As a tall guy in his early thirties strolled into church last Sunday, I grinned – always good to have new people along, and he had a student-age girl with him too – great, new friends!
My excitement only increased when I discovered that this guy was a youthworker and the young woman was a soon-to-be-fresher at York Uni, who he’d brought over to visit our church pre-freshers’ week! What a legend! This is a youthworker who knows that at this point he’s still only halfway there.
The pair left two hours later, freshers’ week coffees booked in the diary with our student team and the student, a big grin on her face, commenting how she now couldn’t wait to get to uni! There was a youthworker who went beyond the call of duty to make sure he’d done everything he could to help his young person connect. But wait, was that ‘beyond the call of duty’?
Every year youthworkers send off their young people to uni, having invested seven years in supporting them, discipling them, teaching them and seeing them grow and flourish. But every year so many of those drop off the map. So is backing them until they land as important as making sure they leave well? I believe so. Until those students have found a new church home they’re still in flux in terms of support network. You have been their mentor and their friend and when they move on, you need to make sure you pass the baton, not just drop it and hope someone else notices and picks it up.
There are so many ways to help those guys find a new church home – have you checked that churches in the area have contacted them (if they’ve not linked up through Student Linkup yet, get on it! www.studentlinkup.org)? Have you sat down and chatted to them about how they’re feeling and what kind of a church they’re wanting to find? Have you considered visiting a church with them in advance? Have you made a plan with them to call them mid-freshers’ week and see how they’re getting on, and then again on the Sunday evening? Have you committed to praying for them every day of freshers’ week?
This is not about controlling and forcing your young people into a new church, and its definitely not about making sure they got to the church you want them to go to. This is about knowing that leaving is what happens just before landing. You’ve got the opportunity to help them land where they want to, with confidence, good new relationships and excitement about what the next few years is going to hold. Freshers’ week is the most amazing experience, but it can be the most lonely week of the year, and often students can feel dropped off and alone in a whole new world. Let’s understand that each individual student matters, and that making sure they land well isn’t beyond the call of duty, its bang in the middle of it.