Connecting with College Students

Connecting with college age students can be a difficult task for churches both large and small. Many churches have even done studies on how to bring in the millennial crowd to their church. While these can be helpful, you might just be looking for some basic tips on how to connect with the college students who will be in your town for the fall semester. Here are some effective ways to connect with college students both inside and outside of your church.

Be Real

College students are walking into our doors looking for honest conversations where they will be respected and heard. Be willing to have tough conversations about real life issues and open up the Bible together. Spend unstructured time talking about their week and where they see God present and absent in their lives. Use these conversations to base your group discussions and Bible lessons but always allow them space to talk about the ways that they might see God at work in the world. However, don’t stop with just talking about the Bible, challenge them and yourself to live your life in openly authentic ways and walk through life together being guided by the Holy Spirit. This core value of college ministry will allow you to minister to the churched and the unchurched. Having real, open, and loving relationships is contagious in today’s culture.

Bring Them In

This is my favorite reason to work with college students. When you have students grow up in your church, you are able to help connect them with new people around your church family and they will also grow into new ministry roles. When students come from outside your congregation, you get to invite them in to meet their new Christian family in the church that will be able to love and support them in tangible ways. However, don’t just ask your church to serve your college students. College students often have time to serve and are willing to help give back to the church. Bring them into the greater congregation by offering service projects, lunches, and small group times where they will be able to interact with the larger congregation.

Don’t forget to also bring the college students into your life. This may be the most difficult and yet effective way to connect with college students. Along with being real about relationships, college students love to feel that they share a special bond as many of them will be away from their families for four years or longer. Having college students in our home playing board games, discussing the Bible, and eating food is sometimes my most exciting time of the week and it is sometimes the most frustrating time of the week. No matter my attitude, I know that God is planting seeds when our college group wants to come together and invite friends to learn about truth.

Don’t Underestimate Their Excitement

College students having real conversations and being invited to the inner circle of your church will spread like wildfire. I can’t state this enough. If you will take the time to be intentional and honest, you will connect with college students from all walks of life. When your students notice the time that you have invested in relationships and valued them while staying confident in your role in ministry to them, they will be willing to invite friends to have these experiences as well. This process will not happen overnight but be encouraged to continue to slowly build relationships and make space for them to invite in new people and you will have the opportunity to not only connect with churched college students but the unchurched who may be looking for somewhere to belong as well.

College ministry is exciting and challenging. As with any ministry, there will be good days and bad days that you will encounter. Do not give up on what God is doing through planting small seeds in the lives of young people. In all things, be confident that the Holy Spirit is working for you and with you as you stay connected to God in prayer for the college students in your ministry. 

Jen Willard

Jen Willard

Jen is a Youth Pastor at Charlotte Trinity Church of the Nazarene, the District NYI President for the North Carolina District, and a recent graduate of Nazarene Theological Seminary.
Jen Willard

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