Reclaiming College Students for Christ
Timothy 2:2, "What you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." That is what discipleship is all about -- not just teaching the faith, but teaching others to teach.
Bible study leaders mentor many of the students in their Bible studies, using the model of heroic generosity Jesus and the early apostles used. In discipleship, students are encouraged to grow in virtue and prayer, and are trained in leadership, to be able to take the faith out to their friends and the rest of the campus.
Our large group events are a place for brand new students to get a non-threatening introduction to the Christian life and a place for student leaders to be challenged. FOCUS missionary staff invites students who show leadership potential to organize large group events on campus, featuring skits, music, testimonies and a short teaching.
Our goal is spiritual multiplication: We want to win students over for love of Jesus Christ, build them up in their knowledge and love of the faith, and send them out to find others, so that they can start the process all over again.
In this way, not only the campus, but also the culture, will be transformed. Jesus Christ is the one who came to change the world, so we know that it is possible through him.
Q: What kind of growth have you seen in FOCUS, and to what do you attribute that growth?
Martin: We started on one college campus in 1998 with 24 students involved and one staff member. We are now on 18 campuses in 11 dioceses with 63 full-time staff serving on campus. Nearly 2,000 students are involved in our program. Each year we receive more requests for campus teams than we can fulfill.
This growth has happened in just six years. I attribute our success to the time being ripe. There is a hunger out there. By God's grace, FOCUS is playing a vital role in the new evangelization for which Pope John Paul II has called.
Q: What differences do you see in college students today compared to when you started FOCUS?
Martin: The greater change is what I see since I was a student myself. Students today have a greater hunger for truth and they are eager to seek and find lasting friendships.
They don't have the agendas that many from a generation ago did. In many ways the relativism and hedonism found on most college campuses actually makes our job easier; students today want more. Our minds were made for truth and our hearts were made for love -- you see much of that on many campuses. The students respond when we present the truth in love.
Each year we have a National Student Leadership Conference with special guests and practical breakout sessions. We could be looking at anywhere from 800 to 1,000 students this year. For many, it's one of the most memorable experiences of their college years. It's extremely heartwarming to see their hunger satisfied and the building of lifelong friendships on display through out the weekend.
Q: Are there any campus ministry strategies that might be adaptable to parish life?
Martin: Each of our three key components can be done anywhere. Small-group Bible study, one-on-one discipleship and large-group meetings can all work to enliven the hearts of the members of every parish community.
Spiritual multiplication needs to happen not only at the campus level, but in the parishes as well. There are thousands of people out there who do not know Jesus Christ. Every Catholic needs to be won over to Jesus Christ, built up in the faith and sent out to bring in more into the fold.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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