“Reach the Freshmen, reach the world.” You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it. And it’s true. College students are among the top 1% of the world’s influencers. These freshmen become upperclassmen, who become graduates, who become world-changers. They are strategic to the core. And the first year of college is foundational in establishing community and rhythms that sustain and enrich their experience. It takes a lot of resources and man hours to reach freshmen, and we are more committed than ever to stay the course. 

But what happens after those first 30 credits? When the skills and knowledge and ramen noodles of year one come to a close. What do we do differently—uniquely—for a group of Sophomores to Seniors.  We call them SUP’s (sophomores and up). How do we shape the students in our SUP culture into leaders and givers, not followers and consumers? That question has been on our hearts and our white boards for years now.  

If you are the oldest of your brothers and sisters, then you will understand this illustration. Whether it was spoken or not (most times it was), there was an intuitive expectation of you—as the oldest—to be the kind of person worth looking up to.  Being the oldest meant you were a leader. You were either a good leader or a bad leader, but there was no such thing as a non-leader. My younger brother would do anything I would do, whether good or bad. He was watching, and I was modeling, at all times, in all things.

This is the picture we want SUP’s to see when they think of their role in our church. They need to be men and women worthy of being looked up to. They need to lead out in mission, community, generosity, and evangelism. It’s a shame when little brother has to step up because big brother isn’t walking in his calling. We’ve asked our SUP’s to own the calling, bear the weight, be examples, and invite the freshmen to follow.  

To sum it up in a sentence, freshmen learn skills and knowledge and SUP’s learn to walk in wisdom and power. In this subtle transition you find out if they will stay the course for the rest of their life.  

We see this model from Jesus. He was never satisfied with the disciples simply knowing how to do something; He committed to making a disciple into someone. Personhood is what Jesus sought. A person so filled with the Holy Spirit, they learn to walk as He did. No one walked in more wisdom and power than Jesus, and He invites us into that as we mature as followers.  

Wisdom and power is the fruit we bear when we learn to battle through failure and frustration. Wisdom and power is the purpose and practice of the Holy Spirit granting us breakthrough. The whole Christian experience is learning how to battle against our old nature, and learning how to lead others to battle. So many people leave the faith because they don’t know how to battle, they don’t have wisdom, and they don’t walk in power. We’ve committed to shape our culture around this truth: We want to make disciples who make disciples teaching them to battle through failure and frustration and lean on the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and power to lead them to breakthrough.

Over the last semester we’ve seen unprecedented growth in the SUP community. We currently have 18 villages for SUP’s, having added 3 more during the fall semester. Our average attendance from the SUP Sunday service increased by 75 people weekly. We are praying that by May we will average 350 in worship and see 35 death to life stories from SUP’s.  

Changing a culture is difficult. But we’re seeing God grow up a generation of older brothers and sisters who desire to walk in wisdom and power—in step with the Spirit—and have impact on the campus and the world. Continue to pray for us as we continue to ask God to mature our SUP’s and make them more like Jesus.