I received one very memorable care package when I was a student at Dordt College. It was my first year living off campus and my mom thoughtfully sent a package containing both the recipe and the dried ingredients for my favorite meal — sweet and sour meatballs and rice. As the care package crossed the Canadian border into the US on route to the college campus, customs officials wisely went through the tiny bags of powdery substances my mom had carefully placed inside the box. Once it became clear that the bags held onion powder, garlic powder, and mustard powder instead of other less savory substances, the officials closed the box and sent it on to Iowa. Unfortunately, they failed to reseal the spice bags and when I eagerly opened the package while seated in the center of a room with 200 students during a Western Civilization class, I released the scent of onions, garlic, and mustard into the room. Not cool, Karen, not cool at all.
I was reminded of that care package experience when a friend passed along the link to SoulFeed, a program which invites churches or families to purchase pre-packaged boxes which will be shipped each month to their young adults who are away at school. Designed to “feed students’ faith” each package contains some healthy snacks, a small gift, and a devotional. Now that’s cool.
As I thought about the SoulFeed’s ideas I also wondered if there is a way that congregations might do this on their own. Imagine gathering a few people together — perhaps an existing small group or a senior’s group — twice during the school year to put together some simple care packages for the young adults who have gone away to school and for those young adults who have moved away for the first time to start a career. In addition to some healthy snacks, a devotional and a small gift (chapstick, lotion, stress ball, etc.), the packages could include a few handwritten notes from adult members and some cards from the children. What a wonderful way for a congregation to tell its young adults, “We love you. We miss you. We’re praying for you.”
There are other ways a church can encourage its college-bound kids. I know of one church that blesses each young adult with a blanket before they leave for university, telling them that when they wrap it around themselves they are getting a hug from their church family who loves them very much. There’s also a congregation that gifts their young adults — those going to college and those entering the workforce — with a coffee mug and some candy. And another church invites those who are leaving for school in September to stand so that members of the congregation can gather around them for a moment of prayer. Last year I wrote a post about a way to personalize a Bible for a young adult who is leaving home and it's another idea that a congregation could adapt.
How about you? What is does your congregation do to stay connected and nurture the faith of your young adults while they are away? We’d love to hear your ideas!