The Ignite Network: Reaching Small Campuses in Iowa and Nebraska

“The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation” Isaiah 60:22 (NIV).

When it comes to The Navigators’ mission — to help others know Christ, make Him known, and help others do the same® — we know that it takes just one believer to start a movement for the gospel. From places small and unknown to people who feel unequipped or unworthy, the Lord has a way of multiplying His work through us, turning one disciple into a thousand.

College students in a circle praying over a friend by a pond under an overcast sky.
Students at Buena Vista University pray over a fellow student.

This mindset — that the smallest ones can create a mighty nation — was at the forefront of Navigator Alex Newmaster’s mind when he came up with the idea for the Ignite Network.

In Iowa and Nebraska, there are 113 colleges and universities that have no gospel presence. The goal of the Ignite Network is to bring the gospel to those campuses, equipping and connecting students with guiding Navigators and resources so that they can start gospel movements on their campuses and beyond.

Reaching the Overlooked

Alex was on sabbatical when the idea for the Ignite Network first came to him. He was regularly driving through small towns in Iowa, and he began to notice college campuses he’d previously overlooked. “I felt guilty driving through these towns and seeing the campuses and not walking around to see what’s going on there,” he says.

He started to think about how The Navigators could reach these small campuses that had no ministry presence. Without capacity to fully staff Navigators ministries at each campus, he decided to try a new ministry approach — rallying existing everyday disciplemakers in those communities to connect with students and start ministries at these colleges.

“The thought process was that we already have somebody in almost every town — Navigators alumni, significant donors, or churches — and we want to help them get a vision for these campuses,” Alex recalls. “We want them to go find students, get resources off the shelves, and engage with disciplemaking on campus to bridge the gap.”

Since his sabbatical ended, Alex and a team of six other Navigators have launched the Ignite Network and dedicated themselves to starting these new college ministries, meeting with passionate students on campuses and connecting them with disciplemakers in their towns. 

Since May 2023, the Ignite Network has launched new disciplemaking communities at 20 unreached campuses across Nebraska and Iowa. In the next three years, their goal and prayer is to reach 40 more campuses!

A Gospel Movement at Buena Vista University

Buena Vista University was the first small college in Iowa that Alex tried the Ignite Network’s approach with — and it worked! Alex made a connection with an administrator at the business school there, who had come to faith through The Navigators while in college.

“The administrator asked me, ‘What would it take for you to visit Buena Vista?’” Alex recalls. “I said, ‘If you can get me an interview with the most influential spiritual students on campus, I’ll come.’”

The administrator followed through. The next thing Alex knew, he was waking up in the early hours to drive to the university with 14 students scheduled to talk to him that morning. During those conversations, he asked the students one question: “If you had spiritual help, what would you want help with?”

All 14 students answered the same three things. They wanted help growing in their relationship with Christ, learning to read the Bible with friends, and gaining instruction on how to share the gospel.

Alex taught that core group of students a 24-hour crash course on how to share the gospel, lead an inductive Bible study, and the basics of walking with Christ. Though the students were passionate about their faith, they just needed a little bit of guidance and encouragement on how to live it out.

A couple months later, Alex returned to the campus to see how the students were doing. Already, there was a Bible study on almost every sports team on campus, and two different students had led their roommates to Christ after sharing The Bridge illustration.

“It was a night and day difference,” Alex says. “We’ve been searching for these types of students, and we’ve been finding them everywhere. It’s like God ignited a little mini revival on campus.”

Though Alex is continuing to coach some of the students, he’s also gotten local disciplemakers and churches involved with guiding this budding campus ministry into a lasting movement. “We are setting them up with some of our hungriest students so they can meet one-to-one,” Alex says. “It’s getting the right people in the room and connecting them, saying you can help each other.”

From Reaching Small Campuses to Mighty Nations

The student impact at Buena Vista University is just one example of how the Lord is working in small colleges and universities through the Ignite Network. Since the network started, over 30 students have come to Christ, and at least half of those students are now leading others to Jesus too.

“We are seeing students reached that have just been so overlooked,” Alex says. “These students are seeking the gospel, and their lives are changing. God is using them in great and mighty ways.”

Join us in praying for the Ignite Network as they search for seasoned disciplemakers throughout Iowa and Nebraska to walk alongside students and guide them. Pray that these small campuses and students will be the spark that ignites nations for the Lord, on their campuses and beyond.

Discipleship Tip:

If you had spiritual help, what would you want help with? Who could you ask this question to? Try this question out and see what happens next. It might spark a conversation around growing as a disciplemaker.

7 Tips for Discipling the Next Generation

Would you like to confidently invest in the next generation, but wonder what your next step is? The apostle Paul invested his life into someone younger, Timothy. Explore these seven tips based on 2 Timothy 3:10-11 and see how Paul encouraged Timothy to pass on everything he had taught him to future generations.


  1. God put something on your heart during what, I’m sure, was a well-deserved Sabbatical and time of rejuvenation. May His light continue to shine through the Ignite Network. Thank you for sharing!

  2. How exciting is that! I am in my 70’s now after 53 years of walking with Christ, having been active in those “magic years” of the early 70’s, when someone helped me learn to walk with Him, and then help others. I am partially disabled now, but still looking/praying for a unique way to find others who need some help growing, even though I am a co-leader of a 2:7 group in our church, helping younger guys. How I wish I could see what’s going on in those communities first hand. May His Name be multiplied, Deut.1:11. Go for it!! Jon Sells

  3. Super encouraging. Thanks for sharing these stories. Praying for this to ignite movements across the US and into the world.

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