College is a time of enormous emotional, mental and spiritual growth. Young adults are learning to live on their own, establishing careers, choosing their life partners and starting to own and develop their faith. College ministries have a difficult task: Traditional church services that appeal to older generations have become less and less popular among college students. On the other hand, treating a college ministry like a glorified youth group is also ineffective. Successful college ministries actively promote intimate relationships, make use of visual and online media and develop innovative church service formats.
Promote your ministry online. If you don’t have Facebook or Twitter account, you are missing out on a big chance to connect with college students. Not only do college students visit social media sites, they use them to help shape their reality.
With the rise of technology, there has been a major shift in the way people assimilate information. Whereas your parents read newspapers or books, today’s young people go online to watch videos, listen to reports or watch documentaries. Using cool graphics and edgy videos as a part of your church services will go a long way to engage a college crowd.
Get Rid of the Hymns
In a college ministry, there is absolutely no reason (or excuse) for using songs published before the 1970s as a staple feature of your worship. Although it is a great hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers” just doesn’t appeal to the spirituality of most college students. Even if you prefer low-key songs with limited instrumentation, there are plenty of wonderful contemporary worship songs to choose from.
If you feel particularly bold, ditch music for worship altogether once in a while. Instead, have the students paint a group mural, create a spiritual timeline, write and share poetry or perform a drama. The purpose of worship is to glorify God with hearts and minds. Creativity, regardless of the form it takes, is a wonderful way to accomplish this. Plus, college students will appreciate a ministry that is brave enough to break the typical church mold.
Get Socially Minded
When students enter college, drinking often becomes a staple method for having fun and getting to know people in a relaxed setting. You have the daunting task of competing with every other event or group that involves drinking. To attract students who would otherwise never show up to church, have plenty of social activities that do not include any obvious spiritual elements and have the laid-back environment one might find at a bar. Some common activities are dances, community service events or movies. Or hold a sumo wrestling night, using pillows and cushions to create the suits and fighting area. Another idea is to host a coffeehouse: Have one or two students with barista experience (there are bound to be some, since it is a popular college job) serve free drinks. Set the mood with low lighting, a few board games and a stage area where students are free to perform music or poetry.