There are two parachurch ministries that have had a major impact on my growth as a Christian
— Young Life and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Within these ministries I found community, love and acceptance, godly mentors, and biblical teaching. I honestly don’t know where I would be if I didn’t get plugged into these ministries.
That said, parachurch ministries can never take the place of the local church. These ministries are to support the local church and help them accomplish God’s mission for His people.
Here are wise words from Jon Saunders, the director of Spartan Christian Fellowship in East Lansing, MI, on the role of parachurch ministries alongside the local church:
To my parachurch friends, I know you affirm the importance of the local church on paper. This is a good start, but it needs to be more than an affirmation on paper. The default mode of undergraduate students will be to treat your parachurch ministry like church. You must go above and beyond to make sure your ministry funnels students into the church, not away from it.
Cut back on your campus calendar so there’s time for students to get involved in a church. Encourage them to serve in the nursery or volunteer in the youth group. Encourage families in your church to adopt a group of students for the year. There’s an endless list of possibilities, but you must work to make this happen. Since parachurch ministries are usually more efficient and polished than churches, you’ll need to convince students why inolvement with you alone isn’t enough.
After all, they’re not going to be with you forever. They’re going to graduate. To the degree, then, you help to anchor their discipleship in the place it will be for the rest of their lives—the local church—you serve them well.
Praise God for the numerous men and woman serving and discipling on our school campuses all over the the world. My prayer is that their ministries would continue to flourish, even as they direct their students into gospel-centered local churches.
See Jon Saunders, “The Place and Purpose of Parachurch Ministries”, for the full article.