Shepherding a College-Bound Member
Recently, parents of one of our church’s high-school graduates and college-bound students asked if I would contribute to a book of helpful advice from those who have had an impact on him through his life. I was humbled and honored, as his pastor and as a close friend of the family to contribute. While the name has been changed, and a few of the details, below is the contribution I made as a suggestion of what I would recommend not only to this student, but just about any student as they move away to begin their college career.
While it is no doubt harder for your parents to believe, it really does make Kelly and me take a step back to realize that you have reached this very significant milestone in your life and are headed off to college. One of the greatest joys of our family’s life is to have the close friendship of your family. Recently, while taking my son to a friend’s house abut thirty minutes from us, he wanted to know how far away it was from you. When I asked him if he ever wanted to live far out in the country like his friend, he immediately said, “no way, it’s too far from your family.” Each one of you means much to each one of us.
You are embarking on a most significant step. It is now, as you step away from the familiar and safe borders of family, church, and hometown, that you will begin to not only develop new relationships and chart a new course, you will will also begin to see the truth of where your heart’s affections lie – more so than ever before. For me to give you some advise, as your pastor, and as a friend, is an honor and a stewardship. If I have done my job correctly, and you have paid attention even a little bit, what I have to say should not sound new and should probably make you shake your head up and down, knowing I would likely say something like this. Let me bullet-point some thoughts for you.
- Guard your heart continually.
- Get a regular Bible reading plan. Even if it will merely get you 10 minutes a day – have a plan. What is your plan? Do you have one now? Can I suggest one for you?
- Don’t allow the busyness of classes make you think you don’t have time to take in God’s word and spend at least a little time in prayer. Ignore this and your soul will die a slow death as you spiritually starve yourself.
- School is not everything – it is not most important. Christ is all important (Phil 1:21 – to live is Christ; Col 3:1-4 – Christ is your life). Whatever future career and employment God has in store, it is a platform to display his glory. Prepare yourself in college not only for engineering projects, but for glorifying God.
- You are likely to be confronted with new temptations and you will no doubt learn some new insights into what you are attracted to and what can tempt you. Guard your heart – keep it close to Christ. Proverbs 4:23.
- Find a solid church soon – SOON!
- There are no perfect churches. Don’t buy into the lie that you just can’t find one.
- How do they handle the word of God? Whatever else may be lacking, if they take scripture seriously and believe it to be so important that they give it massive significance, they will serve your soul well and everything else in its ministry will eventually fall into line.
- The typical temptation is to go with the majority. Do so only if the majority hunger and thirst after the depths of God’s word. Don’t settle for the cheap and insignificant issues like how well the music is played; whether it suits your personal tastes, it’s where most of the students attend, etc. Maybe the majority church is the best option, but only so far as they handle God’s word with seriousness and want to see its details at work in you and others.
- Don’t settle for a para-church group. Baptist Student Ministries may be good and helpful. Christian campus groups may emphasize discipleship or Bible study in significant ways. But para-church groups are not the church. Jesus died for his church. Give yourself to the bride of Christ.
- BECOME A MEMBER OF THAT CHURCH! It is not disloyal to our church to do so. We will not be able to shepherd you closely and in person like a local church can while you are away. Show them that you intend to commit to them, contribute to them, and be a part of them. If God moves you back here long-term, you can always re-join our church.
- Develop your closest relationships through the body of Christ.
- Involve yourself in your church. Make time for it like you make time for studying. It is that important.
- Few college students take me up on this and they make small investments on Sunday mornings only and in small spiritual relationships on campus and in a dormitory. And these students live small and insignificant spiritual lives, with little growing affection for Christ. Such small affections for Christ begin to shape the way they think and live.
- Open up your heart and close friendships only to those relationships that share your seriousness about Christ. Look for and take initiative to develop a relationship (or several) with someone who is stronger than you spiritually. Don’t give in to the temptation to merely have relationships with those who resemble your social interests beyond Christ. Seriously look for someone who is further along in Christ than you and pursue getting together with him. Look to add yourself to his schedule, even if it can only be limited.
- Think Discipleship.
- In your approach to relationships. Who will push you spiritually (I’m thinking of both men and women relationships you will develop)? How do you share in the word together? Who can you invest in who is not as far along as you are? Begin such a relationship with that person (who is in that awesome church you join) and think about how you can help them grow. Doing so will grow you beyond what you ever believed.
- In your approach to classes. Your classes will prepare you to do your work well. But every class has a dynamic to it that can launch you into seeing the glory of God. You may have to look for it, but it’s there. Your career path is a pathway to bring God glory.
- In your church. I’ve said this before – but look for discipling relationship in your local church. Who is an older and godly example that you could ask to have lunch or dinner with occasionally? Who is younger than you that you could disciple and serve? Who is needy in your church in whom you could invest. Yes, you will have time. We always have time to do the things we value.
- Know that your home church here is praying for you and available to you any time you need us. Email me, the leaders and people here at your church who have been consequential in your life.
Brad, you have made an impact on us at church and in our family. We thank God that he sought fit to bring you into our lives, and we are thrilled to see how you have made choices thus far, how God has gifted you thus far, and where God is sending you thus far. You have already encouraged my heart.
Bret Capranica for all our family