Ministering From Afar
written by Holton Sandiford
With the emptiness arising in our pews from college students flocking back to college, I myself have felt empty and concerned. My worry is how the college students of my church are being ministered to while on their campuses. I am no expert on how to minister to college students when they are in my church doors or away at college; however, I have recently transitioned from being a full-time college student to being a full-time youth minister at Fairfield Cumberland Presbyterian Church (FCPC). Part of the job that I have taken upon myself is to oversee the college-aged ministry in my congregation. Serving in a smaller church in a smaller community these suggestions might not work the same in a church that is in a city that would have several college students. FCPC only has a handful of college students all of which are at a University outside of our local community. My hope is for this post to spark ideas for your church to better minister to your college students.
My first suggestion is for the church to look into what on-campus ministries are available as well as what local churches are around the university your students will be attending. Look for somewhere to get your students plugged in while they are on campus. As much as I enjoy seeing FCPC college students home on the weekend it is not possible for all of the students to make the journey home. So take some time to look up the churches available near the school so they can have a connection to a body of believers while at school. Also take a look as to what on-campus ministries are available. Often times these are accessible through a school’s website, or perhaps a phone call or email will gather this information for you. Your minister or someone in your church may have a connection with an area minister or someone on campus. Reach out and make the connection for your students. Here are a few ministries available on many campuses throughout the United States.
UKIRK – This is a ministry based through the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The Cumberland Presbyterian Church has started a relationship and partnership with them. Check out their website for more information and locations http://www.ukirk.org/
InterVarsity – This organization has various ministry opportunities, it allows much more than a weekly bible study. Follow this link for their website http://intervarsity.org/
Cru – Cru was originally Campus Crusaders for Christ and has now been rebranded as Cru, they are involved in a multitude of campuses. For more information look into their website https://www.cru.org/
A second suggestion is to stay connected — do not forget about your college students. In today’s society almost everyone is carrying some type of device that has the ability to connect to the Internet. One of the easiest things you could do to connect to multiple students at once is to start a Facebook group. This gives you an opportunity to reach out and check in with several students at once. This is not necessarily in an attempt to have contact with them daily, or send them a daily devotion, although for some students that could be appreciated. The thing you are trying to do with this communication is just to allow the students to know that their home church still loves and cares for them; to simply check in with them and see how their lives are going.
One of the best things I received while at college was a tub of cookies form a church member. This has been something I have strived to continue to do for FCPC’s college students. Send them care packages. As final exams are approaching FCPC sets out a tote and collects donations of candy, food, snacks, gift cards– really anything that a college student may eat or use to get food. This is an amazing opportunity often times with exams comes the busyness and stress of studying. It is also a nice reminder to the students that their home church is still thinking of them. The hard part about this is getting them to students; if students are close enough parents would be willing to deliver to their child. Another idea is shipping. This could add up quickly if your church has several students. A couple suggestions would be to take donations for shipping costs or ask the congregation if anyone would be willing to sponsor sending one to a particular student. You could then give that sponsor the opportunity to write a letter and attach with the care package.
The final suggestion I can make is to connect with your students when they are home. The great thing about college is there is a long summer and a long Christmas break. Find some way to utilize these times to do something with the students who have returned home. This could be doing a retreat, a mission trip whether local or far, or this could be simply having a college night at your church. Do something specifically designed for them. Set aside some time where the college students are the focus of the ministry happening.
Those in their twenties have been the least represented age group in church for years. I believe the reason for this is due to the students leaving youth group (arguably the most ministered group) to being thrown into adult church, adult classes, and no longer have a minister directly over a smaller group. As the church we need to find ways to step into ministering and impacting their lives for Christ.
As I previously stated I am no expert, so I am interested in what you and your congregation is doing to minister to college students. I would love for us to start a dialogue to see what works and what doesn’t ministry is not the job of few but the job of many. Think on these questions and leave some feedback in order to help myself and others do ministry better.
Does your church have a minister to your college students or a group of people who oversee this ministry?
Would these suggestions work well in your congregation?
What things does your church do differently?