How can we organically build relationships with our college friends?
- We show up where college students are
- We invite them to something
- We hang out one-on-one
- We listen to their stories
- We do things together
- We go on adventures
Somewhere along the way in Young Life, it seems that we have subtly blown past “we go the them” and skip straight to “invite them to us.” There is a temptation to depend on programs to help us build relationships. Have we lost the art, the grit, or even the boldness of just praying and going where college students are with the expectancy of divine encounters?
I hope we never stop being a mission who goes where college students are.
There is a time and place to invite our new friends to something, but many times we act more like all the people tabling out there the first two weeks of school. Everyone is handing a flyer saying come to my thing. It feels really efficient to do that, but the heart of what we do in Young Life is not efficient.
“The heart of what we do in Young Life is not efficient.”Allen Hampton
We see people, really see them. We hear them and strive to go past the superficial “Where are you from and what is your major?” We want to know them, and that takes time and intentionality. All of that being said, sometimes it’s the right move to invite someone to something immediately and sometimes we’re not quite there yet. I can only say it takes a dependence on Jesus to discern when that time is, but we definitely want to come to a place where we are inviting our new friends to something. I believe one of the best things we can invite them to is a healthy vibrant loving community of people. If you don’t have that yet and you’re just getting things going then invite them to do life with you. Don’t say that exactly, but have that in mind.
Once you’ve invited them to get a taste of the community or as they say in Boulder, “the vibe of YLC,” then don’t miss that vital next piece in deepening that relationship. Many times people will “come and see” and really love the community, but unless someone pursued them individually and got to know them, they move on. I think the best way to help new folks is not rocket science, but it is time-consuming, and in my opinion, there is no better way than inviting them to lunch and asking them to share their story. When you ask people about themselves or hear their story they experience feeling known and loved.
Lastly, I’ll talk about shared adventure.
We’re in Boulder Colorado where people are not seemingly as receptive to the name “Jesus” as in other parts of the country. The upside is that there are tons of college students that move here for the adventure and outdoors that is so readily accessible and we like to use that to our advantage. Connecting with people in their places of interest is a great way to meet people where they are. We like to climb mountains, go fly fishing, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, and even camping with our college friends. Whether or not you have access to these things the main idea is that doing something memorable with people, creates shared stories. Everyone wants to be able to say, “Remember when we did XYZ”. It’s a place of connection.
Start there. Start by showing up in their world. Do that before you invite them into yours.