Church campus on college campus meets students at intersection of faith and life

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Church planting & multiplication


The college student who walked into 7 Corners Coffee on the University of Minnesota campus revealed Melody Angell’s reason for helping start The Avenue, a new Converge church.  

Angell and her husband Jim felt moved after hearing Jon Odom speak at their previous church. Odom’s vision for more than 50,000 students in the area to know Jesus and have a godly community stirred the couple. 


“What people are looking for is these long-term relationships with people,” Angell said. “The Avenue is really about relationships, developing trusting relationships in hopes of bringing people to Jesus or bringing them back to Jesus.” 


The young woman Angell saw at 7 Corners is now on The Avenue’s leadership team. She helps with outreaches, setting up for worship and serving as a greeter.  


Related: What happened in a British coffee shop when a couple found a relic of faith? 


The woman’s transformation from visitor to volunteer stimulates Angell’s enthusiasm for the power of a new church. The Avenue’s first Sunday was September 10. Odom is the pastor. 


A church for young adults in Christ or people in crisis


Odom joined the team at Wooddale Church in 2022. The Converge church has a long history of church planting and multiplication. This time, they wanted to start a congregation to disciple college students from the University of Minnesota, Bethel University and the University of Northwestern. 


Tens of thousands of college students in the Twin Cities choose careers in a very intense academic and professional environment. Many students simultaneously experience mental health challenges, including gender dysphoria and spiritual crises. 


Related: Students are gaining deeper faith at college long affiliated with Converge.  


Odom mostly encounters dechurched students who became atheists or agnostics after painful encounters with Christians. Sometimes, he meets believers in energy healing or Islam. 


“Every person is spiritual,” he said. “They have a heightened sense of spirituality and a desire for what is spiritual and really experiential, yet they don’t know where to find it.” 


Shifting from Christian athlete to church leader 


Odom himself understands the personal and professional pressures of higher education. He started as a pre-med major and football player at Liberty University in Virginia.  


Related: Converge hosted Liberty students who wanted to know God's heart for people 


God led Odom into ministry while he earned a doctorate in anatomy and cell biology. Before coming to Wooddale to start The Avenue, Odom taught at Liberty, led youth events and preached at churches up and down the East Coast. 


“I can speak the language a lot of [college students] speak,” he said. “It’s been really cool to see how the Lord uses it as I build relationships.” 



Relationships are precisely what Odom, Angell and others on The Avenue’s launch team know their neighbors on campus need. Odom finds pain points in people’s lives and asks good questions to find ways the gospel speaks to a person’s needs. 


He’s had depression and once planned his suicide while stressed by academic pressures, career pursuits and trying to fit in with family and friends. 


“I have the credibility to speak to [students],” he said. “The goal isn’t to judge them or push them away but to bring them close.” 


For all the challenges of students facing loneliness, gender dysphoria or the pain of hurtful Christians, Odom is optimistic. He knows the gospel offers hope, and an authentic church can influence people open to spirituality. 


God was at work on Good Friday when disciples at The Avenue planned an outreach to students. Odom spoke that day with a molecular engineer major who knew nothing about Jesus. But Odom connected with him and talked about cell culture, biology and the creator. 


“It takes time and takes relationship and all of those things to get to those conversations,” he said. 


College students staying on Christ’s path


Molly Wickam’s daughter Savannah started attending the University of Minnesota as a freshman. Wickam wanted her daughter to continue following Christ as she had in her teenage years. 


Wickam said Savanna visited The Avenue right away and loved it. Several months later, Molly and Savannah worshiped together at The Avenue on Easter Sunday. That’s when Molly Wickam saw the power of a ministry focused on young adults in colleges around the Twin Cities. 


“I’m just so thrilled that my University of Minnesota freshman has found a fantastic Christian Converge church on her campus,” Wickam said. “I’m just thrilled that this church has captivated her.” 


Converge's 10 districts have committed to deploying 312 church planters before 2026. Read more inspiring church planting stories and learn about the goal to send out 312 church planters in five years. 

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene