College students are the most experiential people on the planet, which reflects their own developmental stage of life. They fill the streets for political demonstrations, spark racy debates, travel the world from hostel to hostel, and rush the field to tear down goal posts.
In regards to the church, it should be no surprise that many of the most passionate Christians are college students. The energy they contribute to the faith community is amazing. They often cry out for revival, and they experience God’s presence and work in powerful ways as they seek Him.
This last January, there was a record crowd of over 50,000 college students packed into the Georgia Dome at the Passion Conference to lift up the name of Jesus together. Throughout this conference, various Christian leaders addressed these young adults, inspiring them to follow Jesus and change the world.
On a much smaller scale, we as youth pastors do the same thing at our churches. We cast big vision for our students, proclaiming that they will change the world in Jesus’ name. We say things like, “Your generation is going to be different.” “God is doing something in your generation.” “Revival is going to come through your generation!”
There’s nothing wrong with these declarations. We speak in these ways to our young people all the time, and we truly believe it. However, I do wonder if sometimes we are so busy praising the current students for how great they “will be” that we forget to look at the actual impact of those who have gone before them.
For example, how are our former students doing five years after college? How’s the generation that is no longer considered the “next generation” because they are now into their late twenties or early thirties. Are they still passionate about Jesus? How are they serving God? Did “revival” come through them like we preached?
For church leaders, it’s easy to keep telling each new group of young people “they are the generation.” It’s much harder to follow up on the generation after their college years to see how they end up living out their faith in the context of work, family, and house payments.
What happens five years after those experiential years of college is exactly my concern. What happens once moved out of the college-town and into a full-time job? Do we check up on them, or are we too busy celebrating the next batch of passionate young adults that “will be” the generation that brings revival?
Forgive me if this sounds harsh. My intention is not to discourage passionate spirituality in college, nor am I saying that students are overrated. What I am saying is that as Christians, our impact, even “revival,” needs to move beyond a passionate age group or season of life.
Our revival needs to move into something more sustainable, with greater longevity. Revival needs to involve both young and old, the new generation and the previous ones.
I don’t have the “solution” for this issue. The purpose of this post is to begin the conversation. Here are a few ways that I believe the local church can engage young people as they grow older and move out of the college years.
1. Teach holistic Christian spirituality, specifically how following Jesus integrates into a diverse scope of careers and vocations
2. Connect college students to older Christian adults that share similar passions and vocational callings
3. Provide discipleship opportunities in the local church for young adults after they’ve graduated from college, such as discipling middle or high school students.
-What other ways can come alongside young adults for a deeper, sustaining impact after the college years? Please comment below to share any ideas you have or things your church has done.