The CCO grew out of a vision to partner with local churches to reach college students for Jesus Christ within a 150-mile radius of Pittsburgh. CCO ministry has grown far beyond the dreams of the original founders, both in geography and in scope of influence. It has grown into a ministry that not only influences students for Christ, but universities and communities as well. We estimate that the ripple effect of CCO ministry has extended to over a million people all over the world.
In the late 1960s, parents, pastors and youth workers in western Pennsylvania saw years of Sunday school and youth ministry going down the drain. Hundreds of teenagers were coming to Christ through Young Life and other local youth ministries, but when they graduated from high school and went off to college, there were few opportunities for them to continue to grow in their faith. With such a high concentration of colleges and universities in this part of the country, it became clear that the college campus was an untapped mission field.
On March 23, 1971, the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) was born. Its mission was to bring various ministries together with a unified vision to reach out to college students in cooperation with local churches. The first official church partnership was established in 1971 with Graystone Presbyterian Church to reach students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In 1973, the CCO was invited to place some of its staff into positions as residence hall directors at both Waynesburg College (now University) and Robert Morris College (now University). This was the beginning of an expanded vision of partnership, and the notion of working cooperatively with colleges and universities soon exploded into dozens of new opportunities.
From the beginning, the CCO has been committed to not only introducing students to Jesus Christ, but to helping them understand how their Christian faith should inform the way they study, play, work and live out every facet of life. Our core purpose, “transforming college students to transform the world,” points to this, as does our number one core value: “All things belong to God.”
In 1971, the CCO’s staff included three campus workers and an executive director, who reached out to students at five colleges and universities in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. As of September 2013, 235 CCO staff members serve students on 105 campuses in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington, DC.
Today, the CCO is present not only at small private schools, but also on large state universities and commuter campuses. We reach out to traditional 18- to 22-year-old students as well as to graduate students and nontraditional students. Some of our staff members specialize in international ministry, others in outdoor education, and some reach out primarily to the African-American student population. All of our staff members are committed to reaching a broad a cross-section of students.
The CCO is committed to following God’s call, whether that means deepening our ministries at schools where we’ve had a presence since 1971 or moving into previously untapped geographical areas. The CCO’s executive leadership is committed to discerning the needs of college students and campuses and to pursuing our mission with excellence: transforming college students to transform the world.
For a more extensive history of the CCO, check out our commemorative magazine, 40: Celebrating the CCO past, present & future.