I’ve read a couple of blog articles recently that highlighted things that are true of any college ministry that is effective in reaching students (you can read four of those here and four more here). Regardless of the ministry model, type of campus, or even the location, there are certainly some foundational items that all ministries must address and build into their DNA. As I think about conversations I’ve had with college and young adult ministry leaders, I think there’s also a common list of questions that anyone in young adult ministry is asking. So, here are the four biggest questions of those in young adult ministry.
- How do I best help young adults in the midst of really heavy situations?
Depression, death, divorce…we could no doubt develop quite a long list…and these are only the D’s! Our young adults are facing so many challenges, and if we are in their lives at all, those issues are going to end up in our laps. We must know when to refer them to the best person/professional who can help them and when we can serve as a helpful listening ear.
- How do I help young adults process the hot button topic(s) of the day?
If we insert another list here, it would be sure to include sexuality, politics, and climate change…at least those would be on the list for today. The list is ever-changing, and tomorrow is sure to bring opportunity around a whole other list of topics. As someone leading young adults in ministry, it is paramount that you help them develop a worldview around the grand narrative of Scripture (creation, fall, redemption, restoration). When the hot button topics rise up, challenge them to think about the topic through that lens and encourage them to consider what Jesus would think about the issue and how the gospel addresses that specific topic.
- How do I effectively minister to young adults when they have such a lack of commitment?
We’ve all been there, right? How can I help you when you won’t even show up? Watching those we care about make poor decisions can be extremely heartbreaking. Regardless of the response, I’d encourage you to be a “there you are” vs. “here I am” kind of person. A “there you are” person has a posture of wanting to get to know the other person and understand them. A “here I am” person tends to make life about themselves, imposing their expectations on others. Young adults long to know someone cares, and when they see you as a “there you are” kind of person, they will be much more likely to come to you when they are ready for the help they need. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also create a solid ministry plan. Go full steam ahead with those who are most responsive but for the ones who seem the most flaky and uncommitted, one of the best things you can do is to make sure they think of you as someone who is genuinely interested and concerned about their lives.
- Am I all alone?
Those of us in young adult ministry can sometimes feel like we are on an island. We often don’t have the same level of support from parents that kids and youth ministers experience, and our ministry isn’t happening from the main stage like the preaching or worship ministry. Ministry in isolation is never fun and also isn’t sustainable for the long haul.
I recently attended a gathering with others who share a burden for ministry to college students. I left the meeting feeling so encouraged and re-energized to be my piece of the Kingdom-building puzzle. I highly encourage you to find opportunities to gather with others who are also treading the waters of young adult ministry. We can learn so much from one another and the opportunity to be encouraged is immense!
One such gathering we’d love to have you join us for is the National Collegiate Leadership Summit, which is a great place to network with other young adult ministry leaders and receive great training from national experts and other practitioners who are in the trenches daily right alongside you. It is coming up next year, May 5-7, 2021. If you can’t join us next year, I hope you have others who can encourage you along the way!
Bill Noe is the Collegiate Ministry Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. A former campus minister (and current collegiate ministry volunteer at church), Bill loves being a part of seeing college students grow in their walk with the Lord. Connect with Bill on Twitter.