We have been living in Tyler for 6 months now. We are settled into the house, Michael is settled into his new job, the boys are settled into their new school, and I am becoming settled here as well. We are starting to get involved with ministry here-I helped lead worship last Sunday and we are working with two groups of college students, 1 with YoungLife and then our new college group at church called Connect. Most people know how much I love the college age group. They are real and honest for the most part and refreshing to me. I wouldn’t say in Phoenix that working with the college was easy, but it was easier. I mean, it was already established at our church there. I was burdened for the college students that were in our lives and came into our lives through the Element community, but if I’m honest, I really didn’t think about those college students outside of the community. Since moving here, my heart has been burdened with the idea of ALL of the college students here in Tyler, and beyond really. My heart is heavy with the idea of how many walk away from church, and ultimately their faith in God, while in college. I am trying to focus on here in Tyler, where God has placed me right now, and what I can be doing to reach this age group that is so often forgotten or left on their own, but there are times (right now in fact) where my heart is so heavy with the desire for them to know and love God more that I become overwhelmed. Did you know that current statistics tell us that approximately 65-70% of students drop out of church when they graduate from high school? I’ve been doing some research about college students and Tyler, Texas. I am definitely a research girl. I like to know things. One of the things I found out is that there are 19,000 enrolled college students here in Tyler. That’s just the enrolled. You know there have got to be more that are college aged that aren’t enrolled in school right now that live here. And I am very aware that some of those are adult students or are not college aged. That number does not, however, include continuing education students so those are not included in the 19,000. Wow. That number may not seem daunting to you if you live in a major city like Phoenix or Dallas or Los Angeles, but this number seems huge to me when you think about it being in a city of 100,000. That’s right. The population of Tyler is 100,000 and most of that 19,000 is probably not included in the 100,000 since their parents are claiming them somewhere else. Need another way of saying it? 1 in 6 people in this town are college students. And yet, it is on the whole, an unreached group here so to say. At least that is how it seems to me, as the new girl looking in. The largest church in town has a college group of about 200 I think. There are christian organizations here in Tyler for the college students but it seems like they are all divided, or working on their own so to say. I don’t see a huge sense of community here. One of the things we learned while working with the college in Phoenix was the importance of community. It hurts my heart to think of this huge group of college students out there in my new town either feeling lost like they have no real since of a community of their own, or finding that sense of community in something or somewhere else that could cause pain in their life. I know what it’s like to seek after everything else but the Lord. I know the pain that comes with that and I know the joy that comes when you seek after Him. I want the joy for this age group! So…my burden is heavy for the college students right now. So heavy that it is difficult for me to breathe at times.
Second, I am passionate about wanting to get the church involved with reaching this age group. We have key groups within our church to meet the needs of children, youth, and adults-but we tend to forget about the college age group, or do nothing because we don’t know what to do for them. We think they are a different kind of beast, right? How long can we let this group go ignored? Rise up church! Realize the need out there and go out and make disciples! You are commanded to do it. Not just to those that are in 3rd world countries, but to those outside your front door. I pray that more people are ignited to reach out to the college age group in their communities. If you’re in the Tyler area and want to get involved, feel led to get involved, let me know. There is a huge need here to reach out to the college students here and to unite those that already know the Lord and to introduce Jesus to the ones that don’t. What’s holding you back? I don’t know how exactly to do it all. But I worship, follow and serve the God of Ages, and HE knows what the college students here need. I will not be afraid of the unknown because I know HE-the same God that guided the Israelites, the same God that sent His Son to die on the cross for us-knows. He will guide our steps in reaching the college students. Can you ignore the facts? Can you stand by and watch an entire generation fall to the wayside? What will you do? Step up and step out with me. Please.
Following are just a few articles (there are SOOO many more) and a few statistics for you. Enjoy!
For more on college students and the unchurched, see http://www.times-herald.com/religion/Unevangelized-college-students–859604
In the transition from high school to college, 65 percent of students stop practicing their faith.
- 43.7% of freshmen frequently attend religious services.
25.4% of juniors frequently attend religious services.
- 20.2% of freshmen never attend religious services.
37.5% of juniors never attend religious services.
Measures of Spirituality
- 48.7% of freshmen say “attaining inner harmony” is “very important” or “essential.”
62.7% of juniors say “attaining inner harmony” is “very important” or “essential.”
- 41.8% of freshmen say “integrating spirituality in my life” is “very important” or “essential.”
50.4% of juniors say “integrating spirituality in my life” is “very important” or “essential.”
- 62.8% of freshmen agree with the statement “most people can grow spiritually without being religious.”
74.8% of juniors agree with the statement “most people can grow spiritually without being religious.”