Advice to Christian College Students During the Summer Months

We asked several college ministers to answer three questions about their hopes and dreams for the students to whom they ministered this past year. Here’s what they said:

What have you experienced together in community that you would want students to carry with them through the summer?

I create a password-protected blog for each cohort of college-aged interns I work with per semester. It’s easy to do on Blogger (Google). By making it private rather than public, it can only be found and viewed online by the authors invited to the blog, thus making it a safe place for open communication. One could create a secret group on Facebook too, I suppose.

I assign weekly prompts to the interns, and they post their reflections, lessons learned, struggles, fears, concerns, a-ha’s, photos, even short videos at times. You would need to have a collective agreement from your students that they would post in a consistent and timely manner, but if everyone commits to it, it becomes a lovely way for longer musings to be shared and commented upon (as opposed to Instagram or Snapchat). This is a generation that needs to be coached and nurtured in how to set aside time for deeper reflection, and the blog offers that space. (Kelly Soifer)

Our community worshipped this year around the idea of “becoming” – expressed in I John 3 as knowing ‘that when Christ appears, we will be like Him.”  What needs special attention for this transformation to happen across the weeks of the summer?  Dr. Steve DeNeff illustrated this very powerful with the idea of ‘being pregnant’, and bringing the follower of Jesus to grasp that ‘the Son of God is being born in us.’ (see Gal. 4.19)  Summer becomes the ultimate vacation – or the ultimate intern experience – or the best summer job – when it is a season that Jesus is more fully formed in you! (Greg Haselhoff)

Let your roots grow down deep into Jesus and to let your life be built on him.  Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you’ve been taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness (Colossians 2.7). (Katie Heckel)

We’ve talked a lot about what it means to be light, even in the darkest of moments and places. We’ve studied and remembered together that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. As students are sent out over the summer to work, volunteer, counsel, mentor, and engage with the world in many different ways, my hope and encouragement is that they would remember that the light of Christ lives in them through the power of the Holy Spirit. May they share the light of Christ wherever they go! (Molly Just)

What challenges should students expect to encounter (and overcome!) this summer?

My great challenge with students these days is that they do not tend to do something until they are told to do it (repeatedly!). They have grown up in the age of helicopter-parenting and unrelenting pressure to achieve from teachers and coaches. So they have been “trained” to respond primarily through urgent and specific direction from the adults in their lives rather than to become self-directed and self-motivated. Especially if they go home for the summer, it is really easy to fall back into old patterns rather than act more proactively. (Kelly Soifer)

Because summer is made for lower commitments and a more relaxed pace for relationships, the single greatest temptation is to give little attention to discipline.  We might call it the “summer myth” – that we can experience a rich summer without discipline.  The spiritual life thrives when it is nourished.  Being intentional to find daily time in scripture, a rhythm of prayer, and some kind of connection with peers (across 8 to 12 weeks) that are on a journey with Jesus is a challenge that can beautify your summer! (Greg Haselhoff)

One of the biggest challenges college students face in the summer is returning home. So much change has happened during the college experience (friendships, faith, routine, freedom) that it can be challenging to return home to old friends and old habits.  Also, to go from living on your own to being back with your parents can be challenging for both the college student and the parents.

My advice: Find accountability with a friend you’ve made in college and make a point to talk with them about the challenges in returning home.  Before you go home, tell this friend the goals you have for being at home and the accountability you’d like for them to have over you. (Katie Heckel)

For many students, the normal rhythm of life changes in the summer. With internships, summer jobs, early mornings, late nights, etc., I think it can be a challenge to stay engaged with spiritual disciplines. My encouragement to students in the summer is to work out the space in life to continue engaging with God in scripture, prayer, and other disciplines. It’s difficult to continue growing in discipleship if we’re lukewarm in the summer time. (Molly Just)

What do you dream for your students this summer and how can they best prepare for next year?

It’s never varied after 30+ years of working with students: my big dream for them is to read the books that will cause them to think and grow in powerful ways, especially because they are choosing to read them, not because they are assigned for homework.

My most transformational summer came after my freshman year, where I picked up several books by C.S. Lewis. In quick succession I read The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Surprised by Joy and The Weight of Glory. I learned how to “imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea” rather than “go on making mud pies in a slum” (thank you Weight of Glory!). I’ve never been the same and am so deeply thankful for that. (Kelly Soifer)

With summers giving freedom for adventure and a very different routine for relationships, my best dream for student’s spiritual growth comes around the nurture of their relationship with Christ and their relationship with a Christian community.  In Philippians 3 Paul expresses his desire “to know Jesus, and to know the power of His resurrection”.  The different windows of opportunity during summer gives you avenues to explores different churches, college groups, and even try different spiritual disciplines you have not explored (you could go spend the night at a monastery!)  If this longing of the heart is fed across the weeks of summer, students will return to their campus with a clearer sense of their identity, their goals for the year, their key friendships, and where God is calling them to serve in a new school year. (Greg Haselhoff)

My dream for our students during the summer is that they would continue to unearth their calling.  By calling, I don’t mean just a call to ministry.  What I mean is for them to find out what they are here on earth to do that brings them joy and meets a world need. Because summer can be a change of pace and change of scenery, I hope they allow the Holy Spirit to whisper purpose over their life so that when they come back to school, they’re one step closer to knowing the roles they play in ushering in the Kingdom of God. (Katie Heckel)

College summers are unique and I invite my students to take full advantage of the time that they have in this season. For many, it’s the only time in life that they have such freedom to explore a diverse pool of experiences – from internships, to summer conferences, to traveling and visiting friends – college summers are a time to experience God, learn about people and culture, and explore creation in an irreplaceable way!

I always encourage my students to make the most of the short three (or four, if they’re lucky) college summers that they have. I find that those opportunities create space for exceptional growth, and students return to school with a wider lens through which they view the Kingdom of God. This, more than many other things, readies my students well for returning to school. (Molly Just)

College life and activities can tend to crowd out your relationship with Jesus. Download our FREE ebook, Surviving College (With Your Faith Intact) by Guy Chmieleski. Learn more about the hidden gods that vie for your attention while in college with CAMPUS gODS: Exposing the Idols That Can Derail Your Present and Destroy Your Future.

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