For ten years, I served as a pastor of a church in a college town. Our church loved our students and a number of our families adopted students to show and share with them the love of Christ during their formative student days. I would urge new college students to work to find a church home and not to just casually attend the church that has the best praise band. I would challenge churches who want to reach out to students to be willing to flex on your preferred musical styles in order to reach the younger generations. Many churches die because leaders are unwilling to adapt regarding their forms.
Here are some observations of this mutually beneficial relationship between college students and churches who love them.
What are the ways that a local church benefits from the presence and participation of college students?
- College students make us aware of the cultural trends of the times. They stimulate us to work on being relevant to the context of the current social trends and philosophies.
- Since they are always interacting with the unbelieving world, they help us to strive against isolationism and irrelevance.
- College students can have a positive, Christ-honoring influence upon the younger kids in a church family. Covenant children have the unique opportunity to interact with college students and observe them living out authentic Christianity. College students can serve as role models for the younger kids in a church community.
- College students bring lots of energy, enthusiasm and vibrancy to corporate worship.
- College students help to expand our church’s picture of the kingdom – who makes up the kingdom and how we live out our kingdom obligations.
- In the past, college students have been used to bring revival and renewal to the church, especially in the area of advancing the cause of Christ in the world. One can think of the Student Volunteer Movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s in America as a clear example of this. Clarence Shedd makes a bold assertion in his book Two Centuries of Student Christian Movements: “At all ages the great creative religious ideas have been the achievement of the intellectual and spiritual insight of young men. This is evidenced by such names as Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, Loyola, Huss, Luther, Erasmus, Wesley, and Mott…Many of the most revolutionary ideas have been worked out by young men and women under 30 and frequently by youths between 18 and 25.”
What are the ways that college students benefit from plugging into life and relationships in a local church?
- Plugging into a church allows college students to observe up close and personal the personal dynamics of the family life of believers (How husbands love, nurture, and care for their wives, how wives are to honor, respect and submit to their husbands, and how children are cared for and at times disciplined). This is crucial given that many students do not come from Christian homes.
- Plugging into a church offers college students the benefit of connecting to the body of Christ and having a sense of home away from home.
- Plugging into a church helps college students cultivate relationships in a particular church body that can bear much financial fruit when they sense God’s leading to seize mission opportunities that require support.
- Plugging into a church enables college students to experience healthy church life. Through this process, hopefully their view of the church in the world and for the lost is biblically shaped.
- Plugging into a church and its ministries help to break the homogeneity of living exclusively among 18-22 year olds. In a church family, collegians have the privilege of experiencing a diversity of people at different physical and spiritual ages and stages.
- Plugging into a church facilitates relational connections with older believers that have potential to sharpen and mentor collegians in their spiritual journey. College students have the opportunity to build relationships with older, more experienced believers.
- Plugging into a church gives colleges students the privilege and opportunities to serve and impact future generations. Involvement in a local church provides students opportunities for serving others. Serving is integral to spiritual growth. College is a time for believing students to really begin to discover and use their God-given capacities for serving Christ and others.
- Plugging into a church provides students with strong, biblical teaching and preaching that are not always centered on their needs and their own stage in life.
- Plugging into a church during one’s collegiate days helps to promote a rhythm of church involvement throughout your life, especially in the early career period of one’s life when young people are making life-impacting decisions like marriage and career. Those students who are exclusively involved in para-church ministries tend to struggle spiritually as they move into the corporate world when that support group is no longer present.
- Plugging into a church helps to liberate students from self-centeredness and self-absorption. The act of being a vital member of a church requires a level of others-centeredness. Our sin nature, our culture, and the generational-segmented church culture can all tend to promote an attitude of self-focus, which is the antithesis of Philippians 2:3-4.