Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Adult Mentors

I've appreciated Chuck Bomar's continuing emphasis on having adult mentors as a basic component of a congregation's college ministry.

The recent Princeton Seminary's Emerging Adult Conference returned to similar themes of adult involvement again and again. Kara Powell, from the Fuller Youth Institute's College Transition Initiative reported that from their "Sticky Faith"(how can a young person's faith stick through the emerging adult transitions) research a necessary component of congregational life should be intergenerational experiences. Christian Smith, in Souls in Transition, listed the teenage years factors which correlated most strongly with stronger emerging adult religious practices. The top three: (1)the teen's personal faith commitment, devotion, and experience. (2) the religious commitment and practice of their parents, and (3) other supportive religious adults in the congregation.

Adult relationships and presence is important as young people try to discern how they are to navigate adulthood. I've always appreciated the faculty or staff member who "adopted" students and invited them into their homes, lives, and families. Their impact is significant, and many graduates still stay in contact with them.

Congregations near campus often try the "adopt a student" / "adopt a family" / "adopt a grandparent" of matching students and interested adults, often with mixed results. The thought of a long-term commitment (by both parties!) seems intimidating, and having more than one student with each family might reduce the anxiety of thee unknown.

Perhaps more modest opportunities for the generations to connect might work. A morning together building a Habitat House followed by lunch, a combined work project with the campus ministry group and one of the congregation's groups. A few families might be flexible enough to informally invite a couple of students to lunch after the Sunday worship.Pairing students and adults as church school teachers might provide some opportunities for intergenerational relations. (This means not seeing college students as bodies to help out in the church school, but mentoring as an outreach ministry in itself.) The congregation could invite the campus ministry group to join them on a mission project during Spring Break and provide some scholarship assistance to the students.

What other ways are there to give students the contact in faith with adults?