Religious Fellowship on Campus

  • Religion
  • 1951

Campus Crusade for Christ (more recently known as Cru) is one of the largest evangelical organizations in the world, ministering not only to 64,000 college students but also to members of the military, sports teams, politicians, and others via offshoot organizations. Similar groups like the Navigators and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship also minister to college students with opportunities for Christian learning, small-group intimacy, Bible study, fellowship, and social fun. These nonprofits are all supported entirely by philanthropy, and collectively they touch hundreds of thousands of young Americans every year.

The older evangelical Protestant groups have more recently inspired other faith branches to create campus networks of their own. FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, is modeled on Campus Crusade, using recent college graduates as two-year missionaries who help students wrestle with questions of faith. From its first branch formed at Benedictine College in Kansas in 1998, the FOCUS network exploded to 99 chapters in 35 states by 2014. Some of these chapters constitute the largest student group on their campus.

Judaism has had its own growth spurt on campuses. Most colleges have for years had a branch of Hillel, the organization for Jewish students founded in 1923. But the rapid growth of the last generation has been driven by the group Chabad on Campus, which teaches Jewish orthodoxy, pride in Judaism, and “active goodness and kindness,” as its president puts it. Private-equity founder and philanthropist George Rohr provided seed funding which helped Chabad mushroom from about 30 centers in the mid-1990s to 250 now. British donor David Slager helped fund the creation of 26 new centers across Europe in recent years. Mark Gottlieb of the Tikvah Fund, another donor, describes Chabad as “a bulwark” against the encroachments on religion “that many college campuses foster.”

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