Why now is the time to reach out to college students

April 21, 2020

While many college students were enjoying spring break, their world turned upside down. In several fast-moving days as COVID-19 became a pandemic, breaks were extended, classes were canceled, campuses closed, students returned home and learning shifted online.

With stay-at-home orders and limits on public gatherings, students who were connected to churches learned they could not meet with friends and family at church, either. With their semesters over, many students soon realized that they were, in a social sense, orphans — neither connected to their campus nor connected to their summer friends.

In the midst of the current pandemic, churches might think there’s not much they can do to minister to college students. That would be the wrong assessment to make for the many college students in our communities and church families. There is actually a lot churches can do right now to minister to college students. Here are some ideas to reach students during the pandemic.

Engage students who are ‘home’ and ‘away.’
Combine the “away team” of students who have returned early into community groups with the “home team” that may be attending community college or local colleges. Find a platform like Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams to study the Bible together. Keeping them connected to other Christians is an important spiritual lifeline at this point. Jeff Humphrey at Chalybeate Springs Baptist Church has kept his college group together at Wake Technical Community College through a weekly meeting on Microsoft Teams. His group has actually added several students during the school closure.

Encourage social, intellectual and spiritual engagement.
Find creative ways to use virtual platforms to connect students for social engagement that has an intellectual and spiritual side. Maddison Perry at the North Carolina Study Center has recently started a “Chronicles of Narnia” reading group for students. It’s a fun way for students to do some light reading that has rich spiritual themes to explore. Think about books, devotionals or topics that would lend themselves to reflection and discussion.

Connect college students and church leaders.
Set up a “hang out time” with a church leader to talk with students who may want to ask spiritual questions during this crisis. Unstructured time can lead to great discussions about God’s providence, current events, future plans, and what we miss and relish during stay-at-home orders. What do we need to rethink as Christians as we emerge on the other side of COVID-19, and how can students do a “restart” to their college experience?

Understand the stress college students are facing (especially seniors).
Don’t diminish the fact that college seniors are facing a lot of stress. Take it seriously. Not only did they lose saying goodbye in person to their friends and professors, they also won’t graduate with “pomp and circumstance,” nor will they have normal celebration events with friends and family. They also face entering the workforce in the midst of a crisis and a weakened economy. Find a way to honor and encourage them.

Help students sharpen their spiritual engagement skills.
Though few are meeting in person, students still engage privately and in small groups online, in texts and through social media. Crises have a way of forcing people to face ultimate questions. Help Christian students look for and recognize the signs of depression, fear and loneliness. Give them the tools they need to share the gospel, be a listening ear and a great friend.

At some point — hopefully this fall — college students will go back to school. The question for churches is what did we do during the crisis to engage students? The mission to reach college students rests on the shoulders of the church, and we cannot afford to wait until school resumes to re-engage in this important work. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives, and now is the time for the church to be creative in how it ministers to others.


by Tom Knight  
Collegiate Partnerships  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

So you’re a follower of Jesus: ‘Now What?’

I vividly remember the season when I decided to give up running and join a gym. Up until then I had been an avid runner and enjoyed it. It was a great stress reliever for me, but I didn’t have much physical strength — I was weak and I wanted to change that.    I remember going to...

Finding God’s ‘shells of grace’ in our western culture

The 2016 Disney Pixar film “Finding Dory” details the life of a blue tang fish named Dory who deals with short-term memory loss. The animated movie explores complex issues such as mental health, the power of community, and the interplay between humans and wildlife.    One theme...

Considering a strategic vision for digital engagement

There is a difference between using something and leveraging something. You can use money to buy things you may or may not need. But that does not equate to leveraging it. Leveraging money as an investment could double or triple the initial investment. Using takes something at...

The beauty of adoption

Mom and dad never called me their adopted son. I was just their son. I was born into an unfortunate situation, but I was adopted into a blessed family. In 1966, adoption was not as highlighted in the American church as it is today. In the spring of 1998, I was a seminary student...

5 areas where pastors can grow in the new year

In the optometry profession, 20/20 means clarity or sharpness of vision.    For most people, the year 2020 was anything but clear. In fact, 2020 was as unclear as a year could be because of the repercussions of COVID-19, especially if you are leading in ministry as a pastor.   ...

NC mountain man returns home to plant new church

People say if you live in the North Carolina mountains, they’ll always call you back.   For Michael Childers, that’s pretty much what happened. Except it was God who called him back, not the hills, he says.   Drive to Brevard over in western North Carolina, and then head out of...

Resolve to pray for and encourage your pastor in the new year

Resolve to pray for and encourage your pastor in the new year Happy New Year! I know that those are welcome words for many of us, myself included. Given the events of the past year, we are all ready to return to some semblance of normal, although normal will undoubtedly look...

Speaker added, registration open for 2021 Disciple-making Conference

Church leadership coach, and author Will Mancini has been added to the lineup of speakers for the 2021 N.C. Baptist Disciple-making Conference, which is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 23-24, in a hybrid format. Registration for the conference is now open.   Mancini,...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay connected by signing up for the N.C. Baptist monthly newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!