College is such a beautiful time for a young adult. It’s filled with so much personal and spiritual growth, such as learning how to deal with a flat tire, trying to recover from the flu without your mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup, and learning to balance sleep, social life, and study time. These years are some of the most beautiful, challenging, stressful, and joyous times that help mold and shape a young adult’s future.
In the midst of it all, many college students become discouraged, overwhelmed, and fall away from the church and their faith during the time they need it the most. LifeWay Research suggests that only forty percent of young adults who attended church as teens regularly attend church at the age of nineteen. That number drops to one in three young adults attending church once they reach their twenties.1
College is beautiful, but it is also hard. You will discover your passions, find talents you didn’t know you had, and meet people who will walk with you for the rest of your life. Lean into those times. Other days, you will fail a test, lock yourself out of your dorm on a rainy day, forget a deadline, and have some “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.”2 If you’re a college student, I implore you, don’t try to do this alone. Find a faith community to walk alongside you. Open up with other Christians about your struggles and pray together. Breathe. Make time to grow in your faith through Bible study and community.
Looking back on my college days, I remember the anticipation of moving into my dorm freshman year and eagerly embracing my newfound freedom. A few weeks later, I was sleep deprived, knee-deep in homework, and actually missing my parents, my curfew, and my little hometown. Honestly, I was almost a statistic. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I was in church every Sunday, Wednesday, and holiday I could remember. As a college student, I still loved Jesus, but I thought I could deal with these ups and downs by simply holding onto the faith I had built over my teenage years instead of continuing to invest in and strengthen it.
Wrong. One week into my second semester of freshman year, the Lord threw me a curveball in the form of an EF4 tornado. My world was turned upside down. When I came home from school on the Wednesday following the tornado, I met my parents at church. It was this night that I realized just how desperately I needed to walk with the Lord daily (beyond my Old Testament class homework) and surround myself with women of faith.
Thankfully, the Lord surrounded me with a few key women who gladly wanted to walk alongside me, encourage me, and pray for me during this season. It brings tears to my eyes as I remember the simplest of things that had the biggest impact on my life, my faith, and my decision to plug into a church as a young adult.
I want to encourage you to step up and help encourage the young adults in your life. Need some ideas? Here’s how God used the Christian women in my life to help me get through the good, bad, and ugly college days:
- Pray for the college students in your life. It seems so simple, but it is so powerful. Women were praying for me when I attended my first day of classes, as I prepared for finals week, and when I searched for a job. They continued praying as I transitioned from college student to working professional. Make time to invest in praying specifically for the big and small moments in the life of a college student.
- Send a handwritten letter or card. To this day I have a box of handwritten cards from women who were rooting for me during my college years. Sometimes the cards featured a beautiful floral valley, a Scripture, and a simple note of, “The weather here is so hot. We are ready for fall. Hope the days are nice for you.” Other cards featured funny pictures of kittens with sayings like “You’re purrrrfect” or a note that simply said, “I’m praying for you as you prepare for your world history final on Thursday.” These cards were a tangible reminder that I was loved and someone was praying for me. The impact was priceless and always brought a much needed smile to my face on a rainy day (when I had probably locked my keys in my car). Make time to encourage and build up the young adults in your life (1 Thes. 5:11).
- Never underestimate the power of a care package. As a college student, few things got me as excited as finding a slip of yellow paper in my student mailbox. This little piece of yellow paper meant someone had sent me a package! Whether it was a roll of quarters so I could do laundry or a package complete with Christmas cards and “puppy chow” to help get me through finals, care packages often felt like an encouraging hug from my faith community. If you know the young adult you are praying for is preparing for a particularly difficult week, a quick trip to the post office can make your favorite college student’s week and help remind him/her of the strength and support the Lord gives.
- Take a genuine interest in their lives. Don’t be afraid to send a text message and check in with the college students in your life. Ask how you can pray for them and follow up. In a season of so much change, homework, and newfound adult challenges, I often took comfort in knowing women were invested in my life. The Lord created us for community and exhorted us to encourage one another (Heb. 10:24-25).
- Entrust them in God’s care. Probably the most difficult thing to do while encouraging young adults is entrusting them in God’s hands. As a college student, I craved purpose, and I wanted to make a difference in the world. I’m grateful for the members of my faith community who so often reminded me of the words of Proverbs 16:9, “A person’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps” (CSB). Sometimes the hardest thing we can do is trust the Lord and let Him guide the steps of those we love.
As you encourage the college students in your life, don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Today, I’m saddened by the thank you notes I didn’t send and the phone calls I didn’t return.
Continue to remain faithful, pray, encourage, and trust the Lord with the future. The Lord can use your prayers and cards to shape and impact the lives of those around you. Your prayers can serve as a lifeline to the young adults in your life as your actions remind them of the hope they have in Christ.
Juliana Wilson is the Social Media and Influencer Marketing Specialist for LifeWay Women. She is passionate about encouraging women and girls to dig into God’s Word and pursue an active relationship with Christ every day. Juliana loves Instagram-worthy ice cream, coffee dates, and traveling with her husband, Ben (You may have seen them on last season’s American Ninja Warrior!). You can follow their adventures on Instagram® with #WhereInTheWorldAreTheWilsons
1. “Most Teenagers Drop Out of Church as Young Adults,” LifeWay Research, January 15, 2019, accessed September 11, 2020, https://lifewayresearch.com/2019/01/15/most-teenagers-drop-out-of-church-as-young-adults/.
2. “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,“Judith Viorst, July 15, 1987, Paperback – Picture Book, July 15, 1987