USA (MNN) — In the small town Athens, Georgia, with a large college and dozens and dozens of bars, problems with alcohol and sexual temptation are almost to be expected. However, "the most current one is just the mental health issues — the anxiety, the depression, the fear. Those types of things have just become commonplace unfortunately." Through The Mission Society, Clay Kirkland is the director of staff development for a ministry at the University of Georgia and has worked there since 2000.
There are approximately 35,000 students enrolled at the school and just 3,000 attending a Christian ministry of any kind each week. "There are a lot of unreached
students on our campus, and we do a lot of work and a lot of prayer focus on those students," said Kirkland.
In order to reach unbelievers, there first must be growth in the believers. Kirkland and his wife Deborah both work in the campus ministry. The numbers this year have been higher than ever with more than 1,000 students attending each week at The Classic Center where they meet in downtown Athens. "We have a lot of people that come on a Wednesday night, but we really try to focus on those discipleship relationships and those people that we are in relationship with in those small groups," said Kirkland. There is a meeting specifically for freshman on Monday nights that has about 400 students in attendance each week so far this year.
The ministry's goal is to develop leaders who will be prepared to lead in any capacity that God calls them to. They have about 360 students in leadership and offer a 1-3 year
internship program for recent college graduates. "We really pray that God would show them who they are, who they've been created to be. We focus on the passions that God has given them in their heart and try to train them up and to encourage them to go and pursue those things."
Kirkland said God has been gracious in giving them the creativity to draw in unbelievers. He also gives credit to students who take risks and make relationships outside of the ministry for bringing people to Christ. "Its when our students who already know the
Lord are already clicking on things, and they just make that little effort to form those relationships with their friends, and with their room mates, and with their co-workers. That's where we see the real transformation take place," Kirkland explained.
Pray for Kirkland and his wife who've just had their first child and are adjusting to a new baby. Pray for wisdom and continually-increasing intimacy with Christ so they can fully pour out to those who need them.