates believe such efforts reclaim the church's true calling.
"The social message and the traditional evangelism approach go hand in hand," said Bob Marks, recruitment specialist for Chi Alpha, an Assemblies of God ministry active on more than 200 campuses worldwide. One example: The University of California, Irvine chapter focused on human trafficking last year.
Josh Spavin, an intern with the University of Central Florida's (UCF) Campus Crusade for Christ chapter, said traditional evangelistic outreach still works, but times have changed with this generation.
"Students tend to not just take it unless they experience it or see it in someone else's life," Spavin said. "It is still the same gospel and it is ...1