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Making the Transition to College

Evan Hunter

Summer's the time when high-school grads go to parties and turn their sights toward college. Then, in what seems like a few moments, this group of wide-eyed students arrives on campus to navigate a whole new world of dorm life, laundry, parties and perhaps studying.

The vast majority of new students arrives on campus saying they want to grow spiritually while at college. However, studies show most will not get involved, especially if no one's there to help them make the transition.

The Fuller Youth Institute, the College Transition Initiative, and the Youth Transition Network are just some of the resources helping to connect youth and campus ministries, students with campus ministries, and prepare graduates and parents for the coming shift in their lives.

Add to the list the new book Campus Voices (Regal), compiled by Paula Miller and Paul Buchanan of Biola University. The book consists of meditations by college students for college students. Combining spiritual reflection with practical advice, it offers encouragement to students and gives ministers insight into the issues students face when they come to school—from making friends to finding hope in God.

The book emphasizes the need for campus ministers to communicate with youth ministers about fostering student transitions. We hope and pray students will make the jump from youth groups to college ministries successfully. Sadly, it doesn't happen that often. Here are some things adults who work with young people can do.

1. Talk. Increase the dialogue between campus pastors and youth pastors. A couple of years ago, I interviewed campus ministers about what college pastors wish youth pastors knew. They had much to say, but I wonder how many talk with their youth ministry counterparts? We can learn so much from each other.

Youth pastors, do you know and recommend college ministries to your graduates? College pastors, do you know churches that regularly send students to your school? In business, you would want to know your suppliers. These are students, not products, so improving communication along the pipeline will help students and ministries.

2. Remember. Think back to life as a college freshman. In reality, 18-year-olds arriving at the dorm are not yet college students. They are just leaving home. The next eight weeks will bring many changes. Friendships will be made (and lost), habits cultivated and trajectories set that will affect the next four years. Contemplate life through their eyes for a while. Tap student leaders to help reach newcomers where they are right now.

3. Recruit. Pollster/author George Barna tells us most people in America would go to church if a friend would invite them. Some students certainly arrive on campus ready to walk away from the religion of their parents, yet many more want to grow. You are up against every club, class, party and ultimate Frisbee game on campus. Too often the "club fair" is the first time students even know campus ministries exist.

Do you have contact with students before they arrive? Check out www.liveabove.com as a way to promote your work to incoming students. Encourage your students to invite people they know who are arriving in your town to attend college. Is your ministry connected through the Facebook groups on campus? Incoming freshmen are. Start recruiting students before they arrive.

God is doing good things in the lives of students. Let others know how they can be a part of it!

Evan Hunter is the director of Ivy Jungle Network and works with Christian International Scholarship Foundation. He and his family live in Chicago, Illinois.

Originally published June 24, 2009.

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