August marks the beginning of another school year. However, with a pandemic still raging on, many colleges and universities are having online or hybrid semesters. Many students will not be returning to their college towns which also means they won’t be attending their college churches. Church leaders are starting to wonder how to remain engaged with their students, many of whom have built communities at their college-town church.
Here are five tips for continuing to include students in your ministry even if they are remote.
The pandemic has created uncertainties in every aspect of everyone’s life but especially for students. Now that they may not be returning to in-person classes or extracurriculars, the need for a constant presence is greater than ever. Ways to do this may include moving small groups online or creating ones specifically for students who are studying remotely. Organize Zoom meetings to just hang out and stay connected. Make sure they know how to join your online worship service on Sunday mornings. These options all give students something to put on their calendars to look forward to each week.
Make movie night into a drive-in format or use Netflix’s recently added party extension to connect students all over the country for a movie night. Organize weekly game nights. With increased online interactions, more online team games have risen in popularity. Another easy way to keep students engaged in your ministry is to involve them in volunteer work. Is there some aspect of your volunteer ministry that could be done virtually?
It’s easy to get lost in to-do lists and busy days, but simply being there for your students is a starting point. Just by starting a conversation via text can help students remain connected with the church. It’s easy to lose contact with someone when it’s all virtual but maintain a relationship with them. Ask how you can pray for them or simply how their life is. Be invested in their lives and they will feel like they still have a home at your church. You can also organize Zoom dinners or if they return to your area but services are online, meet for a picnic in the park.
We are all feeling rushed to move quickly to adjust with changing times. But taking time to plan your interactions and events for students means you can then clearly communicate those plans. Being intentional in your actions shows how important your students are to your ministry. They won’t feel as though they are a last-minute thought, or that they are less than important because of the distance between themselves and your physical church. Be sure you intentionally carve out time to speak to those students and hear ideas from them. After all, their generation is tech-driven and idea-generating!
Use Social Media
Instagram, Tik Tok, and Snapchat are three of the most used apps by college students. Use them to your advantage by interacting with students, creating challenges, or showing off your ministry. If you’re not tech or social media savvy, ask a student or another church member to help you run it. It could be a fun project for them and possibly a resume booster.
Now more than ever it is important to engage your student members so they have a sense of normalcy. Connecting with friends separated by the quick end to the normal school year and summer break has left a void your college-town church can easily fill. Make your outreach efforts especially focused on bringing the college experience and fellowship back to your students this Fall with the tips provided above. We all need the familiar back in our lives as we face our new future.