Since the semester has started and our church is once again brimming with students, I was reminded of the enormous discipleship opportunity that is before many of our churches. Whether it’s among collegians, grad-students, or seminarians, we are poised to enrich lives of young men and women by simply opening our homes and lives to them. Here is a little snapshot of what such a ministry looked like when I was a student.
City boys don’t typically know much about agriculture. This was evident on the campus of Gordon-Conwell where Angela and I rented a garden plot. I attempted to be a good gardener, but in the words of one friend, I stuck out “like a pork chop in a synagogue.” Soil treatment, water irrigation, anti-blight spray—are you kidding me? What ever happened to simply sticking the plant in the ground and waiting for it to grow? Among all the Martha Stewart wannabes, I was a botanical misfit.
During this period I learned lots about gardening, but I learned more about the church’s role in nurturing students. In particular, I recognized that when you’re a student far from home you’re probably in a season of extraordinary growth, not least of which because of one’s involvement in a local church. This was entirely true during our years at seminary, which shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that “seminary” originally came from the botanical world (from the Latin seminarium, meaning a plot in which seeds develop). This fact, however, is not limited to seminarians; it is true of all students.
Looking back in hindsight of many years, I recognize more clearly the various ways in which the personal and corporate ministry of the church changed my life. Thanks to its expository preaching, we were more deeply rooted in Scripture. Although I was green as a Sunday school instructor, the congregation came alongside and nurtured me by providing opportunity to teach. During the painful weeks when our son was diagnosed with Hemophilia, the church visited us and brought hope to our troubled hearts. In the context of this fellowship, God’s people enriched us by embodying the beauty of Christ.
So consider this a word of humble exhortation. Look around and notice the students in your congregation and consider how you might encourage them. It doesn’t take much: a dinner once a month, an invitation to join your family to watch a Sunday afternoon football game. Simple connections such as these showcase God’s grace in your family life and have the potential to inspire a student for a lifetime.