Every year when summer rolls around I begin to feel bittersweet about college ministry. This is the only ministry in the church where people leave for a couple of months and then come back, or they are back at your church for a couple of months and then leave again. On one hand, I am so excited to welcome back the college students that grew up in our church, but on the other hand, I am sad that the college students who have been around all school year will be gone for three months. Preparing for college ministry at your church in the summer can be a challenge as it can feel like two separate college ministries. Below are three tips for helping you prepare your church college ministry for summer.
This seems like an obvious start, but if you are like me, I get so focused on the spring semester that summer sneaks up on me out of nowhere! Too many times I will get to the end of April and say, “Oh my! College students return home in TWO weeks!” Do not let this be you! Begin now planning for the summer and laying the foundations for it. Is there a special Bible study that you want to do during the summer months? Are there service projects you want to put on the calendar to encourage people to serve while they are on summer break? Maybe there are special events you want to do to create fellowship with the students that will be around in the summer. I would encourage you to create a summer calendar early so that every student knows what events will be going on and can prioritize them in their schedules. One thing that we introduced about seven years ago was a College Community Group that meets Thursday nights during the summer in addition to our Sunday morning gatherings. We eat dinner together starting at 6 pm and then we gather as a large group, teach the lesson, then dive deeper in small groups. This has been an incredible time each summer and every student looks forward to the launch of this group at the end of May. Do not delay in your planning!
Be Intentional with the Returning and Remaining Students
Begin reaching out to the students that will be returning home to your church and those remaining for summer. What better way to begin preparing for summer college ministry than reconnecting and building relationships now! College students long for community and want to feel connected. Send the students a text or give them a call and simply share that you are excited to have them back for the next few months. Tell them all about what is going on in college ministry for the summer (why you need to plan ahead!) and encourage them to be connected and involved. You make a personal connection and extending an invite will go a long way! Find ways to plug them in to serve in the church while they are home. Encourage them to serve in kid’s or student ministry or even be a greeter on Sunday mornings. Equip them to be small group leaders in your college gatherings. Begin planning times to get together for lunch with a group of students as they begin to arrive back in town. Begin to cast the vision for the summer for those that are not going back home because of a job or internship. It is important to maintain those relationships and be intentional with them as a “new” group of college students will be there for the summer. Being intentional with the college students will show your love for them and allow you to shepherd them well in the few months they are back.
Send off Your Fall/Spring Students Well
As you are preparing for the return of college students, you are also preparing to send off the fall/spring students. This is an incredible opportunity for you to commission them to be on a mission during the summer. Encourage them to not compartmentalize their faith during the summer, but to continually be on mission in their hometowns or wherever they will be. During your last gathering (Sunday school, college worship night, etc.) of the spring, spend some time praying over the students name by name. Maybe break them up into small groups and have other leaders pray for each person, and then you voice a prayer over the group. Write each student a handwritten note and give it to them on their last Sunday. These are great ways to show your investment in them and that you are praying for them as they head out during the summer. Not only that, but they will look forward, even more, to coming to school in the fall so they can be back in their college ministry! Free tip: these are also great things to do at the END of the summer as you send off the students back to their respective colleges!
Plan ahead. Be intentional. Send-off well. Be praying and asking the Lord how you can do these three tips well in your local church context.
Matt Longworth is the Minister to College and Young Adults at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. You can follow him on Instagram @mattlongworth and the ministry @fhbccollege.