Top 5 Ways to Engage College Students, part 2 of 5

As I mentioned in part 1 of this series, there are many more ways to engage college students than just the five I am bringing. 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!

2. Honesty

This generation is tired of fake. Much of the community they experience lives in the realm of pretend. They deeply desire authentic community, but rarely experience it. Many say they hate church because there are a bunch of hypocrites within the walls. If they were honest, they’d see it all around them as well. Selfies depicting the best dress, or the best flex pose are all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Vine, and Tinder. The real self is not actually revealed many times on these platforms. 

This lack of real honesty in their lives is one of the many reasons we must be honest and live authentically. This generation craves something real, something tangible, and something meaningful. They need to be able to take off their masks and live honestly. In order to experience real love, they need to be loved. We then must model this honesty in revealing our true selves. We need to display vulnerability in our teachings and one on one interaction with our students. An anonymous person once said, “vulnerability breeds vulnerability.”  When we live honestly and are vulnerable before our students, they then are encouraged to be honest as well.  There are of course appropriate limits to what we can share with students, but sharing failures, struggles, and doubts are good places to begin. This honesty brings true freedom and allows these students to know what true love really is. It opens them up to being vulnerable with God and to come out of hiding. No more fear of being rejected by man and/or God, because they can see that you and--by extension--God loves them for who they are and what they should be (as Brennan Manning so lovingly put it).

This starts with us. We need to be honest with where we are. We must not live in darkness, but rather in the light. We need to look deeply within and see if we are being honest with ourselves as well. If we are not, and then pretend to be vulnerable, it will be sniffed out by this generation and they will dismiss us as the hypocrites they thought we were all along. This is the tough part. We must take our masks off in real community before we can call others to do it. Trust me when I say: it is so worth it.

In my ministry, I’ve seen this come to fruition time and time again. I have a crew of young men who I hang with every Monday night at my place. We spend time talking about real life. These young men have been more honest than the majority of other believers I know. They have exposed their worst sins and largest struggles. They felt safe to do so. They felt loved by all in the group despite what they shared. This is real community. This is what they crave and may not even know it. Live honestly among your students and watch what God does in their lives.

* A great resource for you (and your students) would be a book titled The Gift of Being Yourself by David B. Brenner. It rocked my world and forced me to be honest…even when I didn’t want to be.