Influence

 the shape of leadership

Four Things College Students Need From the Church Now

A North Central University senior shares her perspective

Victoria Cortese on April 20, 2020

Checking my email near the end of spring break, I noticed a letter from my school. It informed me in-person classes had been cancelled and the remainder of the academic year would be completed through virtual learning. Students were encouraged not to come back to campus or to move out as soon as possible.

As a senior at North Central University in Minneapolis, a significant part of my college career ended in that moment. There would be no more meetings with professors, no group work in the library, and, most shockingly, no graduation.

College students across the country and around the globe have had similar experiences. For some, it meant packing up their things in a matter of hours and returning home with no opportunity to say goodbye to friends and mentors. For the few, like me, who remain on campus, it has meant watching our bustling communities become virtual ghost towns overnight.

Students everywhere feel a sense of unrest and uncertainty. As church leaders, you have the opportunity to minister to us in this difficult time. Here are four things we need from the Church:

1. Personal Connection

Like so many others in this time of crisis, college students are anxious and fearful. We worry about the health of our family members, the loss of our jobs and internships, and what kind of future we will have.

In addition to providing virtual services, consider using technology to offer prayer sessions, Bible studies and support groups.

Schedule one-on-one calls with us so we can have a space to be honest about our genuine struggles. Group Zoom calls may not feel like a safe place to talk about uncomfortable issues. Whether through Facetime, a private Zoom meeting, or a phone call, give us individual time to talk and be vulnerable.

Once we have been transparent, don’t just add our requests to a list. Take time — then and there — to pray with us. Nothing is more encouraging in the midst of our uncertainty than feeling like someone is fighting with us and for us.

2. Meaningful Work

Because of the speed at which COVID-19 prompted major changes in college learning environments, students’ schedules have completely changed almost overnight.

Yes, most of us are still doing virtual learning, which fills a portion of the day. But many students who lost jobs, sports, research, school events, and more are searching for a meaningful outlet to fill their time and give them purpose.

In this time of uncertainty and unrest, it can be easy to forget God’s promises.

College students who are looking to become involved can greatly impact the work of the Church. This generation is creative, energetic, tech-savvy, and eager to make a difference.

There have already been stories of college students helping build ventilators, offering free online tutoring for children and teens doing school at home, and 3D-printing supplies for healthcare workers.

Why not reach out to college students and offer them the opportunity to become involved with the work of the church? Not only will it bless your ministry, but it will give them something to focus on in a season of unknowns.

Many students are wondering where they can use their gifts and skills. Serving the Church is something meaningful they can do now.

3. Loving Community

With the media constantly reminding us that the world is in a state of chaos, sometimes what we most need is an enjoyable time with a community that loves us.

In college, we were able to join groups that allowed us to express our passions, try new restaurants and coffee shops, and stay up until midnight playing board games — all of which have been taken away by COVID-19. So, not only do we need your prayers, we need the opportunity to fellowship.

Consider creating a group of online gamers who can level up together, or offering cooking lessons through Zoom for students who love to try new food. Fun online group gatherings could deepen relationships among your community of college students and open new opportunities for discipleship.

4. Hopeful Encouragement

In this time of uncertainty and unrest, it can be easy to forget God’s promises. As a college senior two weeks away from finishing my degree, I now have no idea what my next chapter looks like.

The completion of college is a major time of transition. Every year, college seniors navigate the stressful process of figuring out their next steps. This year’s seniors are launching into a world that seems precarious and, at times, terrifying.

Use sermons, lesson plans and personal phone calls to remind us of the promises God has made.

Remind us these challenges are temporary and represent an opportunity to grow. Share passages like James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Remind us while this pandemic is a trial of our faith, through our perseverance, we will become stronger, more complete, and more capable of loving our communities and communicating the gospel.

Remind us through this season that we are learning to unite, serve sacrificially and demonstrate the love of Christ, which will make us more effective as Kingdom builders. Challenge us so we can become mature in our faith by joyfully embracing this opportunity to become more like the One we serve.
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