As college students are packing their bags to go back to school at the end of the summer, there are a few steps that churches can take to make sure their college students are feeling cared for. As a college student myself, I find that it is always a big transition when you start attending church at a new place at the beginning of the semester. It is hard to feel connected to your church when you are hundreds of miles away, so here are a few easy tips for churches to keep college students engaged when they head back to school.
Livestream Sermons or Upload Them Online
An awesome tool that churches can utilize to stay in touch with distant college students is through live videos of your service or having the sermon videos posted online. It can be hard to find a church in a new area—especially if you don’t have a car on campus. It is always nice to have some comfort from home, and being able to watch a sermon from your home church some Sundays is a nice way for college kids to feel connected to home even though they may be far away. My former roommate at school will often watch videos of her church services when she is missing home. While this option cannot be a substitute for attending a service in person and having Holy Communion and fellowship, it provides a nice connection to home for those feeling a little homesick.
Watching a church service online also allows students to have some flexibility in their schedules so if for some reason they can’t make it to church one morning, they can view the sermon later. Having sermons posted online is also a great backup for when students are up too late on Saturday night watching Netflix and sleep through their alarm on Sunday morning.
Connect over Social Media
Another simple way to stay connected that you probably hear all the time is to connect on social media. Sometimes it can be intimidating to hear, but this can be as easy as asking students to connect to your church’s Facebook page or Instagram. This level of connection for students is beneficial because students will be able to see what is happening with their home church while they are checking their social media feeds—which they are already doing anyway. Social media tools also allow college students to choose their level of engagement. They can interact with others through your church’s social media sites or they can simply scroll through the feed and see what’s happening. This lets college students interact on their own time that fits within their own schedule—and let’s face it, college schedules can be pretty weird.
Churches can also make social media pages where they have resources specifically for college students. This could contain a lot of different things like Bible studies geared toward college students and young adults or links to articles that could be useful to college students. Another simple way social media can be used to connect college students to the church is to make a Facebook group for all the college students from a graduating class at the church so they can continue to connect even when they all leave in different directions. Maintaining personal connections with friends from church creates a strong bond for students.
Help College Kids Find Churches if They Are Going to School Far Away
One challenge that college kids may face, especially if they will be going to school at a non-religious university, is finding a church to attend throughout the school year. For many students, this will be their first time looking for a church to attend without the help of their parents. This can be really intimidating, especially if the student hasn’t found a group of students to go with yet. Helping students find a church while they are away is important so that they do not fall off of the bandwagon and stop going to church during their college years. If you can connect with students before they leave and help them look into churches that will be in their area, they will be much more likely to try going there. Sometimes just having a game plan is enough to get someone to attend.
Use Snail Mail to Connect with College Students
I know that this seems to go against everything you have been told about engaging with millennials, but sending a real letter or a care package to a college student can go a long way. Every student at college has a mailbox on campus, and more often than not, they are never used. It is always a fun surprise to check your mailbox and find something there. I know that I have received some letters from a woman at my church and it has never failed to make my day. Several of my friends at college will check their mailboxes every day—and are basically disappointed daily, but they still continue to check on a daily basis. But imagine if they were to have something from church waiting for them! It would not only brighten their whole day to find a surprise in their mailbox, but it would also remind them that someone at church is thinking about them—and those personal connections can’t be beat. One word of caution with this one though: let your college students know that they should be expecting something in the mail from you in case they are not as eager to check their mailboxes as my friends and I are.
Overall, continue to show your college students that you are interested in what is going on in their lives. It is important that college students still feel like they are significant members of the church, even if they can no longer be regularly attending members. The church can stay connected and show interest in the lives of their college students through many ways like snail mail, email, social media, or any other way that works best for the student and the church. With the resources that we have today, staying connected is simple. Making sure that your college students feel like the church cares about them after they head off to school can be an important step to make sure that they stay involved with the church after graduation.
Hear more from Audrey about how she stays connected with church when she’s away at school.
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