by Jason Brian Santos
As the national director of UKirk (PC(USA) collegiate ministries), I’ve had the privilege of talking to a lot of congregations about engaging college students in spiritual formation. It’s from those conversations that I offer my top 10 myths.
- It’s not my job. Wrong! While we do have professionals leading the majority of our campus ministries, they can’t do it alone. In fact, the successfulness of their jobs is intrinsically linked to the congregational support they receive. Not to mention, it is our job! It became so the first time we professed our baptismal vows to nurture our children in the faith.
- I’m too old. Wrong! In addition your baptismal vows not expiring when teenagers graduate, young people these days actually crave relationships with older generations. You have a wealth of love and wisdom to offer.
- I can’t because I’ve got young kids.Wrong! Repeatedly, I’ve observed that the most effective collegiate ministries had little kids around. College students live in the most peer-oriented time in their lives. They want and need other generations around them to remind them of the broader community of faith.
- I’m not cool enough. Wrong! College students don’t care if you’re hip or if you have tattoos or the newest iPhone. What they do care about is feeling like they matter. An authentic desire to be in relationship with them transcends culturally relevant facades.
- I can’t because there is no college in my area. Wrong! Yes, it’s more challenging to minister to college students if you’re not near a college, but there are likely college-aged students connected to your congregation.
- College students don’t want to be a part of my congregation. Kind of wrong. Okay, you might be looking around your church and thinking, “Why would a college student want to hang out here?” Truthfully, they may not, but not because they don’t want to be a part of a community. Quite the contrary, they want to feel like they belong to something real and meaningful.
- They won’t be a part of our faith community in a few years. Okay … this one is kind of true. But investing in them while they are in your midst will contribute to their desire to remain in the larger faith community throughout their lives. And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?
- My church doesn’t have the funds to support a collegiate ministry. Might be true, however, it probably is not. The biggest problem in funding collegiate ministries today is that we try financially supporting it through our program budgets rather than our mission budgets.
- I have no idea how to participate in collegiate ministry. Back to being wrong again! Just get involved. Be real. Share your struggles with life and faith and they will love you for it and come back for more. If you don’t have one, start one. If you do, ask how you can help.
- Can’t I just make a frozen lasagna and call it a day? Wrong and absolutely not! If your church is offering free meals once a week to college students, it’s a great way to get involved, but don’t be lazy. In my time in supporting our collegiate ministries nationally, I’ve eaten way too much frozen lasagna purchased from the local warehouse stores. In UKirk, we challenge our ministries to demonstrate radical hospitality. Make those starving college students the best meal you can possibly make and then sit down and eat it with them.
Jason Brian Santos is the mission coordinator for Christian formation at the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the national director of UKirk. He is an ordained teaching elder in the PC(USA), has a Ph.D. in practical theology and is the author of “A Community Called Taizé.”