Attendance and Activity are the most usual "success" criteria for most congregational ministries, but these are not necessarily appropriate or achievable goals for a student ministry. It is often difficult for congregations to invest large amounts of time, money, and energy in student ministries which do not "pay off" in terms of increased activity and attendance.
Congregational objectives don't always match student needs. As mentioned above, the goal of most congregational ministries is to bring people into active participation in the church organization through fellowship, worship, service and educational act ivities. However it is characteristic of students to be critical of institutions, impatient with traditions, highly mobile and engaged in an independent period of searching and transition. The section, Developmental Tasks of College Students, add resses in more depth some of the characteristics of students. Another section, Why Do Students Drop Out, gives some additional insights into why, when we have done everything we know to do to provide a significant ministry with students, some move on to other ministries. This section is here as a reminder that there are times when we must acknowledge that we cannot meet the needs of everyone who enters our doors.
Informal and occasional ministries with students are undervalued by both ministers and congregations. Taking time to chat with students (when they are encountered) in their work-place or in a shopping center can be a significant contact. Sending a ca rd to the student on a special occasion in his or her life shows that the church cares about him or her.
The traditional ways of working with students which were developed on residential campuses don't work very well, if at all, with students living at home or returning home frequently. The student today is generally pressed for time and divided between campus, job, family, friends and time spent in commuting. Some have compared a ministry with students to an escalator - it's always moving - it's never still.
These frustrations are intentionally placed at the beginning of this guide. They are here, not to discourage, but rather to serve as a reminder of where some of the resistance to supporting ministry with students may emerge.
Contributed by Joe Clontz, Former Student Ministry Consultant, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina