One of the key influences on a student coming to faith in Jesus today is through mentoring.
Mentors! You don’t need to label them as that, but there is still a consistent pattern of an older person of faith, whether in years or maturity, being vital in a student coming to faith and learning how to be a disciple.
This could have been a student worker, a second year student investing in a first year, a mum having a fresher round for tea, or an older guy taking the time to get to know the new young man sat at the back of the Sunday meeting. In whatever guise they come, a Christian playing the role of a mentor, a distinctly different role to that of a Christian peer, is another vital factor in how students come to faith.
Here's what some of the students said in interview about ways they experienced mentoring:
“Being held accountable is helping guide my faith.”
“Having people I can rely on is important and I got that in church.”
“I started reading Philippians with a fourth year student.”
Often student workers are doing their best to help bridge generational gaps between students and the rest of the church family. They can help set up mentoring systems to get people connected and they themselves represent an older figure who holds a mentoring type role with students.
But for many churches the luxury of a student worker to do this isn't so readily available. It's therefore really important we all tag ourselves IN as potential mentors, rather than wait for someone to ask us and link us up. It might actually be your job to just walk across the room and shake a new person's hand.
What does your community do already to link generations, uni year groups and stages of faith maturity? How do we get more people mixing?
Do you know you can mentor someone now? Do you realise you don’t need to be an expert or have answers in order to listen, share life and pray with someone?
Dr Ruth Perrin wrote a really helpful blog based on a similer discovery she made in her research into Millennials which I throughly recommend you read here. (Then browse her site, the content is great and very relevant for us!)
The local church is best placed to create environments of mentoring and sustainable discipleship in the student world, as it involves the whole family serving one another to really see the fullness of what God's family is like. Also, remember mentoring isn't just for already-committed Christians, it starts by giving time and care to any student who accepts it, wherever they are at in their faith journey, and for many it is this investment which actually paves the way for them giving their lives to Jesus for themselves.
*These statements are taken from research completed for my Masters degree in which I explored commonalities of students coming to faith in Jesus in England today. I gathered data from a spread of institutions, geographical locations, church expressions and interviewed an equal number of male and female students, with some diversity in background and ethnicity as well. Although my findings have limitations and my scope of data had to be small, I believe what I have discovered is still very useful for local churches seeking to share Jesus with students and so this blog series explores the top 12 commonalities discovered. Enjoy!