This week, many college students are returning to campus or virtual classrooms. College administrators are reshaping plans and policies for college life in a pandemic setting. What will ministry with college students look like this year? What are the best practices for ministry with students? How do we survive college ministry and pandemic pastoring?
Guest blogger and seasoned campus minister Wanda Kidd brings a wealth of experience, challenging college ministers to survive by embracing this time with creativity and imagination. If ministers help students survive, then they also enhance the ministry as a whole.
How to Survive College Ministry
How to survive collegiate ministry has been a concern and a survival issue long before this current pandemic.
There have been a myriad of issues that have curtailed the growth of all types of campus ministries for over the last twenty years. The reasons for these changes are deep and wide.
Pre-Covid 19, we, as congregations and denominations, struggled to know how to connect with young adults. Those who are called to this ministry know about the need to provide space for students, to ask hard spiritual questions, to grow in leadership, and to develop an affinity for missions and social justice. This approach is imperative to cultivate healthy and deep-rooted faith for Christ’s followers. While we are pretty clear about the WHYS, the tried and traditional HOWS of campus ministry, have not been hitting the mark. So we were already asking hard questions about the future of ministry with this group of students, long before a worldwide health crisis.
How are you going to survive campus ministry this fall?
Seasoned campus minister, Wanda Kidd of @cbfnc, has 10 ways to help you be there for your students!#pandemicpastoring #campusministry #creativity https://t.co/bNholgYrLI pic.twitter.com/kGQFsbsTLr
— Three Minute Ministry Mentor (@3MinuteMin) August 7, 2020
I was on sabbatical, traveling across the country, when the campus shutdowns happened. A campus ministry intern emailed me to say, “What do we do now?” So I wrote back: “If ever these students need us, it is now. Let’s think about how we can be there for them.”
We met virtually and thought creatively
Here is what we believe the pandemic is creating for collegiate ministry:
- SPACE to reimagine ministry creatively
- Opportunities to INNOVATE
- GRATITUDE for ministry with young adults that is NIMBLE by design, providing an openness to change that other traditional ministries find more difficult.
Denominational campus ministry has some benefits: campus ministers, support from a state organization, and an established community of churches. But those advantages can easily be scaled to work with a congregational approach.
The number one strategy requires that there be someone within the congregation that advocates for college students and young adults. It must be done intentionally and consistently. Pandemic or not, there must be someone who has the energy and passion to think about this population whenever plans are being strategized and be persistent in advocating for their engagement.
10 possibilities for helping students survive:
- Check in with your students, personally and regularly. Handwritten notes, as well as electronic communication, are important.
- Recruit and ask them to help brainstorm ideas of how to stay connected.
- Ask what they are doing with their time and what they would like to accomplish during this period. Help them focus and dream.
- Hold virtual game-nights.
- Plan some physically distant activities
- Make sure that student activities are easy to find on your websites and social media.
- Ask targeted, open-ended questions on a variety of platforms that would generate conversation. Then monitor it and respond within a day of input.
- Students will often not respond to Facebook, but their parents, grandparents and pastors do. Ads about what you are doing provides name recognition and lets people know how ministry to this population is important to your community of faith.
- Broaden the group of people you invite to brainstorm. If you find something on social media that looks fascinating, contact that person and ask if they are willing to talk about their ministry.
- Think about idea exchanges. We have learned how to do distanced music, which companies are offering gaming platforms, and some safeguards to put in place when you have a virtual meeting, to avoid having disruptive groups “bomb” your meetings.
A story of connecting
Thinking outside the proverbial box can provide new opportunities. A student who is transferring from California to North Carolina this fall was looking for a church. She had a list of questions she wanted answered about the church. I have no idea how many churches she sent her email to, but Providence Baptist responded. The pastor emailed her and then passed it onto the student minister, who also corresponded. They invited her to the virtual weekly student gathering and she accepted. She is now part of a campus ministry group and is much less stressed about her move to North Carolina.
It is time we realize that students are different, and what we were doing was not always effective. In many ways we were actually JUST SURVIVING. Maybe this is our opportunity to create SPACE for new models! For example, we can provide opportunities for students to INNOVATE and be NIMBLE enough to allow this to happen. It requires INTENTIONALITY and a willingness to risk failure, in hopes of new opportunities.
Wanda Hardee Kidd is the Collegiate Engagement Coordinator for CBF North Carolina and the Collegiate Ministry Specialist for CBF Global.
Dr. Kidd has served on staff in several churches in SC and NC, and she led campus ministry in NC at Mars Hill College and Western Carolina University for 17 years. Wanda and her husband, Dan, live in the mountains of NC, where Dan is a self-employed CPA. They have a daughter who lives in the Triangle and a married son living in Atlanta, GA.
Wherever you are a minister — campus, congregation, hospital, or on the streets — we want to support you! So we ask: how are you prioritizing your self-care this summer? Join us and be entered in one of our summer self-care giveaways!
Do you want to read more in the “How to Survive” series? Then try these!
+ How to Survive your First Year in Ministry
+ How to Survive Your Internship in a Pandemic
+ How to Survive Zoom Fatigue
+ How to Survive Youth Ministry in a Pandemic