Earlier today, I was able to spend some time at a youth pastor’s gathering for youth pastor’s in my area. After we spent some time praying for each other, we started a discussion on transitions. The question was asked about how do we transitions students in and out of our ministry. The conversation quickly turned into a conversation about how we can transition students out of our youth ministry into college in such a way they stay connected to the local church. This is a very important question for us in student ministry and a question we need to address. 80% of students are leaving the local church within two years after they graduate high school! There are numerous reasons this statistic is true (Josh Evan’s shared a few on his blog here), but one of the reasons they are leaving the church is because we are not keeping them connected to our church or another church in their college area. As church leaders, we need to do a better job at keeping college students connected to the local church. This is an age group that the church cannot ignore any longer.
I want to share a few of the ideas we discussed at our gathering today about how to keep college students connected to the church. I don’t take credit for most of these ideas because other student pastors at the gathering gave them. I hope we can all try some of these and maybe add to it some more practical ways to keep college students connected to the church.
Find churches in the community where your college students are going to school and connect them to those churches. Chad Watson, middle school pastor at Triad Baptist, shared this great idea about calling churches and telling them about the college students from your church in there area. I loved this idea! Most of our college students are leaving town for school and we rarely know if they are attending a good church or not. Spend some time looking into churches near where they are going to school and call a church leader to ask if they can connect with your student.
Give them ownership. One of the biggest reasons students stay in the local church after they leave the youth group is because they had ownership and was doing some type of ministry. During their youth group years, allow them to serve in the church and allow them to have some ownership. This will most likely play a factor at keeping them plugged into the local church for a long time. Also, for college students that stay near your church for school, this will help them feel like they have a role to play in the church. Allow them to serve in the student ministry or children ministry while they are in college. College leaders are a great help to these types of ministries in the church.
Provide them a ministry designed just for them. Josh Harvey, student pastor at Grace Baptist Temple, shared about the ministry they have at their church for college students called The Brickhouse. This is a ministry designed specifically for college students. For some churches, adding a college Sunday School class may be a great place to start, but I would encourage you to go past just a Sunday School class. The last thing college students want to commit to is waking up early on Sunday morning for a Sunday School class. They are in class enough! Give them a ministry that is different and designed to serve them and their specific age group.
Remind the parents to play a role in this. Encourage the parents to help their college student find a church in their area. When they take a trip to the school or help their child move in, remind them to look for a good church in the area. The college students that stay connected to the church normally have a good, supportive family. Partner with the parents in helping their college student stay connected to the church. In a recent blog, I that ministering to parents in one of the things student pastors MUST do.
Don’t just take a college tour, take a church tour. I believe someone might have said this in a joking way, but it’s true! When you take a group of high school students on a college trip to check out colleges, visit churches in those areas as well. Do whatever you can to show them good churches they can get plugged into while in college.
These are just a few ways we can help college students stay connected to the local church. Chuck Bomar’s blog, College Ministry Thoughts, is a great site to check out if you are interested in learning more about ministering to college students. What are some ways you think we can keep college students connected?