While healthy congregations have supportive adults, healthy campus ministries do as well! Whether your campus ministry is a stand-alone ministry or the efforts of a single congregation, it is important to develop supportive adults to walk alongside students during one of the most significant transitions in their lives.
A lot of what we will cover in this article is introduced in the article “Healthy Congregations have Supportive Adults.” To get a complete picture of what a supportive adult is, we recommend that you read that article first.
Though campus ministry is not the same as youth ministry, there are enough similarities that provide a rationale for supportive adults. While college students are classified legally as adults at age 18 and should be treated as such, supportive adults can still come alongside students and walk with them as they adjust to this new life stage. According to research by the LCMS Youth Ministry office, “72% of active LCMS millennials said they had a safe person to talk to at church, compared to 35% of those now unaffiliated with the church.”
If being active in the church correlates with having relationships with supportive adults, there is an even bigger need for these supportive adult relationships with college students. Some have lost access to those supportive relationships back home, especially if they have traveled away for college. Life is just as hard, if not harder, in college than in high school. Therefore, the need to have support from adults that have already been through that transition is necessary!
Who is a Supportive Adult?
Anyone can be a supportive adult! Similar to supportive adults for youth, it was suggested that it be a parent/guardian, church leader, or older adult. In addition, I believe that younger adults make an excellent fit for supportive adult relationships. I began my work with college students about three years following my college graduation at the Lutheran Campus Ministry (Fairmount Ministries) at Wichita State University. I loved campus ministry so much because my college experience was fresh on my mind, but I was far enough removed from it. I felt that God had given me a heart for college students and the knowledge of how to walk with them as I had similar people to walk with me in my own college experience
While it is not time-consuming to be a supportive adult, you must be willing to commit the time and intentionally build relationships with students by making yourself available to talk to in times of crisis or need. It takes time to build these types of relationships with students, so supportive adults should be willing to make long-term commitments to show up and invest in students’ lives.
When recruiting supportive adults, it is essential to realize that it starts with YOU. As a leader in your church or ministry, you must demonstrate what a supportive adult looks like in your own ministry relationships with students. As you identify those passionate about doing the same, you can show them how to be a supportive adult through your own words and actions.
Developing Supportive Adults for Your Ministry Context
There is no one size fits all approach for developing supportive adults. There are ways to structure this programmed or organically. At Fairmount Ministries, we have both structures.
We have developed a leadership role called “Campus Ministry Adult Leader.” We ask our leaders to commit for at least one school year. Here are the responsibilities of our adult leaders:
- Attend and help regularly at campus ministry events (which may include weekly gatherings on Tuesday Evenings as well as occasional fellowship events, service projects, and special events such as retreats and mission trips, etc.)
- Build relationships with college students.
- Serve as a mentor to our college students, offering prayer and encouragement.
- Work with staff to identify special areas you can use your gifts and talents to serve the ministry.
- Attend monthly planning meetings and occasional training as scheduled.
We have many individuals involved in our ministry that are intentional about getting to know our students and building relationships with them. Opportunities to connect and engage with students happen regularly, whether at events where they can serve alongside each other, or general ministry events where paths naturally cross.
In 2017 we renovated a large majority of our campus ministry center into a coffee shop called Fairmount Coffee Co., to create a space to better welcome in and engage our community. The coffee shop has allowed space and time for supportive adult relationships to be fostered organically between our baristas and staff, our staff and guests, and within the coffee shop as guests have opportunities to interact with each other.
Before launching a new program or recruiting adults, we encourage you to start with prayer, for God to lift up healthy supportive adult relationships within your ministry, and for the Holy Spirit to work through the relationships that are formed.
As you begin to plan and strategize, it’s essential to consider what will work well within your ministry context. We encourage you to look around at what other campus ministries are doing for ideas and reflect on these three general tips to get you started!
- Encourage adults who are passionate about pouring into the lives of college students to get involved with your campus ministry.
- Create opportunities for students and adults to connect and build natural relationships.
- Develop tools and resources to equip adults as supportive adults for campus ministry.
Adults who support students in campus ministries are vital in many ways. Campus ministries can use supportive adults to connect students to the worship and life of the church. Through relationships, they share the Gospel and help students navigate difficult situations. They can offer key prayer, mentorship and support in difficult college years. Campus ministry cannot be done by just one or two people! Engage faithful Christian supportive adults to gain valuable support for your students.