This Sunday at church we declared a new holiday: "Take a College Student Home For Lunch Day."
All in all, it was a huge success. We were worried that there would be students who did not get asked... but not one was left behind.
The challenge now is to get more families involved, as well as to get to the point that we do not have to schedule these days because they are happening naturally.
Some people have questioned our style of college ministry because we do very few large-scale events, and we do not have a "college group" that meets regularly. We're unconventional, but that's okay. When we started pastoring in 2007, we received a prophetic word that we were assigned to reach Berea College, and that because of that, our church and ministry would look unlike anything ever seen before anywhere in the country. We couldn't and shouldn't model it after anything else we'd ever seen. So we feel pretty good that we're on the right track. We continue to do two things, and do them in this order:
1. Listen to the Lord.
2. Listen to college students.
When we talk to the students, they continually ask for:
1. One-on-one mentoring and discipleship.
2. Time with families in homes.
3. Time to get off campus and be with more mature Christians.
4. Time for young men to learn from older men.
5. Time for young women to learn from older women.
6. Good home-cooked food and the opportunity to have a chair set for them at the family table!
They don't always want to gather in large groups of peers - they see that every day at college.
They don't want more lecturing and impersonal teaching - they are willing to be taught but that teaching should come in the context of relationship (that sounds a lot like how Jesus did it!). We strive not to separate college students into their own group for ministry - we want them involved in the life of the church. We want them mixed up in all life groups, incorporated into Sunday morning ministry, and serving in every ministry area. For college-aged young people, it's time to graduate from youth group style ministry into the hands-on ministry of the whole church.
The challenge is to involve the whole congregation in discipling students. That's why we're encouraging families and mentors to take one or two students home after church on Sundays to spend time with them. We believe the Holy Spirit is going to build the church this way. He's going to do the matching up, and He does it much better than we can. I believe there was some Holy Spirit match-making going on this Sunday!
My only regret is that I only saw about 6 families take home students. One family ended up with 20 people at their house. What hospitality! But, again, the goal is not to have a big lunch with a lot of students. If we wanted to do that, we would have pushed the chairs in the sanctuary aside and had a big meal after church. The students don't want that. They miss home-cooking, Moms and Dads, younger brothers and sisters, couches and living rooms, and kitchen tables that don't look like cafeterias. That opens up the door for talking that gets beyond small talk, into issues of life and faith.
6 families who want to open up their homes is a great start, but I'm believing for more. River of Life family - will you get involved in a student's life in this way? You could have an eternal impact!