We build many strong relationships with our students, and just because they are off at college doesn’t mean those relationships just disappear. Many college kids turn to their youth ministers to advice and guidance as they traverse the college years. Today we end our college kids month with…..
“How do you (as a youth minister) continue to minister to students who are in college?”
Kristin is a native of Danville, Kentucky and a graduate of the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. She resides in Louisville and joined the staff of First Baptist Church in July 2012. She has spent many summers working for Passport, Inc. Kristin is also the Interim Office Manager for the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship and the Communications Assistant for the CBF Youth Ministry Network. Kristin loves spending time with her nephews, Jaxon and Parker.
Working as a part time youth minister leaves little room to engage with college students, however that does not negate the importance of continued relationships. There is a greater chance that students will stay engaged with the church if the church stays engaged with them. As their former youth minister, I am one of the closer connections they have. This takes time and intentionality.
For students who go to college in state, it is much easier to keep up with on a regular or semi-regular basis. The most obvious thing is to visit them on campus. This gives you the opportunity to see what their school is like and you are willing to meet them where they are.
Texting is also a great way to keep in touch with college students. A lot of times, our workweek becomes hectic and we can forget to regularly check-in on college students. Setting a reminder on your phone to text the college students is a good way to bring to mind these students you don’t get to see on a regular basis.
Be sure to follow college students on their social media accounts. There’s no need to follow every single account of every single student, but it is important to check in once in awhile to see what is going on in his or her life. It is also a great way to remember their birthdays!
When students are in town for various breaks from school, grabbing coffee or lunch gives you face-to-face time to catch up and invest in their lives. Arranging a group lunch with college students will help keep camaraderie within the group.
Another great way is to reach out to the parents of college students and ask them to help you stay connected. For example, as them to help host a college Christmas party for all of the college students, work together to send care packages and cards, or hosting a special event to welcome them home from school at the end of the semester.
As students are planning their summers, you have the ability to help guide them. You can connect them with summer mission opportunities, like camps and internships. You can also ask them to help with the summer programming at your church. This is a great way to help them transition into leadership that will hopefully last throughout their adult life.
Jeremy Colliver is the Minister to Families with Youth at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA. He is a native of Lexington, KY and received his B.S. in Accounting from Georgetown College and his Master of Divinty from the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. Jeremy has a passion for helping students to experience God daily, discover their spiritual gifts, and empower students to use those gifts. Jeremy and Laura have two great kids, Blaine and Molly Frances. They love to be outside exploring the world that is around them.
When seniors graduate it is hard. It is not only hard for the person graduating and their families, but it is also hard on you as their minister. You have poured yourself into these individuals and now it is time for them to move on. It is hard, but it is also rewarding. As your students transition from high school to college or professional life, keep these things in mind during their transition.
You are a minister. Yes, your official title has “youth” or “students” somewhere in the title meaning that you are responsible for ministering to these specific groups of people. This should not limit your ministry to these areas though. You are a minister to the entire congregation, so don’t feel like you have to stop being a student’s minister when they graduate out of the youth ministry.
Help them transition. Transition is hard. One of the best things you can do for your students is to point out what is coming for them. Help them to see some of the decisions that they will have to make as they go to college or into the professional world. Have some of these conversations with them before they leave, so when they have to make the decision on their own, they will have at least thought about it before. Also, make contacts for them. Write a note to a campus minister or a local church where they will be going to college. Let them know your students will be on campus and to look out for them.
Involve them in the larger body of the church. The sooner you start this, the easier it will be for your students. Help your students realize that they are part of the larger body of your local church and the church at large. Advocate, and plug your students into ministries where they have gifts and are passionate. One of the hardest things for students when they come back to church is to wonder where they will go. They have been part of the youth group and they find their home there, but if they are involved in other areas of ministry they will have a place to come back to.
Give them space. Allow your students space to discover who they are and what they are about. The students are trying to carve out their own identity so give them room to do that. You may want to visit on campus, but don’t show up unannounced. You may want to send them notes, but don’t blast it all over social media. Allow them space to grow, but be present when they seek you out.
Pray for your students. This may go without saying, but continue to pray for your students while they are away. Pray that they continue to find Christ on a daily basis. Pray that they live into the calling that has been placed on their life.