Why New City Church chooses to partner with the CCO to minister to college students: An interview with the Rev. Dr. Rodger Woodworth
New City Church is a year-and-a-half-old EPC church plant in downtown Pittsburgh. New City Church partners with the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach) to reach out to Point Park University students. Rodger Woodworth, the Lead Pastor of New City, served as chair of the EPC’s National Outreach Committee, which is where the partnership between the EPC and the CCO was born.
Why does New City Church choose to partner with the CCO?
We partner with the CCO because it sees itself as a true parachurch organization. The CCO comes alongside the church because, in the words of its President Dan Dupee, it believes “the church is where college students are equipped to live out their faith for the long haul.”
Why is New City Church committed to ministry to college students?
We are committed to ministry to college students because they are the future of the church and the future of God’s missional Kingdom. More specifically, at New City Church we are called to a mission in downtown Pittsburgh, and Point Park University has made a long-term commitment to the flourishing of the downtown neighborhood. By ministering to their students, we join Point Park in seeking that common good.
What has been the benefit of having CCO staff member Michael Thornhill working with you and with students at Point Park University?
We are a congregation committed to a vision of a multi-generational and multi-racial church. We recruited Michael with that vision in mind as he is an African- Cuban American who has the gifts, experience, and personality to minister to all ages. Michael has the ability to cross the divide of race and artistic culture that is unique to Point Park University.
Do congregation members participate in the ministry to students? If yes, how?
As we are a church plant that is a year and a half old and renting space in a restaurant/bar, the congregation’s participation has been limited to Sunday mornings. However, students have been invited to families’ homes for dinner. Millicent, an African American single woman and one of our downtown residents, frequently has students over for pizza and to experience her 24th-floor apartment that looks into PNC Park. She invited several students who were unable to get home to join her for Thanksgiving dinner—from Boston Market as Millicent doesn’t cook.
An atheist friend of Millicent’s joined them for Thanksgiving and while a conversation about faith was taking place around the table, she asked Michael what it meant to love Jesus. Michael shared the gospel and a wonderful discussion followed. I think the honest and inquisitive nature of college students often opens others up to seek and ask questions they would normally not pursue.
Are there parachurch campus ministries on college campuses near you that are not especially interested in connecting students to the local church? How does your congregation draw students into the life of the church?
There are other campus ministries at Point Park, but none have the level of commitment to the church as that of the CCO. We attempt to draw students to New City primarily through the relationships Michael builds. Every first Sunday of the month, we have a simple meal after church and students are invited, whether they attend worship or not. We have them participate in the service as often as possible, and since Point Park is big in the arts—drama, dance, theatre productions—we pray for and celebrate students’ upcoming projects. One young African American student was baptized this past summer, and every Thursday at noon, students, CCO staff, and a few church members do a prayer walk around the downtown campus.