This may come as a bit of a surprise to you, but I have always been a pretty social person. I’ve always had a big personality, been very outgoing and super extroverted (also very loud, I’m told). In elementary school, I once convinced 2 of my classmates to join me in timeout. In middle school, I had an entire friend group join me for detention. I wasn’t necessarily a bad kid. I simply cared more for the relational aspect of school than I cared for the school part.
As outgoing of a student as I was, you would think that I would have been overly excited to go off to college (and so would my grade school teachers). And you’d be right. It wasn’t the idea of getting a good education that grew my anticipation. But rather it was the opportunity of meeting new people and forming new relationships that thrilled me. In the Fall of 2010, I stepped onto Mississippi State University’s campus, eager to make friends.
But something strange happened during those first few weeks of school. Rather than taking the campus by storm and becoming everyone’s best friend, I found myself tucked away in my room, hiding from the world. Some bizarre form of social anxiety crept into my conscience, and the courage that once helped me initiate relationships had vanished. The world seemed too big, and suddenly I was in elementary school all over again. Only this time I didn’t have the charisma and confidence to pull friends towards me.
It turns out, that I’m not the only person who has felt this way before. College aged young adults around the country are finding themselves experiencing a sense of social discomfort post high school graduation. Whereas the classrooms have been preparing them for the next phase of their lives, their social environments have not. Teenagers spend much of their time trying to figure out how they fit into the pecking order of their school, and typically are just finding their place at around the time they are about to leave it.
So what happens when a student goes off to college and can’t find a place to fit in? Or when they are faced with the challenge of compromising their beliefs and moral standards for the reward of being accepted by peers, will they give in? How much is a young person willing to sacrifice to satisfy this hunger for relationship? I believe that there is no limit to the amount of ways that students can be influenced during these formative years; for the good or for the bad.
Sadly, most college age students are influenced away from faith, rather than towards it. (Evidenced here.) When I first heard someone speak of people who identify as ‘none-religious’ as ‘nones’, I thought they were saying nuns. So when I heard the speaker say, “nuns are the fastest growing people groups in the country”, I thought to myself “wow, I sure didn’t see that coming but way to make a comeback!” Obviously, I heard wrong. The reality is that more and more people are walking away from the church, and this generation of college aged students are no exception.
I write all of this to say, there is great work to be done! It is not my hope to discourage, but rather to make aware and to share the conviction of our church. There are several college aged folks in our community who care more about the relational part of our church than the church part of it. With UTSA in our backyard, there are so many young people that are coming to our neighborhood looking for connection. What would it look like for a body of believers to not wait for young people to show up to a building, but rather seek those young people out and become the community that they long for? I can think of no better church than University to commit to that kind of ministry!
Want to know more about University's plans for college ministry? Visit our website or email me.