Recently, I have had a couple of reminders of how busy our college students often are.
- First, I asked two young men to speak at our Thanksgiving service at Lebanon Road. Both are college students, and I assumed that they had the entire week off of school. It turns out, both of them did not, but accepted anyway. [And, might I add, both did a tremendous job!]
- Second, when I issues the “no TV” challenge on Monday on this blog, one of the responses I got was via Twitter. It was from a college student who said that he wouldn’t have any problem taking that challenge, since he would be writing papers all night.
Both of these reminded me of how busy our college students are. It also has caused me to think some about how congregations can help our college students. At Lebanon Road, we have a different perspective, because we have both (1) students who go away to school, as well as (2) students who come to schools in Nashville but are away from home. We also have students who live here and go to school here.
Here are some things that we do, as well as some general suggestions that might help your congregations support college students even better.
1. Remember students in prayer often and specifically. Hopefully, this doesn’t need much explanation!
2. Have a college class, no matter how small it might be. This is one of the most frustrating classes to teach, because you never know how many will be present (if anyone!), but you need to offer this class.
3. Include the college students in adult/young adult activities. If you have an adult retreat, cookout, special series, or other activity, make sure those college students are invited.
4. Send care packages. Some of our ladies coordinate sending care packages to all our students, and they are fantastic! Included are different things each time, but usually they try to include a small gift card to a fast food place, so the students can enjoy a meal out for free. Make this a priority.
5. Stay in contact. In our tech society, there is no excuse for not keeping up with college students. Through email, text, Facebook (where most college students live!), Twitter, and other outlets, you can send regular words of encouragement, and make sure the students always feel like part of the home congregation.
6. Realize the balance of involvement. As with anyone who is busy, college students need to be asked to help in the work of the Church, but also need to be allowed the ability to say, “no” or “not right now.” Some adults just can’t believe that students are busy. Folks, our college students are swamped!
7. Don’t be afraid to speak up. College life can breed temptations that are both real and powerful. Be loving, but speak up when you see something that doesn’t look right. I have done this a few times with college students. Some haven’t taken it well (and it may have been my fault for the way I worded something), but most have been thankful and gracious.
8. Remember the finances. Most college students are full-time students, and are living on very little money. What money they do make is often spent trying to woo the right girl or guy, or on all the fees of student life. If your congregation charges money for some activities, pay for a college student to attend. That $30 retreat that the adults are taking? Why not pay for your family, and one college student? It’s an investment you’ll never regret.
9. Visit or have them visit. If you go to a campus for a ball game or concert, try to figure out a way to see the students from the congregation. If you don’t go on campus much, have them over for a meal in the summer, or on Christmas break. Let them be reminded that you love them and are real.
10. Finally, one for elders. When it comes time for a college student to move away, support them in every way possible. A 21- or 22-year-old who is looking for that first job and has to move a long way off needs all the support he or she can get. Write a letter to the local eldership or preacher. Make sure their moving expenses are taken care of (within reason, of course). You may even want to have an elder visit with them on their first Sunday in a new location if it’s not too far away. Shepherd these precious young adults through this transition.