Seeking the Overlooked Through an Austin Community College Ministry

Throughout the Bible, it is clear that Jesus has a heart for the overlooked. From healing a man with leprosy to speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus shows us what it looks like to build relationships with those who are lost and even neglected by the rest of the world.

Two navigator men, who lead the Austin Community College ministry, stand next to each other infront of a large staircase.
Kolten Powell left and Neil Larson right at Austin Community College

For Kolten Powell and Neil Larson, this idea of seeking and sharing the gospel to those who are overlooked is at the core of their recent ministry work at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas. Through building Life-to-Life® relationships at a community college system that serves thousands of students — but has no Christian ministries available on campus — Kolten and Neil are innovating a new Navigators Collegiate ministry to shed Christ’s light to students in Austin and the community beyond.

Pioneering a New Ministry Through Prayer

Starting a new ministry from scratch can be a slow and tedious process.

At least, this is what Kolten and Neil discovered after they both moved from doing Navigators Collegiate ministry at the University of Wyoming in order to pioneer a new college ministry in Austin. The city hosts 17 different colleges, and though Kolten and Neil knew they wanted to be innovative with their ministry model, they weren’t sure which specific college the Lord was leading them to serve.

One day, Neil had the idea to walk prayer circles seven times around a few of the colleges, much like Joshua did around the city of Jericho. As they prayed repeatedly around one of Austin Community College’s campuses, something started to happen. “It’s hard to describe, but we felt like something didn’t want us there,” Kolten says. “It became oddly hard to pray.” By the seventh lap, they were keenly aware that the Lord was moving!

“We left and thought, we don’t know what this means,” Kolten says. “But there are 50 Christian ministries at the University of Texas, and virtually zero at any of the 11 Austin Community College (ACC) campuses. And there are 70,000 students that ACC serves. We thought, this has to mean something. Let’s give it a shot.”

Reaching Students by Becoming Students

Building a ministry at a community college looks vastly different than at a typical university. There are no dorms, no dining halls, no fraternities or sororities. And yet, there are students walking in and out of the doors every day who are hurting, lost, and need Jesus.

Connecting with community college students requires thinking outside the box because students don’t live on campus. For Kolten and Neil, the best way to meet students was to become students themselves. Enrolling in a poetry class at ACC, they started to interact with students in their class. “In poetry class, you talk about your feelings a lot, and you jump into deep things pretty quick,” Neil says. “By week three, Kolten and I were driving back home, and we realized that we knew where all the students were spiritually.”

Inviting the other students to go to meals after class or read poetry together, they slowly but surely started to build trust and community. One girl even came to Kolten’s daughter’s birthday party after his daughter made her a friendship bracelet.

“Our whole strategy was to live like Jesus ourselves,” Kolten explains. “We are going to love those around us like Jesus and serve the students’ needs like Jesus did.”

Watching this Austin Community College Ministry Grow 

Taben, a student from poetry class, needed a ride from class one day. As Kolten and Neil drove him home, he started to ask them questions about Jesus. Kolten and Neil quickly learned that Taben had a background in Christianity, as he quoted Scripture and talked about apologetics. Taben had avidly studied the Bible in the past, and yet, he hadn’t given his life to Christ.

Kolten and Neil started to read the Bible regularly with Taben during lunches after class. One day, Neil could see that Taben’s heart was softening. “I asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’” Neil says. “And he told me, ‘I think I just really want Jesus to reveal Himself to me.’ So I asked him to pray for Jesus to answer that.”

The next time Neil saw him, Taben told him that he had been reading Romans 9, and he shared that his conscience was starting to change. “I got so excited about how the Lord and the Holy Spirit were working in him,” Neil says. “Then he paused, looked at me, and said, ‘Yeah, I believe now.’ The Lord was working in his heart the whole time.”

A Vision for Austin Community College Ministry

Neil and Kolten continue to build relationships at ACC by attending classes and hanging out with students in the campus student lounge. They have a clear mission to build relationships with students like Taben, invite them into their discipleship community, and empower them to live out their faith with their classes, families, and friends.

“As we meet people one-by-one, our long-term vision would be to have groups like ours pop up and create disciplemaking communities on all the different campuses,” Kolten says, “[so] that ultimately, God will reach the city of Austin because of the community college system here.”

You can come alongside Kolten and Neil and pray for their ministry as they build deeper relationships with students and share the gospel. Pray that they can form a community of believers that are dedicated disciplemakers, seeking the lost in the community college system and beyond.

“The city of Austin overlooks the community colleges,” Kolten says. “The people at these colleges often are here because hard things have happened in their life, from financial issues to mental health struggles to transportation problems. But I think the more we’re around, the more I can see Jesus wanting to interact with this group of students. This is where we need to be.”

Discipleship Tip:  

Where in your community could you start praying? Pick a location and pay attention to what happens as you pray. Watch for how God might lead you to step out in faith and invite those in your community to follow Jesus, too.

4 Ways You Can Pray for College Campuses

Would you like to pray for your community? How about the college campuses close to you? Here’s a resource with four specific ways you can pray for a college campus near you or even virtually! Click the link below to download your copy of 4 Ways You Can Pray for College Campuses and watch for God’s amazing movement in your community.

Comments:

  1. My workplace is a mission field, like every workplace I’ve ever worked in. But I am going to be specific & determined to let the Holy Spirit guide me here.

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