There is a lot of cheer going on all around us during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Families are cramming into homes to eat lots of food and exchange presents with one another. Co-workers gather for Christmas celebrations before taking a few days off for the holidays. Groups of people get together to ring in the New Year and celebrate the past year. It seems like the season is full of laughter, cheer, and giving.
It should be—but unfortunately, for many it’s not!
This Christmas many college students and young adults will struggle with a not so happy Christmas and end to the year. They may be facing significant financial difficulties, a loss of a dream, changes in family dynamics, or loneliness. The thought of celebrating is overrun by the necessity of having to work during the holidays and finding that many of the relationships they had in years prior have changed or are no longer a part of their life.
As leaders of collegiate and young adult ministry, don’t miss the opportunity to reach out to young adults during this season. Be sensitive to the dynamics many of them are facing. Some will include significant stressful and hurtful situations during this time of the year.
Jesus had eyes that were focused on those who were struggling or hurting. And He was stirred with compassion for those who were looking for hope. My prayer for us is that our eyes “see” those young adults around us that may be in the midst of hopelessness during a season that is so focused on the Hope that has been born among us.
What would it look like if we slowed down a bit and really saw those who are struggling?
1. Invite a young adult neighbor or co-worker to your home who may not have a family celebration to attend.
Some young adults may not be able to travel home to family and friends during Christmas because of distance or the necessity to work. A significant number of people (including young adults) spend the holidays alone. There is nothing lonelier than being by yourself on a day when you know so many around you are spending with family and friends. Take the initiative to invite a young adult that you know isn’t able to be with family to be a part of your family celebration. Fix extra food and open up your home to a young adult that will be alone during the holiday.
2. Start conversations with young adults who are working in stores and restaurants you frequent during the Christmas season.
Before and after Christmas sales bring droves of shoppers to retail stores. Then, with all the shopping, we find ourselves dropping into local restaurants. Many of the workers and servers are young adults. Don’t miss the opportunity to start a conversation with the college students and young adults that are working in the places that you frequent. Thank them for the work they do. Most of them never hear the words “Thank You.” Use words of kindness and appreciation toward the young adults that are working hard to make sure you are taken care of. Have His eyes and His words. Take the time to get to know these young adults—and remember their name when you return.
3. Be listening for language of young adults that may indicate loneliness or depression.
Holidays often bring an escalation of thoughts that may be unhealthy. When you hear a young adult or college student use language that points toward loneliness or depression, don’t ignore it. Ask the young adult what those statements meant and offer to listen to them. They are most likely not looking for an “answer” but deeply desire to have someone listen to them. Be aware of those young adults in your sphere of influence that may dread this time of the year because of the pain that it escalates.
This is truly one of the most joyful times of the year. We celebrate the hope that Jesus brings us in the midst of chaos and struggles. In the middle of all of the celebration of hope, however, there are many young adults who may be struggling with difficult life situations. Be a leader that shares the presence of Christ with them no matter what it takes!
Mark Whitt is a collegiate minister with Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Connect with Mark via Twitter.