the shape of leadership

Six Ways to Keep College Students Connected to the Church

Helping them grow in faith while they’re away

Influence Magazine on August 19, 2019

As college freshmen head to campus, many will move away from home for the first time. For churchgoers, that means leaving behind their congregations as well.

This can be a difficult transition for some. According to one study from LifeWay Research, 66 percent of U.S. teens who regularly attend church in high school drop out from the ages of 18 to 22, and only one-third return by age 30.

What is your church doing to help college students stay connected to the faith? Here are six ways to support and encourage them:

1. Pray

Many churches recognize high school graduates each spring. It’s a good time to acknowledge their accomplishments, honor them, and pray over them as they move into a new phase of life.

But don’t let your intercession end there. Ask your congregation to continue to remember these teens in prayer. You might even distribute prayer guides with the first names of recent high school graduates so people can pray for them throughout the year.

Many college students want a vibrant faith, but they don’t always know how to maintain it.

2. Provide Mentors

Consider pairing each student with a mentor of the same gender. Make sure it’s a good fit — a faithful congregant the student knows and trusts, but not a family member. This mentor will reach out at least once a month to see how things are going, ask about specific needs, and help the student continue to grow in his or her faith.

3. Locate Churches

Help students locate churches in their college towns. Finding a place to fit in when a student moves to a strange place can be difficult. Connecting quickly with a church will give them one less thing to worry about.

4. Promote Chi Alpha

Check to see whether there are Chi Alpha Campus Ministries groups where students are going. If so, encourage them to get involved. You might even offer to reach out to Chi Alpha representatives and initiate an introduction. That way, students will have another connection when they land on campus.

5. Send Packages

College students enjoy receiving care packages. These usually contain snacks, gift cards to local restaurants, and other small gifts. Why not send each of your students a care package from the church? Be sure to add something of spiritual significance, like a devotional book or worship CD, as well as a personal note of encouragement.

6. Use Social Media

Social media is another way your church can keep in touch with students while they’re away. This can go beyond just streaming services. Perhaps you could create a dedicated page for those who call your church home when they’re away from home. It can include testimonies, videos from the pastor, and updates about what’s happening in the church. This can become an effective tool for maintaining a virtual connection.

Many college students want a vibrant faith, but they don’t always know how to maintain it. Do everything you can to show them the way.

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