A while back I was exiting an airport and saw a large group of people holding signs and balloons that said “Welcome Home!” Obviously, the person that they were waiting on had been away and they were all excited to welcome them back home. There are stories to be told. There are meals to be eaten. There are lessons to be learned.
As we celebrate the Christmas season, let’s not forget to “Welcome Home” our college students in our churches. They have just finished semester finals, have moved out of their dorm or apartment, and are trying to find their place again for a few weeks in their hometown. Be intentional in connecting with these college students for the month or more that they are home for the Christmas Break. The opportunity that our churches have to make a quick and significant impact in the lives of these college students is often overlooked.
As leaders of collegiate ministry in your church, here are three ways to connect with students that are home for the holidays:
1. Utilize college students in your worship times.
The college years are significant times of spiritual growth for many college students. As you know students’ stories, have them share testimonies in worship times of what God is doing in their lives. Many of them may have opportunities to engage in Spring Break or Summer missions. Give them the opportunity to share with your church what they will be doing through their mission endeavors. Many of them are involved with collegiate ministry on their campus in their university town. Give them the chance to share what God is doing within that ministry. When we give students the opportunity to share their experiences while they are away, they gain the sense and appreciation that their home church has “sent” them and is supporting them as a missionary to their campus. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear students’ stories and use their gifts while they are home for Christmas. Be intentional in asking them to be a part of your worship leadership.
2. Have a reconnect party.
Sometime after Christmas have a gathering at someone’s home where all of the college students that have come home for the Christmas break to reconnect. Make sure you invite their Sunday School teachers or small group leaders to be a part of the reconnect party. Pick a weekend, a specific college football bowl, or a random after Christmas occasion to get together. Be intentional of making this a “must attend” gathering for those that have been away for the semester. They’ll enjoy being together and spending time with some of the people that invested in their lives while they were growing up in your church.
3. Take a short mission trip together.
College students love to be together. They also like to have the opportunity to be involved with something that is bigger than themselves. Doing missions allows them to do both of these things. Pick a service opportunity in your community or within a few hours drive for a one to three-day mission opportunity. Find a project that may be important to your group. There may have been places that they served when they were teenagers that would be fun for them to go serve again.
If possible, take along the seniors in high school on this trip. This gives those students that are getting ready to go to college the opportunity to connect with some students that have some experience in the collegiate world. One of the best ways to keep students involved with church after high school is to cultivate relationships with individuals that are already in college. Getting these two groups in the same space will develop some good relationships and conversations.
You may have other ideas that will help college students feel “Welcomed” as they return to your church for the Christmas break. The key component in all of this – be intentional. They will only be home for a month. Don’t miss the opportunity to make a quick and crucial impact on their lives!
Mark Whitt is a collegiate minister with the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Connect with Mark via Twitter.