If it hasn’t happened already, college students from your church and community are starting to roll back into town for a few months of summer jobs, reconnecting with high school buddies, and watching complete seasons of their favorite TV series they missed while off at college.
So here are two questions for your church body to consider:
What role will your church play in keeping students plugged in during the summer?
Does your church have a plan for connecting with college students during the summer?
Whether it’s students who are returning home for a few months or college students staying in town to take classes at your local campus, it’s important that you have a plan for helping students stay involved in Christian community during these next couple of months.
This season of the year is an essential time to connect with college students in a completely different type of setting and environment. However, the problem remains that many churches do not have a plan for how to connect with and disciple college students during summer. In fact, many college students claim they haven’t been able to find any sense of community with people in their home church or summer residence.
College provides a social environment that keeps students’ calendars full (especially when combined with jobs and classes). However, during the summer, there doesn’t seem to be as much of an opportunity to gather with people whom they have much in common with. So how about finding some volunteers in your church who are willing to host some collegiate gatherings and small groups in their homes? Pull out some chairs, put some chips and salsa on the table, and instantly–you’ll have a gathering spot.
For many individuals, some of the most significant growth they ever experienced as Christ-followers happened in their college years. On the flip side, many of life’s most difficult questions have surfaced during these months of living among their educational community. Why would we not want to invest in their lives when they have some time to process and contemplate the questions and decisions they’re facing in their young lives?
Here are three ways to help college students stay plugged into Christian community during their summer vacation:
1. Be intentional about forming community with college students who are around during the summer.
College students are looking for opportunities to gather. With the help of student leaders in your college ministry, plan some outings or gatherings that will form a true sense of community among your group. Organize gatherings that students will want to bring their friends along to. Have a pool party. Take a weekend boat/camping trip. Organize an all-night game marathon. Whatever the event, just find some times during the summer to gather students for some fun and fellowship. When college students know that you’re being intentional about getting to know them and fostering community during the summer months, they’ll quickly value your church’s authentic approach at being a part of their lives.
2. Choose a Bible study that will provide challenge and insight into their current life situations.
Finding a short-term group Bible study that will give college students the opportunity to study Scripture and talk about key issues affecting their current life situations will be an important aspect of keeping students involved. And fair warning–Sunday mornings may not be the best time to do these studies. These small group studies would suit well for living rooms in church members’ homes or a local coffee shop at various times during the week. Not only are you navigating college students to get involved in a study, but you’re connecting them with older adults in your church who want to invest in their lives. It’s a win for everyone!
3. Plan some opportunities for serving your community.
When given the chance, college students are very quick to serve. The problem is, they’re rarely asked. Find opportunities in your community where college students can take a Saturday morning to serve others together. Whether you live in a small community or large city, there are needs all around you. Explore ways that college students can give their time for serving others. One of the ways college students see a church as being relevant is when they see that church meeting the needs of their local community. Provide them the opportunity to serve in a local homeless shelter, mentoring program, or church outreach alongside adults from your church.
And don’t forget to enlist them as volunteers in the weekly ministries of your church. They may only be around for a few months, but they’ll value the opportunity to 1) serve as small group leaders for your church’s youth or student ministry, 2) help with Vacation Bible School, or 3) be a greeter for Sunday morning worship gatherings. Help them feel like a valued part of the church body.
It’s not too late to form a summer plan for ministering to, connecting with, and mentoring the college students living in your community. Be intentional about reaching and connecting them to one another and to your church. Believe me, you won’t regret it!
Looking for some short-term Bible studies for your college students and young adults this summer? Check out our Threads resource library for some great suggestions.
Mark Whitt is the Collegiate and Young Adult Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. Before joining Lifeway, he spent many years on the campus of Murray State University as a campus minister. Connect with Mark via Twitter.