How a Small Baptist Church Grew One of America’s Largest Student Ministries

Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra | December 8, 2016

The nation’s largest church-based student movement was started 44 years ago by a small Baptist church in Iowa.

About 13 years in, 30 to 50 students from nearby Iowa State University met regularly as the Baptist Student Union. Ten years later, close to 200 students attended regularly, and Grand Avenue Baptist Church realized its campus ministry had grown so large “it became the tail wagging the dog” and threatened to overwhelm the congregation.

In response, the congregation planted a new church to run its campus ministry, and both took off. Today, more than 22 years later, the Salt Company reaches around 1,400 students every week at Iowa State University, while Cornerstone Church sees about 2,400 people on Sundays.

The twin ministries—to community and campus—have since reproduced themselves at the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa; they’ve grown, too, seeing about 450 students a week. This fall Salt spread to the University of Missouri and Drake University, where roughly 100 students gather each week. The University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin are slated for 2017.

The campus ministry’s strongest asset—and their distinctive feature—is their close tie to the local church.

Salt leaders point to strong Bible teaching, a solid foundation of leadership, a…

To read the rest of this article, visit