In the last 24 months my job title has been altered to include college-age students. The process of taking on this roll came in the midst of an ongoing discussion centered around answering one question:
What is our church’s answer to meeting the spiritual the needs of college-age students? What will ministry to this group look like?
My first response was that we didn't want to create a ministry that would merely be another great college ministry. In fact, I put it this way: I want the ability to ministry to college students, but not have a “college ministry,” per se. For me this is a HUGE philosophical difference. I want to see this ministry to college-age students as an extension of our student ministry philosophy. I don't want to look at the high school seniors who have been through my ministry and simply say “good luck!”
I love the conversations surrounding the “sticky faith” initiative being advanced by Kara Powell, Chap Clark and the Fuller Youth Institute team. I’m on board with the mindset of seeing faith grow in young adults instead of wither, even as I know our church as a whole is a ways away from this being part of the DNA. But we’re moving in that direction.And part of this movement is some realizations I thought I’d share with you. Maybe you’ve seen some similar things?
I’ve watched many college-age students enjoy their college journey while watching others feel lost. A MAJOR variable seems to be how solid of a “friend base” they have. The rhythms of college life seem to give more time for developing meaningful relationships. And friends don’t just influence their thinking, but may dictate their life trajectory. I love the thought of seeing the relationships we have with our high school students deepen as they begin college.
2. Partnering To Teach Life Skills
I see so many college-age students get overwhelmed when everything they have to juggle hits them at once. I’ve had way too many college freshmen ask me how to teach them to balance a check boo, or help them manage their weekly calendar. I’m planning to create a stronger voice to parents of younger teens around these observations, including a well-aimed and well-intentioned kick in the pants so they can quit helicopter parenting their kids. But being in the position to help the transition from high school to college is important in this area.
3. Opportunity To Journey Together Through Questions And Doubts
As we know, the faith conversation broadens as students engage in college classes & social settings. And as we know, truth is positioned as negotiable based on what they learn in philosophy 101 or rooming with someone from a different faith background. Students cling to statements like “I still believe Jesus is God” in the midst of an atmosphere designed to pick apart such statements. I love the opportunity this new structure will provide us to help students learn how to think and not simply what to think. I look forward to continuing the deeper dialogue we start with our students in high school.
4. The Need For A Consistent, Trusted Voice
Pretty regularly, I’ll I get a message from a college age student who’s grown up in our ministry that looks something like this: “Hey life’s kinda weird, can we talk?” I love the fact that students seek me out to talk. I love being the pastoral voice in their lives. I love speaking truth, grace, and love into their lives. Part of this new ministry role is the opportunity to do more of this.
I have yet to become a college ministry guru.:) But I’ve learned some great insights and been reminded of others. And I believe, at least in our context, creating space for our students to transition into college while keeping many of the same relationships intact is a great new development.
What about you?
Does your ministry context provide an opportunity for you to consider extending your ministry’s reach to students transitioning into college? Have you ever considered it? What are some potential positives and negatives be?