I’ve been reading up on ministry to college students (College Ministry from Scratch: Equipping Kids for Life after Youth Group, by Chuck Bomar) and want to share about college students sharing in the lives of older more mature believers in the church.
Here are five simple markers that show a certain quality in relationships between older believers and college-age people:
- The frequency and consistency with which the pair meets together one-on-one. If they’re meeting frequently on their own, without any prodding from others, then it shows that each of them sees the value in the relationship. If there isn’t consistency, then it’s paramount that we figure out why. It might be a matter of schedules, or it might be that the two people just don’t click for some reason. Either way, this is when we can step in and help cultivate that relationship.
- The college-age person seeks spiritual wisdom from the older adult on her own. If this is the case, it says the younger person sees value in this relationship. It also likely suggests that the older believer feels confident in his or her spiritual direction. If this isn’t happening, then we may need to equip the older believer or perhaps help the younger one to see the value of someone older investing in her spiritual life.
- The college-age person knows where the dishes are in the older believer’s kitchen. This shows a particular level of intimacy in the relationship, which takes time to develop, of course.
- The college-age person can drop by the home of an older believer uninvited. This again shows an intimacy and comfort level in the relationship that indicates quality.
- The college-age person’s pursuit of an older believer’s counsel in everyday life circumstances. College-age people are thinking through all sorts of things. If they’re seeking the advice of the older believer in their life’s direction, educational pursuits, job concerns, or any other daily issues—again, this shows us something about this relationship.
Most college ministry job descriptions include references to weekly gatherings, campus ministry, and discipleship but lack specifics that get to the heart of what’s truly needed in college ministry. Here is a Job Description summary:
- Learn and understand age-stage issues.
- Personally disciple college-age people.
- Help cultivate a heart in older believers for younger people.
- Create bridges for the building of intergenerational relationships.
- Provide direction for mentorships.
- Create a gathering point.
- Develop self-feeders.
- Develop a relationship with campus leaders.
Our biblical command isn’t to run a program; it’s to disciple people. Although a program might be a piece of that, it’s important to make the distinction.
The more you personally help college-age people through their life issues, the more you’ll be able to help other leaders do the same. Your experience is going to be critical for the long-term effectiveness of ministry to college-age people in the church.
So when Jesus told his closest men to go and make disciples, they certainly would not have walked away thinking they needed to have a weekly meeting and go through a book together! Discipleship is a part of the job description, but it is through sharing life, not through weekly meetings.
Preparing a great talk or small group Bible study probably won’t have the greatest impact on the people in our ministry. It’s the time we spend giving them our undivided attention. It’s being available, there in person, and willing to hear them out or walk alongside them through the pains and joys of life that has lasting impact.