There’s so much that makes up the college experience… so many opportunities, so many potential pitfalls.
How well do we assist students in navigating the waters of the college years?
Maybe before we can accurately answer this question we must first ask:
“What are the big issues that our students are dealing with?”
If we’ve not taken the time to answer this question than we must ask ourselves, “how relevant is our ministry?”
I’ve been working with college students for the last 15 years of my life. I know there are plenty of you out there who have been working with college students longer than I have (so I hope you’ll chime in down in the comments section), or have experienced ministry with college students in different contexts than I have (so your insight will be crucial as well), but here are the top 10 issues I see college students facing today - issues that MUST influence how we “do ministry.”
Top 10 Issues:
1. Jesus - What have they done with Him? Everything hinges on this. Helping students to understand what it means to “commit” their lives to Christ in a “noncommittal” culture is paramount to our work. Setting a framework of worship, discipleship and service for their life on campus will help.
2. Worldview - What lens do they view life through? Helping a biblically illiterate generation to learn and understand the Bible such that it shapes how they live their lives, and view the world, is so important to their development and ability to fully live out their faith.
3. Entitled OR Responsible - Most college students come to campus with an air of entitlement. Helping them to understand this, and the significance of making the shift from entitlement to (healthy) responsibility - and then assisting them with that transition - is key.
4. College - Why are they here? Increasingly, students are coming to campus without much of a clue as to why they are here - all they know is that it’s what is expected of them after they graduate from high school. The sooner we can get them thinking about the “why” of their decision, the sooner we can them help them with the “how” in terms of how they will go about their collegiate experience. This ties directly into the next issue…
5. From Career to Call - Recasting the collegiate experience such that students begin to understand how God might want to use these formative years to prepare and equip them to meet major needs in the world - instead of simply earning a degree, in order to get a job, so that they can make enough money to afford the kind of lifestyle they desire.
6. Identifying and Addressing Barriers - Whether it’s addictive and/or destructive behaviors, baggage from their past, a lack of support and encouragement from home or something else; identifying and addressing the barriers students face will make a huge difference in how students are formed during these critical years.
7. Community - Who are they doing life with? Community is so important! But many students seem to be willing to “compromise” the quality of their community in order to find acceptance quickly. Students need mentors, students need strong, intentional, Christ-centered community. Students need to recognize that the company they keep will shape them in powerful ways.
8. Love and Intimacy - Students are so excited to find it, but they may not have any idea of what “healthy” love and intimacy are meant to look like.
9. Stewardship - Whether its money, relationships, or other resources… recognizing how God wants us to hold the things that He has placed in our lives is very important - and not something they’ll likely learn in the classroom.
10. Acceptance -
Students must learn how to be open to, interested in, and even accepting of people who are not like them. NO, they don’t all have to believe the same things, but they do need to learn to create space for people not like them to believe what they believe, while holding strong to what they know to be true.
** Bonus (11) Technology – All of the advances in technology were intended to make life easier… but the reality is that in many ways they’ve become more complex. Students are increasingly distracted and struggle to know how to manage all of the information they have at the tip of their fingers. Helping students to find healthy ways to understand and utilize technology will be significant going forward.
These are some of the BIGgest issues that I see our students facing today.
What about you? What do you think?
- Is there something missing from this list?
- What are the biggest issues you have seen in your work with college students?
- What are you doing to address these issues with your students?
I’d love hear your thoughts!