We live in a college town, in fact, when school is in session, the population of our little city increases by about 40% or more. “Doing church” in a college town is interesting. When we first arrived (nine years ago) our church attendance was about eighty people, 50% of them were college students. We quickly learned that you cannot build a church with college students, for a variety of reasons including that they are very transient and the majority of them leave town after they graduate. As the years have gone by, things have balanced out and we are now a multi-generational church with people of all ages and stages of life.
However, since we are in a college town, it is imperative that we minister to the college students God sends our way. We have tried different things to reach out to them: tailgating parties at the football games, small groups, a Sunday night service geared to them, etc . . . We finally realized that there are wonderfully effective campus ministries, meeting the spiritual needs of the college students. What could we offer them that would be different and unique?
One of the things we heard over and over from college students is that they want to be a part of a family. That’s what they are missing while away from home. We have a lot of families in our church, how could we match up these families with these students? This fall we implemented “Adopt an Eagle”. (The eagle is our university’s mascot.) It is a really simple yet effective strategy for connecting students with families in our church. The families adopt a small group of about five students and have them over for dinner two times a month. That’s it – nothing more. At this point we have about ten families and 50 college students participating.
As students come to the families homes to eat a home cooked meal, they feel like they are a part of that family. They get away from their dorm or apartment and sit around the dinner table and share what’s going on in their life. The parents get to listen to the students share and encourage them. I speak from my own experience that this has become as meaningful to the families as it has to the students. In fact, I call our group of students “Our Little Eaglets” and am learning to love them as parents love their own children.
We had them over for Easter dinner last Sunday and even had an Easter Egg Hunt, which they thoroughly enjoyed.
One of our Little Eaglets brought us a card on Easter – this is what it said:
Curious about what Philippians 1:3 says? “I thank my God every time I remember you.” Who would have known something as simple as having five students over for dinner twice a month would make such a big impact on their lives. Are there college students (or young people that age) at your church? Could you reach out to them with Jesus’ love and a meal?
Your Friend in Ministry,