As I observe the college students of today and think back on my experiences, here are some of my suggestions.
These things may seem simple, but I wish I could see more youth and college ministries thinking about them:
- Get your youth/college students in on the planning. Listen to what they have to say. An event driven by them instead of you is way more likely to have impact.
- Remember to aim for quality over quantity. I’d rather have 10 students at my house and have great conversations with them than be in the same room with 1,000 that I potentially will never see again.
- Don’t forget to have a relational follow-up strategy. Having an event might be cool, but what really matters is following through on the connections made during that time.
Although events can be great door openers, my real heart lies in developing relationships. As I envision what is next as a leader, I’m paying attention to these things right now:
- Be present. Find where they are congregating and GO TO THEM. This is my biggest challenge to myself for 2012. Get on the college campuses, find the coffee shops they study in, the libraries they go to, and the places they eat. Go THERE and go there OFTEN.
- When you are there, put your phone away. It may not seem like it matters, but it does.
- Invite them into your home and your life. Let them eat your food, play with your kids, and maybe even live with you if they need it.
- If you are in college ministry, don’t discount high school students. They are paying attention to how open you are to them. Each spring during my interviews with potential interns, at least 70 percent of them tell me that they started coming to our church while in high school. Now many of them are on the path to becoming some of our greatest leaders.
- Your cool factor honestly doesn’t matter. They will think you are the coolest ever if you are just YOURSELF. Don’t try to be just like them.
- Don’t let your frustration with their lack of response to your texts, emails, or calls derail you. Get with them face to face as often as you can.
What about you? What observations have you made about the practical steps of reaching the next generation?