So as I have been thinking about this short series on giving advice to parents and students for college, I have been pondering many different things. But what I hope to give to you, and what I hope you take away, is just a few simple things. Nothing complex, nothing lengthy, but some helpful advice that could possibly make a difference in one’s college experience. Both for the parents and the students.
Now, as a college pastor, and as a Christian, I will definitely be focusing on advice that not everyone, especially those who aren’t Christian, may agree with, or disagree with. I hope that the advice I give can be helpful to all, but I am definitely thinking about my Christian audience, or those who are interested in that arena. Overall, I think this advice is helpful to all, regardless of your beliefs at this point.
Advice to Students:
Get involved in a small community, ASAP. Now by small community, I mean a community that helps one feel connected, and helps one feel a sense of belonging…outside of the larger college community, which may be 34,000 students, 15,000 students, or 3,000 students. For a Christian, I mean a Christian community, though it should not be limited to this. This means getting involved in a church, or parachurch organization. I have seen a huge success for those students who get involved early on in a church community, as opposed to those who don’t. People who plug into a church community seem to have a higher sense of connectivity to people; a larger sense of belonging to something, especially something bigger than themselves..something they can give their lives to, or give back to. Students who get involved in church communities tend to form a healthier network of friends. People they can lean on. Gain support from. Pray with. Be encouraged by. Be accountable to.
As a college pastor, I believe that getting involved in a church is important. This is one place that students can look for community. They could move to Los Angeles, and look to our community, The Quest, or the numerous other churches in the area. Another place is on campus. A student can arrive on a campus and get involved with great organizations like Campus Crusade, Intervarsity, The Navigators, etc, etc.
I am not basing these things on any scientific study that I have done, but on my own college experience, the experience of others that I know, and what I witness in my own ministry. And I have noticed the difference in maturity between those who get involved late in college in a Christian community, and those who get invovled early. There is a difference in how they deal with stress; how they deal with temptation and struggles; how they deal with success and failure, etc.
Now this is some very generic advice, and I could unpack it for weeks. But what the bottom line is, is this: That those who get involved in Christian community tend to have a higher rate of success and growth, than those who I have seen who are not involved. And by success, I mean an overall experience, not something that is without failure.
There are many communities to get involved in in college, from the Greek system, to intramurals, to clubs, to dorm life, etc. Some are better than others, and some are more healthy than others. But I think it is vital for a Christian to get plugged into a Christian community early on.
Advice to Parents
As parents, I want to play off the advice I gave to students above. I think that it is important for parents to take an interest in the lives of their children and to help encourage them in their spiritual walk, and how that translates into college. A good percentage of my emails and phone calls comes from parents who are wanting to get their kids involved in a college community. Plugged in. Around good Christians with good influence.
But my advice to parents is for you to help encourage this journey, but not to be overbearing. The strength of a student’s involvement in a Christian community during the college years is generally reflected in the freedom the student had to make that decision on their own, rather than a parent forcing their students into a church, or constanlty pestering them. Most often, I know that when a parent calls on behalf of their child, whether their child knows it or not, the percentage of that child coming out to the ministry and getting involved, is less likely than those students who come to me and inquire on their own.
This is the first time that children are often away from home, and sometimes they may test the boundaries. And this is one of those boundaries. I did it. We all do it. But a child, who has gone off to college, usually seems to have a higher committment to our group, than when they have gone off to college and their parent is constantly egging them on to get involved.
So I could narrow the advice down to this:
Students: Get involved in a Christian community ASAP. This will help your success through college in many ways.
Parents: Encourage your students to get involved, and support them, but let them be the ones to make the decision on their own, rather than something you force upon them.
Stay tuned for the next installment when I talk about how we define success in the college years.
And if you are a student in the Los Angeles area, or you are a parent sending a student to school in the Los Angeles area, please let us know if we can be of any help in connecting your student to a community; whether it is here at The Quest, or some other ministry. Here at The Quest, we will continue to have our weekly, Wednesday night worship and teaching service from 8:00-9:30pm in Evans Chapel. And we will continue to have on-campus Bible studies at UCLA, USC, and LMU.