It’s Sunday morning again, 9:00. You’re ready for College Bible study. You’ve bought the donuts, made the coffee and set the room. At 9:15 your first student walks in. By 9:30 there are 4 of you. What happened to the group you started out with in September? Maybe you started a new college worship experience. The first few weeks were great. Where did they all go? Why can’t you keep them engaged?Sound familiar? Many of us have had this experience on some level. And all too often church leaders decide, based on such experiences, that it’s time to close up shop. “Maybe I’m just not a good teacher.” “Maybe we’re just not a college church.” “Maybe we should invest elsewhere.”
Let me offer some reasons not to call it quits. First, there are the students that did come. Whether it’s one or five, or whatever number, they came. They are there because they chose to be there. Invest in them. It’s Tim Elmore’s Duck Hunting Habitude.* Celebrate the ducks you did get instead of worrying about the ones that got away. You may never know what God wants to do in and through the lives of that small group of faithful students.
Second, college students’ lives have different traffic patterns than those of the rest of your church. Living by the university calendar means that students are usually most available in the early fall, stressed and stretched closer to finals time, and usually by mid-spring are more focused on what they will be doing over the summer. So, it is not unusual for students to “fall away” later in the semester. In addition, many students today are working as well as attending classes. And with extra-curricular activities, sometimes required by their degree programs, they are stretched thin. Don’t give up on them, be a person of grace in their lives and let them know you still care. They may come around in time, and even if they don’t they will appreciate knowing that someone is praying for them and thinking of them.
Third, college ministry has revolving doors at both ends. As new students enter and older students leave each year, the social makeup of a group changes. Some gel together well, and some don’t. There may be natural leaders in your group, or you may have to grow some new leaders . With some work you may be able to help students build better relationships and reach out to those who are unlike them. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for what will happen next year. The solid group of leaders may be just around the corner.
There may be times you need to change up some things in your ministry. We can talk about that in another post. But unfortunately, there may be seasons when the group is thinner and you never do quite know why. The most important thing is that your students know they can count on their church. Regardless of their own crazy traffic pattern, their church is going to be there for them, no matter what. Quitting says so many negative things to students. So don’t give up. Keep your shop open, and trust that you do make a difference, even when you don’t see it.
*Find Tim Elmore’s Habitude on Duck Hunting in Habitudes #3, at www.GrowingLeaders.com.