As late summer rolls around, thousands of university students pack their bags and head off for another year of school. This season is notably difficult for parents of these students, but their absence is also felt by church congregations. The good news? Churches are uniquely positioned and equipped to continue supporting university students as they learn and grow in new communities.
But how do we best support university students? Here are three tips from Mark Wallace, Campus Ministry Leader for Resonate Global Mission.
1. Keep them connected.
One of the most important things sending congregations can do for students is to keep them involved and part of the congregation. Send students electronic church bulletins, make sure they’re on the email lists, and include them in prayer requests. For many students, leaving their home church comes with challenges and losses. By keeping students connected to their church family, you have the ability to mitigate some of that loss.
2. Care for them.
It's easy to fall into the habit of asking parents how students are doing at school—we forget to ask the students themselves. A personal message goes a long way and helps students take ownership of their lives apart from their parents. Send students a note, email, or message on social media and ask how they're doing. Mail them a card on their birthday. Send them a care package full of snacks, candy, and encouraging notes. These are simple ways to let them know that you’re thinking of them and care about them.
3. Help them grow where they’ve been planted.
Finding a new church in college is hard. For many students, this is the first time they've searched for a church on their own. Help them navigate this process by connecting them to people, congregations, or campus ministries that you know. If you don’t know anyone, do a little research. Ask the student if you can connect them with a pastor or campus minister to help navigate some of the initial awkwardness that comes with joining a new faith community. This is a simple way to make students feel known and also helps receiving pastors and ministers connect with new students who are new to the area.
Moving away from home for school can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for many students, but churches can help ensure that students receive the spiritual support they need in order to thrive.