by Brad Baker
An integrated college ministry is a rare breed these days. We’ve seen countless young adult ministries take shape with little, if any, meaningful connection with the church as a whole. They function largely as an island and then wonder why students aren’t making the transition to ‘big church’ when they finish college. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s much easier in most cases to build a college ministry without worrying about the coming transition every student will inevitably face. However, we do them a huge disservice if we don’t paint our ministry into the context of the overall church. If we don’t, the students in our ministry won’t get the importance of assimilating. I know far too many friends in their late twenties who stopped going to church once they felt too old for college ministry. They got attached (in an unhealthy way) to how the ministry felt and catered to their needs. In an effort to curb this trend, I have been implementing the following strategies with some modest success.
#1. Identify Key Church-wide Initiatives
HIV/AIDS and the country of Rwanda have and continue to be large areas of emphasis for our church. As a result, we do whatever we can to tie the hearts of our students to what God is doing in those areas. When students start serving in those areas, two things happen. First, their hearts connect with the vision God has given the senior pastor. Second, they naturally connect with the older demographic and sense that they are part of something larger.
#2. Think Gender Connection
If at all possible, we plan our calendar around some of the larger gatherings for men and women. We love to take our young men on the Men’s Ministry retreats. We love to encourage our young ladies to join a mid-week Bible study full of young moms and older ladies.
#3. Promote Serving Opportunities Outside the College Ministry
College pastors should pursue other ministries in the church. They should all be given time to recruit college students to serve in their areas at specific times throughout the year. Our students serving in the larger congregation is huge when it comes to assimilation.
#4. Invite the other Pastors
The senior pastor should be invited to attend and speak (if doable) a few times a year. Look for a way to honor them and express appreciation in front of your students.
#5. Re-examine the Goal
At the end of the day, college ministry has a lot to do with sending people out. We all know the college-age are a highly transient group of people. In a perfect world, we’d love for them to be a part of our church from now until they’re ninety. However, the vast majority will move away. Some will teach English in Japan. Others will get married and move to live near parents. The point is not that they assimilate into ‘our’ church but rather ‘a’ church.
As long as age-based ministries exist, there will be a need for an affective assimilation and transition plans.