College campuses are springing to life again as college students begin a new semester with new classes, new friends, and new opportunities. Nearly 23 million college students walk the campuses of North America each year—many of those are the first child that parents have sent off for this new season of life.
As young adult ministry leaders, what are we doing to help the parents make this transition? It can be an anxious time for first-time college parents.
Universities will give endless suggestions about parenting a college student, but parents often look to you for advice and encouragement (since you’re the expert in young adult/collegiate ministry) as they walk into this new season of life. Here are some thoughts you can incorporate into a program, newsletter, or social event planned to equip parents for this new season.
- Pray for your college student every day.
These parents are going to miss their son or daughter immensely over the first few days that they are out of the house. An empty room, an open seat at the dinner table, and a missing car in the driveway will be constant reminders that they have “moved out.” It’s during these moments that parents can pray specifically for their college student and for God to reveal more of Himself to him or her on the campus.
Over the course of the 4 years of college, their children will be making some of the most significant life-altering decisions of their lives. Parents that are praying for their children will be actively helping their child hear God’s direction for their lives.
As we pray for our college student children, we can pray Joshua 1:9 “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (CSB)
- Be really good listeners.
There are going to be phone calls over the course of the first few weeks and over the four years of college that are going to be either full of excitement or anxiety and fear. They’re not necessarily calling to be told what to do, but are calling because they need their parents to hear their heart in the middle of a tough week or a difficult decision. They may also be calling because they need to celebrate something significant (in their eyes) with their Mom and Dad.
James 1:19 reminds us, “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
In whatever instance, remind parents to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Their adult children are learning how to handle this college adult responsibility and they need to know that Mom and Dad are still their biggest fans. When college students know that their parents are good listeners, they are much more apt to continue to tell them about the victories and the struggles. They’ll also get the chance to speak into their hearts when they may be facing things that may seem too big for them to handle.
- Help them get connected to local churches and ministries.
When parents visit during orientation, there will be churches and ministries ready to meet their sons and daughters. Encourage parents to help their children meet ministry leaders while they are on campus during the summer and to send their child’s name and contact information to a church and ministry so they can follow up once they get to campus.
Most of these college students have never tried to find a ministry to get involved with on their own. Parents can have a significant influence in helping their sons and daughters find people that they can grow with in their walk with Jesus. Obviously, they can’t make them go to anything, but if there are people that know that they are on their campus, it will help them get connected quicker.
Sending a child off to college can be a scary time for many parents – especially the first one. As young adult ministry leaders, we can help these parents embrace what it means to graduate to the status of being parents to a college-aged young adult.
Mark Whitt is a collegiate minister with Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Connect with Mark via Twitter.