In my last post I talked about the need for college students to invest their lives in a local church because the church needs all of its members, the church is a God-ordained institution, and the church exposes students to people of all ages. In this post, I want to look at the relationship between college students and the local church from the opposite direction. Why does the local church need college students?
Last week as part of our Welcome Week activities on campus, our fantastic student engagement team hosted an event that included dozens of churches from the surrounding area. Each one of these churches was interested in recruiting students to plug into their various ministries. They offered Bible studies, college ministries, and even potential jobs as ways for these students to invest in the local body of believers. From my interaction with these churches last week, I believe they see the value in having college students as part of their congregations.
Incorporating college students into the life of the church, however, comes with some inherent challenges. First, students do not typically stay long. No matter how much we joke about the time it might take for a student to graduate these days, the reality is that somewhere between 2 and 6 years will be the average stay of a college student at your church. Certainly some will find jobs in the area after graduation and stay indefinitely, but most will move on to another location after college. Second, most college students are not strong financial supporters of the church. This is primarily driven by their stage of life and access to financial resources. For the most part, whatever money they do have is tied up in tuition and living expenses with little to give to the local church.
Despite these challenges, there are good reasons for churches to actively embrace college students even for the brief period of time they will be around. Let’s look at three of these reasons.
- Time and energy. College students have seemingly boundless energy for all sorts of activities. They want to get involved in something that makes a lasting difference, so why not utilize them in the various ministries of the local church. Yes, their time is precious, just like anyone else’s; however, when utilized well, college students can direct their time and energy to the work of ministry and advancing the Kingdom of God. In the last couple weeks of having students back on campus, I’ve met numerous students who spent their summers serving churches and various ministries. Many of these are majoring in subjects beyond the traditional scope of ministry-minded students. This opportunity for undistracted devotion to the work of the Lord is similar to Paul’s instructions to the young, unmarried individuals in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
- Passion. A common theme among college students is a great passion for things that are meaningful to them. They take on projects and pursuits with exuberance and work diligently to see them through to completion. As we age, we often get sidetracked by increasing responsibility and the concerns of life that weigh us down. This is where college students can be a great blessing to the local church. First, they can utilize their passion for the things of God to accomplish much in the life of the congregation. Second, they can be a great encouragement for some of us who find our passion and excitement waning to pursue the work of the Lord with renewed vigor. This youthful passion should not be discouraged. Instead, let us encourage it just as Paul did with Timothy when he wrote, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but ratherin speech, conduct, love, faith andpurity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:12).
- Opportunity to mentor. One of my favorite experiences through the years has been going back to a former church and having the pastor remind the congregation that I am an extension of their ministry. Their investment in my life was invaluable to me, but they also see it as essential to their ongoing ministry. This is how we should view college students. Although they may only be with us for a season, churches can mentor them and reap the benefits of expanded ministry as they go out to serve around the world. Older church members can invest in the lives of these younger college students and help them grow in their walk with Christ. When they leave a few years later, they will take those lessons wherever they go.
I am thankful that the churches around my college saw value in students years ago when I was new to campus. I am also grateful to see those same churches and many others seek to invest in this current generation of college students.