Planting Near Campus
As a pastor, Joe Pearson has always had a heart for ministering to college students, knowing that's a time in life where life-changing decisions are made.
Pearson's own experience has helped shape his ministry as pastor of Praise Assembly in Monmouth, Oregon. When he attended the University of Oregon, Pearson accepted Jesus as Savior.
Now, in his 13 years as pastor at Praise Assembly, Pearson has overseen the planting of three congregations, two located in college towns, as Parent Affiliate Churches. Praise Assembly itself is only a few blocks from Western Oregon University.
"We want to plant churches near college campuses because that's an important time in life," Pearson says.
Praise also partnered with an existing church in McMinnville, not far from Linfield College. And the church has another campus in Springfield, just up the road from Pearson's alma mater, the University of Oregon. The third church, Crossroads Worship in Willamina, Oregon, involved direct oversight of a declining church.
Like Pearson, Beto Reyes became a Christian while in college. Reyes is now a volunteer at the McMinnville church and evangelizes college students. Both Reyes and Pearson turned their lives around while in college, thanks in part to churches near campus, and they believe there is a hunger for Christ among today's collegians.
Pearson has found that college students really want to be part of a multi-generational church, where the young and the old come together.
At the church near Linfield College in McMinnville, Pearson estimated that before Praise Assembly teamed up that the average age of congregants exceeded 80. But several widows in the church had been praying that God would help them make an impact on their city before Praise Assembly came along.
Pearson has learned that the older generation is an integral element in fruitfully planting churches near college campuses.
"There's nothing healthy about a college-age only church," Pearson says. "It has to be multigenerational and not segmented."
Pearson believes there's nothing more powerful than for a 19-year-old college student to hear a 94-year-old widow recount a faithful walk.
"You can tell them that all day, but when someone with that much experience speaks, it's true encouragement," Pearson says.
Another return on the college ministry has been the number of students who have been saved and have gone into the ministry. The care pastor on staff in McMinnville accepted Christ as Savior in a service at Monmouth. The administrative pastor also at Monmouth started attending while a college student.