Do You Know Where the College Students Went?
Awhile back, I wanted to send some college students encouragement letters for finals week and I was quite saddened to find that no one in the church office seemed to know where our former students were. This made my heart sad. We pour into our students’ lives all through their elementary years, survive their awkward jr. high years, and help prepare them for going off to college during their high school years. And then, after that first year of college, we seem to drop them. Some may not agree with me on this, but I would suggest that those college years are when they need encouragement from their church family the most!
I understand that we have to let go at some time. I understand that there is a new crop of students that needs our attention. But the studies show that the college years are the time that young people are walking away from their faith. There are many temptations. They are being exposed to different lifestyles and beliefs. They no longer live under the shelter of their parents encouraging them to go to church.
Is there something we (the Church) can do? I believe there is.
Here are some suggestions:
- Meet with young adults before they head to college in the fall
During this meeting encourage them to start attending church that very first Sunday. Compile a list of churches near their college and give this to them. Compile a list of Christian organizations on campus and when they meet. I text them on that first Monday and ask them where they went to church. During this meeting I directly address the college drinking issue and ask them what they are going to do if they get invited to parties and what their plan is BEFORE they are in this situation.
- Text them weekly
I like to text the college students on Sunday night and ask them their prayer requests for the week. And if possible, I will text them after that test or project was due and ask how it went.
- Occasionally send a hand written note/card of encouragement
It does not have to be a long note. College students LOVE getting mail (especially if it isn’t a tuition due notice!) They love going to their mail box and hearing from a familiar person who knows them. I love having the high school students send notes occasionally letting college students them know they are missed in youth group.
- Send care packages for finals
At the beginning of the semester, I write down the dates of the college finals and try to send an encouraging note with a gift card or small care package to the students. It isn’t much, maybe just a pack of tissues, microwavable popcorn and hot cocoa. The students feel a little bit of love from their home church.
- Send a photo in snail mail
Have the pastor take a photo from up front looking at the congregation, develop it, and send a note that lets them know they are missed and prayed for.
- Make a college visit
If possible, try to visit the college student on their campus one time during the year. This time can mean so much to the student.
- Host a Christmas Party for the returning college students
They love having a home to gather in and catch up while they are home for the holidays.
Right in front of my treadmill are Senior photos. They stay on that board until they graduate from college. It reminds me to pray for these college students.
If taking on this task by yourself seems a bit much, I would recommend putting together a “College Care Committee.” A group who gathers this info and addresses envelopes and tracks with these church members can make this an easy task. Yes, college is a new and wonderful experience, but I believe it can send a powerful message to encourage and love our church family while they are away.
Let me share with you some of the comments I have heard from college students:
“Your letter came on just the right day.”
“Thanks for the care package, it made me feel loved.”
“I love opening my mail box and finding your letters; they are such an encouragement.”
“You are the only one that sends me mail.”
“Thanks for letting me know the places I could attend church.”
And my favorite, “How can I pray for YOU?”
About the Author
Cheryl Franklin Baertschi
Cheryl Franklin Baertschi and her husband live in Carmel, Indiana and have raised 4 boys. After their youngest left the nest 6 years ago, she decided to fill the quiet house with high school and college age girls that she could encourage, mentor and disciple. She continues to learn daily from them.