Three years ago my wife and I decided to reach about becoming leaders in our local state college's campus ministry. These are 10 tips, or I guess thoughts I have both learned and with I knew when I started.
1: It takes time to build relationships
Don’t walk into the group and expect to even be noticed. At this point in their lives, they are used to meeting hundreds of new people a year. Your not here to make a quick difference, or only “serve” for anything less than a year. If you can’t commit to showing up every week for over a year then you should contact your local church about helping with Awana.
"If you can’t commit to showing up every week for over a year then you should contact your local church about helping with Awana."
2: Many don't go to church
But this doesn’t mean they don’t want too. For many, it comes down to not knowing what churches are in the area and not having an easy ability to get to them. This is an opportunity to connect them with people you know who do go to good local churches and pick them up on the way. I also believe a satellite campus like church would work really well on campus, just as weekly meetings work really well.
3: They feel like the church doesn't care about their age group
Many churches don’t have anything for college age students, and it’s even worse for young adults that didn’t go on for college, or are just entering the workforce. Many then end up leaving the church because of a lack of community. And when community lacks they will find new ways to fill that gap, making this a major reason many leave the church until they have kids, or just never come back.
4: They seek authentic relationships
Like I said in #3, these students crave a solid community of believers where they can be accepted, involved, challenged and loved. Many students have questions about faith or major decisions to make in their lives. It’s key that they are a part of a community that meets these needs and helps push them toward a life of following Christ.
5: They need mentors
Many students come from broken homes, they have parents that haven’t been available to them, they come from poor high school choices, or even bad teaching in church. This is just part of the reason they need mentors, they need someone investing in them. Caring for them and showing up when they need them. An authentic relationship, and someone they can go to for help or to share things they can’t share other places.
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6: College is a point of deconstruction
College is the first time these young adults get to be on their own. It’s also one of the first times they really start to think for themselves. This means they are open to hearing about other worldviews. This is honestly an amazing gift, not something that we should be concerned about becasue this time can be instrumental in either building their relationship with Christ, or exposing that they didn’t have one to begin with. This time means that we should be investing in these young adults to make sure they have solid people feeding truth back to them and helping them navigate a time where they start to ask a lot of really good questions.
7: Dating conversations are massive need
My wife and I lead an evening talk with our group about dating and it exposed a great deal of need for conversation. At this point in their lives their future hangs in the balance. The pressure of finding someone to marry before leaving school mounts (in Christian circles). And the pressure for pushing boundaries becomes more and more of a problem that couples are willing to push. Again, authentic mentorship is key in helping them navigate a lot of really important topics in terms of dating.
8: Women outnumber men by a good margin
This one is more than obvious, but you will see a lot more women than men. Why? I have a variety of ideas but we can pretty easily say that this is an issue that is noticeable across the church as a whole. And we are not solving the problems by saying cliche things like “real men pray” or “real men sing worship songs.” Because those things don’t make a real man, and those things don’t make a man a woman want’s to marry.
"We are not solving the problems by saying cliche things like “real men pray” or “real men sing worship songs.” Because those things don’t make a real man, and those things don’t make a man a woman want’s to marry."
9: Women feel it's hard to find quality men that love Jesus
Again, going back to number 8, the church has some pretty cliche things to say about what makes a “real man.” The truth is, women don’t want a man who just sings or prays. These women want a man who is a responsible leader and has a personal relationship with Christ. Often you find a lot of guys that are just acting like a “good” christian, or a guy who is extremely effeminate. We should be teaching older men who love Jesus to mentor younger guys, and invest in them. These are the type of men that women will want to date.
10: They have real pain that isn't easy to fix
This is not a safe group to work with. And what I mean by that is that if you are just looking to check in and check out and just mark off your good deed, you should be looking to serve in a knitting ministry. In our short time we have dealt with people struggling with mental illness, abusive relationships, past choices they made in poor relationships, eating disorders, addictions and self harm. Now I know that many of these issues can be found in the church, but in college it’s easier for these students to come out about these issues becasue they are no longer home, and they start to see these as problems in ways they never have before. Again, this is where intentional relationships, community and mentorship can really have the greatest impact on the lives of these young people.
If you have more tips, let us know what they are in the comments. If we have a bunch we will make a new post where we include just your tips. Also, if you like this post make sure you sign up for the Post Church Co. Update. This is our monthly email list where we send out helpful links to other posts and resources you will find helpful for engaging people in a post-church life.