Dear Youth Minister,
I’m well aware your role is to disciple middle school and high school students and build programming in your church that serves them. So I’m sure you are probably thinking, “Why is this campus minister writing me about college freshmen coming home for the summer?” I know it seems a little strange but please just try to keep an open mind.
· You have influence – One of the first things a campus minister hears about from an incoming freshman is their youth group and their youth minister. I know there are many days you ministered to your students and thought you weren’t making a difference, but you have had an influence. When students think of spiritual mentors “back home”, they think of you. Just because a student has been away at college for a year doesn’t mean that suddenly changes.
· Follow up – Not every church has ministry specifically focused on college students. Life at home always involved your student ministry and now they may be returning to little or no community life. Imagine communal dorm living to nothing. I’m not asking you to spend your entire summer with the college students who came through your student ministry. Since you have influence in that student’s life, a simple e-mail, a phone call, text message or greeting at church can mean the world to a student who is unsure of the transition of being home.
· Follow through – I have had way too many students tell me they were blown off, ignored, or stood up by a youth minister. These students love you and still need your mentoring and guidance. If you tell a former student you are going to meet them for coffee or want to hang out with them, DO IT! If you don’t really mean it, don’t say it. Good intentions only hurt students who want a relationship with you!
· Be a bridge – I know summer can be a very busy season in youth ministry and it can be a struggle to find time to hang out with your current students. The reality is, these returning freshmen do not need to be hanging out with the youth group. They need to build community with a group of peers or people who are closer to their stage of life. Help them find others in your church or community who are in the same place. It is a teaching opportunity for you and a healthy step for them.
· Encourage them – I’m guessing you may remember what your summer after freshman year was like. It isn’t always easy. Be an encouraging voice.