What Churches are Influential in University Communities? (RJS)

Scot linked yesterday to the Missio Alliance website – where the page starts with an observation: “North America has become a mission field. In large parts of our culture, Christianity now exists at the margins and is met with a sense of antagonism amidst the growth of religious pluralism.”

Nowhere is this more true than on our college and university campuses – especially our elite secular colleges and universities. Universities are great places, the environment is exciting, the intellectual atmosphere challenging. But there is no doubt that these are also mission fields – fields as significant as any other place on the globe.

I’ve spent 30 years in secular universities as student, scholar, and professor. This is an area where I have had a longstanding interest, especially but not solely focused on issues at the intersection of science and the Christian faith. But I don’t have broad experience with University ministries. So today I have a question, and would like to get some input from readers.

What churches in America and Canada are especially influential in university communities? Many churches have undergraduate ministries, but I am especially interested in churches where there are a significant number of faculty and graduate students, Churches located in university towns or university “neighborhoods” throughout the country.

If you have good examples you can drop them in comments (I am not interested in criticisms today, but positive comments are also welcome). You can also send the names of good examples via e-mail to my usual address: rjs4mail[at]att.net.

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  • We launched Catalyst Church four weeks ago and strategically rented a meeting place within walking distance of Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. We are definitely learning as we go and rejoicing as we see college students engage with the gospel. The Aletheia Network in Virginia and Florida does a great job engaging the collegiate environment as a church.

  • Barb

    University Covenant Church in Davis CA packs in UC Davis students. University Pres –PC(USA) has a big campus ministry for the U of WA and another PC(USA) does the same at Western WA U in Bellingham

  • My friend is the college minister at Singing Oaks Church of Christ (http://www.singingoaks.org) in Denton, TX. Their college ministry website is here: http://soccyouth.org/ccc/ Denton is home to the University of North Texas. I know they do a pretty good job with their focus on incarnational ministry (they own a frat house).

  • Bev Mitchell

    Have a look at Vineyard Boston. http://www.bostonvineyard.org/

    Dave Schmelzer is the lead pastor, and from what I have read of his writing, this church has great participation from the university crowd in Boston. Schmelzer’s “Not the Religious Type: Confessions of a Turncoat Atheist” is an inspiring read.

  • I agree about University Presbyterian next to UWashington. I think another obvious choice for the Seattle region is MarsHill. They don’t necessarily have a specific college ministry, but for the longest time the congregation was almost more than half single college age people.

  • maggie

    check out love chapel hill in Chapel Hill, NC

  • Shameless Plug. Pullman Foursquare Church near Washington State University. Over 2/3 of our student attendance is made up of Grad students and many of our folks are professors or lead researchers. If shear numbers is the metric for “influential” our church isn’t huge and there is no light show – but we have a passion for the mission of Jesus, for our city, our university and our world and we are watching lives and our neighborhood transform.

  • there is a Catholic church just beside Ottawa university that fits the bill. saint Joe’s. because we’ve run small groups on campus we run into students that attend there and where i teach a number of the profs are actively involved. it has a bit of a reputation as a social justice oriented church and my fundamentalist Catholic (boy they hate that term but it sure fits) friends look down their noses at it. my director speaks there on occasion, she’s a Roman Catholic feminist theologian. i know of a fair number of campus ministries and on campus church satellites, but none that draw in profs of note.

  • mmesachi

    Vineyard at Hyde Park (Chicago) and Park Community Church (Chicago)?
    I don’t have personal experiences with either, but a friend of mine (a Japanese) got saved at the Vineyard Hyde Park when he was a graduate student at UChicago. He then went to North Park seminary, got MDiv, and he is now doing campus ministry in Tokyo. There is also a Chinese church in Hyde Park area (Cornell St.) and two of my husband’s Chinese graduate students (UChicago) got saved there.

    Cambridge Community Fellowship Church near MIT. My husband visited there once, and he was very impressed by the diversity in the body and the involvement of the MIT students in community services.

  • Andrew

    I was a charter member at CCFC, which mmesachi mentions (#9) (ccfc-church dot org). When I was there some years ago, the demographic at this Evangelical Covenant church was a bit young to have many faculty members, but it certainly has plenty of graduate students. For faculty members, you might need to visit Park Street Church in Boston (parkstreet dot org), a historic Congregational church where I went in high school and early college.

    I’m told Highway Community in Palo Alto (highway dot org) draws a fair university crowd from Stanford. Their media team put out the “From the Dust” movie, and at least one of the faculty panel members present at the world premiere of that film goes to Highway, as I understand.

    Several friends of mine go to Berkeley First Presbyterian (fpcberkeley dot org/), which may also have faculty members in attendance.

  • Elaine

    Crave Coffee House/Christ in the City Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, housed in an old Lutheran church building at the south edge of the St. Louis University campus.

  • RJS


    When I was a graduate student I attended First Presbyterian Berkeley – a long while ago now. It was a good mix of ages then and certainly had a large graduate student cohort.

  • Park Street Church in downtown Boston is an excellent university friendly church. Many graduate students attend there. And of course there’s Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. I just started attending a small EPC church on the North Shore of Boston and several of the members are professors at Gordon College and are also involved at Gordon Conwell Seminary, my own school. I love it because they’re a very science friendly crowd who also are very strong on the centrality of the gospel!

  • Jeremy

    Blackhawk Church in Madison. Not only engaging well with hundreds of college students, but also lots of university and medical faculty, and a great relationship with the school in general, including actually doing a shared mission trip with one professor’s class in Central America. Every couple years there’s a science and faith seminar with faculty presenters.

  • Jeremy is right on. Blackhawk in Madison, WI engages the university incredibly well, and reaches a very intellectual community in Madison. We engage science and art on a really deep level. it has been a very life-giving community for me over the last 5 years. You might have to come up for a visit sometime.

  • Rick

    CCF and Midtown Church are making a good impact at Georgia Tech. Honorable mention also goes to Buckhead Church and Passion City Church.

  • I work for a newer movement of churches focused on planting churches on college campuses or in college towns. Our movement is called Collegiate Church Network. Our churches are primarily located in the Midwest. Some flagship churches can be found at the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University (Ohio), and the University of Missouri. Our website is http://www.collegiatechurchnetwork.com.

  • J.L. Schafer

    At Penn State, there are quite a few faculty members and staff attending Calvary Baptist, a large multicampus congregation. And other churches as well, but I mention Calvary because it’s large. Many of the evangelical churches in State College work together in nontrivial ways through an association called CityChurch. The pastors of these churches meet together every week, and even go on retreats together, to pray together for needs of the community and to collaborate on joint events. The sense of unity among these churches is strong and getting stronger, which is a very positive sign.

  • RobS

    Thanks to Matthew (17) there for updating me in a way. I went to Virginia Tech and we worked with Great Commission Ministries, but now they are partnering with the Collegiate Church Network (as Matthew described) — I think that’s the group that focuses on the college church efforts more. Other groups focus on the international & domestic church planting efforts. Good to know.

  • Greg

    I have never been more impressed with a church doing this than REUNION Christian Church in Boston. http://www.reunionboston.com 5 years old, two campuses now in Back Bay and Somerville. Incredible mix of young urban professionals and college/grad students — from BC, BU, Harvard, MIT, Berklee College of Music and more. They have tight collaboration with Sojourn Collegiate Ministries – http://sojourncollegiate.com/ – handling that relationship as a win-win for both church and college ministry.

  • In Cincinnati, I’d include University Christian Church (http://www.universitychristianchurch.net). The pastor, Troy Jackson, is the only pastor I know who has completed a PhD from a research university in a “secular” subject (history) while pastoring a church.

  • It is interesting that this makes two references (shout out to Pullman Foursquare!) to churches in the small college town of Pullman, Washington (home of Washington State University) but I have been a part of Resonate Church here in Pullman for about four years now. It’s a multi-site (two separate services in Pullman and one 8 miles away in another college town, Moscow, Idaho) collegiate church plant. The church body is around 850 regular attenders with about 85% being college students (between WSU and the University of Idaho). The church is specifically targeted towards college students and is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. More information can be found at http://www.experienceresonate.com. I just discovered your blog, but I’m enjoying it very much. Thanks for starting this conversation. It’s something we at Resonate Church believe in very much.

  • At Every Nation Churches our goal is to not only have a church in every nation but also to plant in cities where major universities and colleges are. Reaching the next generation through campus ministries and connecting them to the local church is largely what defines us. http://www.everynation.org.

  • Ben P.

    Citylife Presbyterian Church (Boston) — A Redeemer PCA church plant. lots of undergrads and graduate students, geared towards intellectuals, Sr. Pastor Stephen Um. http://www.citylifeboston.org

  • Brad Lockner

    Visited Park Community Church, Lincoln Park in Chicago and huge number of students who were warmly welcomed and integral part of service. Imago Dei in Portland, Oregon also reaches out to students and community. I have a friend who attends and really likes Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan.

    As a Canadian wonder about such university oriented church in Canada’s university communities.

  • Doug Shackelford

    Chapel Hill Bible Church (Chapel Hill, NC)–began on the University of North Carolina campus, now positioned halfway between UNC and Duke, has a long history of engaging with faculty graduate and undergraduate students at both campuses. Its ethos is one of addressing hard questions, supporting on-campus ministries, and recognizing that most attendees will only spend a few years at the church before scattering around the globe

  • John

    Newsong Church in Irvine, CA reaches out to a lot of students in the area. I’ve been impressed how they’ve been able to plant different churches in America and overseas, as well.