Author’s note: Lightbearers Ministries is a nonprofit organization that took part in the 2013 Praxis Accelerator Program. Kevin McCollum, Executive Director of Lightbearers Ministries, shared with Fieldnotes Magazine in July 2013 for this article.
Can college students in Arkansas fund global missions simply by paying rent? Lightbearers Ministries thought they could, and they devised a renewable and sustainable model to do just that. The model is simple: buy apartment complexes, house and disciple college students, give the profits away.
Lightbearers Ministries had a “desire to find renewable income for Christian mission work,” as well as an awareness of the Barna research findings that in America a majority of churched teens drop out of church in their twenties. Out of a combined desire to address the discipleship needs of college students and the funding needs of missions groups, Lightbearers dreamed of discipling college students in a program that would also create sustainable income for global missions.
Kevin McCollum served on the board of directors for Lightbearers Ministries from 2005-2007, at which time the board asked him to become their executive director. The desire continued to grow into a bigger dream under Kevin’s leadership.
“This dream ignited our mission, leading us ultimately to establish a discipleship community.” Lightbearers purchased an apartment complex in 2009 at the University of Arkansas and converted the complex into a discipleship community. The students in the community commit to weekly mentorship with an older mentor from their local church, in addition to biblical education and participation in missions. Lightbearers owns the complex and the income generated by the students’ rent then gets passed on to missions. Kevin shares that purchasing the apartment complex marked a turning point that moved Lightbearers from a program to a community.
As participants in the Praxis Accelerator Program, Lightbearers had the opportunity to learn how to hone the presentation of their story for better impact. “The core team at Praxis played a pivotal role not only in clarifying our overarching story but by developing great story telling visuals for us.” Through the program, Lightbearers was also connected with new cities to share their story.
Kevin recalls that, “Lightbearers had a clear understanding of our community model, but as a result of the Praxis year, we now have clearer grasp on our strategy for growth as well.” The complex at the University of Arkansas is the first of what Lightbearers hopes will become a growing number of sustainable discipleship communities serving the needs of ministry around the world.
“Over the past two years, our pilot complex at the University of Arkansas has generated over $250,000 for mission projects. We’re not just sustainable, we’re generous.”
Stephanie Struck is the executive assistant at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and a graduate of Fuller Thelogical Seminary in the dual Master of Arts program in Intercultural Studies and Theology and Ministry.
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