Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Reaching out to our college students


By Jennifer Gruendler, Director of Campus Ministry
St. Pauls UMC and Wesley Foundation

It’s the beginning of another academic year. As we bless and celebrate our beloved youth it’s also important to pause and take a moment to intentionally think about how we are going to stay connected to them as they set out to college, the military, a new job, or whatever else God might be calling them to in this new season of life.

Here are three simple ways your congregation can do that this summer:

  • Gather their new addresses and cell phone numbers and use them. As a campus minister I get the joy of walking along side hundreds of students at Penn State each year. Even though if they are looking, there are plenty of campus ministry options right here in State College (Wesley Foundation being one of them), there still is nothing better than a card or care package or something of the like from their home congregation. This is true wherever they are living. Tastes of home are awesome. It does not have to be big … a simple birthday card, a finals care package, a weekly text, or a small gift card to a local coffee shop is an easy way to remind them you’re keeping them in your prayers and thoughts. 
  • Connect them with a local campus ministry or congregation. Once you know which school or community your new grad will be moving to, connect them to a campus minister or local congregation. All it takes is a quick email to the minister or pastor, and it then becomes their responsibility to reach out to your student. And they will. But If we don’t get the information that they’re new in our community, we very likely will never know they are here unless they come to us. Most campuses don’t provide the information anymore, so please help us out and let us know they are in town.
  • Host a gathering for college-age students over Christmas and/or summer breaks. When your students are back home, get them together. Invite former youth sponsors and others in the congregation with whom they have relationships to join you. Enjoy a meal together and give them space to share about their new life, both their struggles and joys. 

Change is exciting, scary, and transformational all at the same time. High school graduation is one of those seasons for many of our youth. These roller coaster transitions require us to be extra intentional as a congregation to care for our children God’s has given us to raise in the faith. Jesus promises to be with all of us in every season, but perhaps maybe especially in seasons of change. We can be Jesus to our students simply by intentionally sharing our love and grace with them through these simple ways (and there are so many other ways too). May it be so.

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