Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Church and College Students - Part II

Yesterday I wrote on how college students can be involved in church. In this post I want to discuss how churches can help college students.

I touched on the dilemma churches face in my previous post.  I noted that it is hard for churches to help those who are constantly moving around. I said,
It takes time to get to know people, meet their needs and invest in their lives. When after a couple months of hard work, all that work seems to go to waste when you move." 
This is often the case with college students. It becomes worse when students don't consistently attend church and/or are just not involved in the life of the church.

How can the church help college students? 
Part of the answer to this question is that it is the student's responsibility to show up to church and be involved.  The church is not obligated to call students, make sure they're awake and tie their shoes on Sunday morning. Students ought not expect that from the church. The church ought to be focused on the spiritual life of the college student, not tying their shoes.

There are many things that the church can do to help college students. The practical advice I give below is oriented toward individuals helping out, but there are ways a church can reach out systematically. I will say that it is vital that individual members intentionally reach out to college students. No program is as good as a member walking up to a sleepy-eyed college student, with two cups of coffee in hand, and asking him how he is doing.

1. Say Hello 
There have been so many times when I've come to church and felt very awkward. I hardly knew anyone. There weren't many guys my age, but a couple people came up to me and just said hello. This meant the world to me.

As the semester went on, these people began to know my name, what classes I was taking and how my life was doing. They intentionally got to know me. That completely changed church for me. It motivated me to get out of bed in the morning and keep coming to church.

2. Invite them over to Lunch 
Even if they say no, it means a lot. There have been so many times that families have asked me over for lunch after church, and I've had to say no because of school. I walked away from church knowing that people cared about me and wanted to keep my belly full of good food. It meant the world to me even though I had to say no.

As a side note, it might be good to ask a week in advance, perhaps email them, text them, call them, facebook them or tweet them.

3. Include them in the "circle" 
Churches can be deadly places. They are full of circles of people talking about life. Please let that sleep deprived college student in, even if he/she smells awful. It'll make them feel much better.

4. Don't glare at them for having Coffee in the Sanctuary 
This has never really happened to me. I think Pastor York looked at me strangely once when I had my coffee thermos with me. He didn't glare though.

Different people have different standards for worship. Some people thinks it's okay to bring a picnic and munch on a sandwich during the sermon. Other people think it's dishonoring to God. Whichever side you're on, please understand that the college student has his thermos there so he won't fall asleep.

5. Advice to Pastors: Take them out to Coffee Once 
I don't give this last piece of advice lightly. I know Pastors are extremely busy and must give themselves to their congregations. But boy I have benefited so much from having a meal/coffee with Pastor Johnston, Pastor York, Pastor Faris and Pastor Hart over the years. These times of fellowship meant so much to me. It might not be possible for all pastors to do. Time is limited, but I benefited from the times I had with those men. Their are conversations that I still think about today. This might not be possible for all pastors, but it's definitely worth a try.

And it's not just pastors who can do this. College students love coffee and food. It'll open them up, and perhaps encourage them to come back to church.

In conclusion, I want to thank all the congregations I have worshipped at these past couple years. Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church2nd Reformed Presbyterian Church, and  McKinnon Reformed Presbyterian Church have bene extremely helpful to my spiritual life these past five years. I hope that churches can do the same these churches have done for me. 


  1. Also would add, offer to give them rides to church. A lot of college students don't have cars so having someone to carpool with makes it a lot easier. Also, coffee in church is not a distraction, it is an aid to fully concentrated worship. Though a better plan is just to go to bed earlier on Sat evenings.

  2. Hi David,
    I have come across a terrific book that fits right in with inviting someone over for a meal. I highly recommend "A Meal with Jesus" by Tim Chester!

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY - a day late....

  3. Hi Aunt Cindy, I just finished reading Tim Chester's book about a week ago. I thought it was great. He had some great things to say.

  4. Thanks for posting; I really liked these!


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