Top 5 Ways to Engage College Students, part 1 of 5

In this first of a five-part series on the best ways to engage college students, I want to say up front that there are many more ways to engage college students than just the five I will bring.  However, these five ways of engagement have proved themselves over and over again in my ministry on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus.  Each post will consist of one of the top fives ways to engage, so keep checking back!

1. Consistency

Having a consistent presence in one's life is extremely meaningful and powerful. Consistency turns into reliability and reliability births deep trust. As I’ve worked with college students, I’ve discovered that, in their lives, there is little to no consistency. Many have family stories of inconsistency. Many have had other adults around them who have not been regular staples in their lives. They themselves struggle to be consistent in the paths they take towards their future. Most college students change their major at least once and the majority of them will change it at least twice. Staying consistent is difficult and challenging for many college students. I personally believe this is in large part due to the modeling they’ve been exposed to by the adults in their lives.

When someone takes time enough to not just say, but also live the words “you are important enough to me that I will consistently be in your life” there is real power in it.  This takes action on our part. We must make time for them. We must seek them out to connect. We must be available to them. We must set aside time to meet over lunch and coffee. Finally, we need to simply be a constant presence. When they can begin to rely on our presence, they begin to open up. 

I’ve seen one student so blown away by this idea of consistency that he (with conviction and deep emotion) said I had become like a second father to him. He’s confessed and shared deep things that he only would share with a few other people in his life. He seeks me out when there is a problem. He asks my opinion on very serious matters. This isn’t because I’m great, or even because I have great ideas to help him. It is simply because I chose to be consistent.

When someone is consistent in students' lives, they feel valued. Much of the college student’s angst comes from a sense of needing to prove oneself. They work to be loved and this has very little results. When someone does come along and love them, many times it is simply because of the skill or effort they put forward. However, when someone comes alongside them who simply loves them for who they are and then decides to be a constant presence in their lives, they feel loved and loveable.

There is real power in being consistent. This is not only a “top way” to engage students, but a necessary way for rich ministry to occur and great fruit to grow in our college ministries. Will we seek to be consistent? Will we challenge our leaders to be consistent? There is sacrifice involved. You may need to stop working on that presentation to go to coffee with someone. You may need to put that long loquacious email aside and take the phone call from a student. You made need to answer a text message in the middle of doing something else. Choose to be present; choose to be consistent.