How Parishes Can Engage College Students
As youth become young adults, the change from high school to college or the workforce is one that will challenge what they believe about themselves, the world, and God perhaps more than any other transition. If students leave home for college, their parish (and sometimes their faith) can feel like a place they particularly no longer belong. A few tips...
- Intentionally reach out to teens to find out their plans after high school
- Give graduating students a gift from the parish. Consider having a special blessing at masses for new graduates (a sample can be found here) and give those heading off to college a gift with a note. Some ideas could be to include: Freshman Survival Guide or How to Stay Catholic in College.
- If they are going away, find out when their college will be on break. Host welcome home events during those times and be sure to communicate them regularly. Also consider inviting college students to serve in liturgical ministries while home. This takes intentional dialogue with those in charge of scheduling lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, etc. to be sure college students are invited and scheduled.
- College students love mail! Form a team and pair them with someone who could send notes and care packages during finals on behalf of the parish. Also have a team or a parishioner intentionally praying for them throughout the school year. You could even have students text you prayer requests. Be sure to reach out each year to include everyone.
- Help college students find Catholic peer communities. If they are going to a college with a Catholic campus ministry, link them up with the campus minister. If they are commuting or staying within the parish, possibly start a Bible Study and/or regular gathering or connect them in with other young adult groups in the area. Visit HaveFaithBuffalo.com to see if there are groups in your area. If you are looking to start a group for college students, there is a program through LifeTeen called "College Life" that may be a good resource for you.
- Young adults particularly connect with faith through service and justice. Parish leaders could help connect the young adult with local service opportunities, as well as long-term opportunities, such as Catholic Charities Service Corp, Mercy Volunteer Corp, Jesuit Volunteer Corp. Also, find out if there are service opportunities the college student is engaging with on campus or elsewhere that their parish family could help support through prayer or donations?