With fall just around the corner, students are gearing up to head to college. This gives parishes an opportunity to connect with new individuals and help them find a place to call home away from home. Here’s how you can make the college student “stranger” feel welcome.
As we near the end of summer and beginning of the fall school term, our parishes may see the rarest of visitors in our midst—a new college student.
College students can show up to a Sunday service for many different reasons. Maybe they’re fulfilling their family’s request to “try out” a local congregation, want to look for a new community since they’re far from home, try a new faith home that’s different from what they’ve experienced, or maybe they’re just seeking.
The young adult demographic is missing in many of our congregations. This can make a student feel isolated when they visit and don’t see someone else who may look like them. College students can look very different from parish members (hair color, piercings, fashion, etc.). Though we say “All Are Welcome” in the Episcopal Church, visitors that are made to feel like outsiders are likely to not return.
So how do we welcome young adults, or really ANY stranger, into our congregation? Sometimes it’s as simple as the basics:
- Acknowledge their presence. Say hello. Connect.
- Introduce yourself and introduce the visitor to others. Make connections with other people.
- Invite them to come back. Is there something specific coming up on the church calendar—potluck, special service, adult class? Make connections to parish life.
- If possible, follow up with a phone call or email.
The Campus Ministry Commission encourages all parishes in our diocese to intentionally welcome college students this fall. We have a supply of Campus Ministry backpacks with a variety of giveaway items (travel mugs, notepads, pens, and badge holders) and would like to get these out to parishes so that they can be distributed to visiting college students (as well as any college students already in your congregation!). Please contact Deacon Alisa Carmichael to request Campus Ministry backpacks for your parish. The fall term will start soon!
Deacon Alisa Carmichael currently serves as Chair of the Campus Ministry Commission in the Diocese of West Missouri. She assisted with an Episcopal campus ministry at the University of South Florida in Tampa prior to moving with her husband John to their current home in Kansas City. She is the organist at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lee’s Summit.