As I was taking a tour of a church, the person showing me around said that a good portion of their regular attendees were college students. I said something to the effect of “That’s great.” Their response startled me. “College students stink! When they are in town they bring an atmosphere of life and vitality, but as soon as they go home our church services die.”
In his book “Gaining by Losing” J.D. Greear makes a statement that is not similar, exactly, but is comparable. Early in his ministry, it seemed like overnight he went from a handful of college students to over 300 every week. The financial gain from that was amazing. He said his weekly offerings went up to $134! He went on to say, “One Sunday morning an usher came into my green room with a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit some college student had placed into the offering plate. It had a little note on it that read (quoting Acts 3:6 ad lib), “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have, give I unto you.”
I LOVE THAT, but that is why many ministries would say college kids stink. Unfortunately, many pastors and members think our ministries are fine to allow college kids in but are wasting time and energy by investing in them. Honestly, the church would do much better if we looked past the biscuit and down the road at who these young people could become for Christ!
We have had a solid college ministry for several years here at Faith in Morgantown. What was Campus Light has now continued as Cross Impact in our church. With WVU in our backyard, we have an amazing opportunity. We have a mission field of 30,000 people five minutes away. For us to ignore this would be for us to ignore our calling.
I believe some pastors and churches are intimidated by college students. They can appear difficult to approach and reach. Many churches in our community have tried to reach some of our students and they have failed drastically. Why?
Churches are trying too hard to appeal to them while overlooking the essential qualities needed to reach them. They are missing the basics that cause a college ministry to grow.
Here they are:
- Be Authentic
Asking the basic questions with a college student is ok, but please follow it up with something personal. You can only talk so long about their major and what year they are in. Ask about their home, religious background, and what brought them to your church in that first conversation. Students will know immediately if you are asking because you care or because they are there. There is a difference.
- Feed Them
College kids far from home will rarely turn down a home-cooked meal. There is just something about having food that was not off the $.99 menu or from Taco Bell that seems appealing. We enjoy cooking out, having pulled pork sandwiches, or even chicken enchiladas. It does not have to be fancy nor does it require pulling out the china. Paper plates and cups are always our go too when the college kids come. Send the leftovers home with them as well. They will love you for that!
- Love them
I was recently talking with a pastor who said, “I walk on our campus and I just want to reach every student for Jesus.” That is love. That is a passion we need. Love will cost you time, energy, and resources. Even if it is just for 1 of 30,000 that one could go on and do great things for God.
- Pour into them
I know it seems futile when you consider it is a “short-term” investment. You don’t know that though. In just this past year two former students have moved back into the area and joined our church “again!” One said to me, “It has been three years since I graduated, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Morgantown and Faith.” I am currently pouring into a student now every Friday over coffee and the book of John.
- Open your home to them.
A few weeks ago, we had four of our students over for dinner and to play games. We had a great time. Little did we know two of them are true “gamers” and one even plays at a game store once a week at the mall. Needless to say, it was an entertaining and competitive night. At 12:30 am we did have to ask them to leave, but I wouldn’t trade those times for anything!
Even if you hate games, or feel like you can’t relate to them, please don’t feel like you need to entertain them. We had several students over one Sunday after church to eat, with the assumption they would leave after lunch. At 5 pm they were still talking to each other on the couch, scrolling Instagram, and one was asleep on the floor! I thought they must have been bored sick. The next day one of them texted us and said it was one of the best days of their semester!
Please don’t miss these opportunities!
One student who is now married and lives out of state, sent me a picture of his notes from a sermon in 2018 and said, “Stumbled across this a little bit ago. Thankful for your impact, brother!”
Take every opportunity you can to impact a college student’s life for Christ and His kingdom!