Being involved in college ministry offers up many opportunities to disciple college students. They are at a stage in life where they naturally want to learn and grow. They also want to know that someone cares about them, and they are willing to learn from you if you do. There are several environments where discipleship can happen, and they are all important. Gen Z, the generation that is now before us on college campuses, seems to have an increased desire for one-on-one interactions. At our recent MBCollegiate Campus Missionary Training in July, several of our fellow campus missionaries around the state expressed that they have been overwhelmed with students’ requests for one-to-one meetings and discipleship.
With that in mind as we begin another school year, I wanted to share six practical tips for one-on-one discipleship I have learned throughout the years I have been doing this.
Plan your weekly meeting time and place strategically. Sometimes one-to-one meetings can get very deep. Although meeting in a local coffee shop can be convenient, if the atmosphere is noisy and crowded, this can make it very difficult to have private conversations. Consider reserving a small room on campus, going to a park, or meeting at your ministry building or an office in a local church. Always make sure, though, that the student feels safe and you are wisely protecting yourself from accusation of inappropriate behavior.
As you consider what day and time to meet, make sure it is when you can be alert and rarely, if ever, have to cancel. Emergencies come up, and there might be times when you need to reschedule, but showing up on time and prepared says a lot to the student you are meeting with. It communicates that you are taking this seriously.
There are many discipleship plans out there. There are so many resources that you can use for this time together. However, there are three main components of one-to-one time that need to be part of your strategy:
- Reading the Bible: Personally, I like to ask the student what book of the Bible she would like to study together. Sometimes I will just pick one if she doesn’t know. There are also times when it is helpful to go through a supplementary book over a specific topic as well. This is helpful, but I would highly recommend it is heavy on Scripture. As you study Scripture together, help your student learn how to use commentaries and basic hermeneutic skills.
- Prayer: As you pray together, help your students develop a prayer life that goes beyond their basic world. Help them consider praying for their communities, revival, the persecuted church and countries all around the world. Model prayer for them. I have seen students who have never prayed out loud before gain confidence in this as they pray with me. It can be very exciting! Try not to nitpick what they say. They are learning, and as they pray out loud for you and with you, allow the Spirit to direct them.
- Accountability: this component will vary quite a bit depending on how open your student is with you. It might take months of meeting together before they are comfortable sharing what is going on in their personal lives. That’s ok! Even if they never share the deep parts of their lives, you are helping them develop spiritual disciplines that will have lifelong effects. However, more often than not, they will eventually trust you with those things, and that is such a blessing.
Be vulnerable and open, but don’t depend on them to meet your emotional needs. This is so important. When you are a recognized spiritual leader, you become an authority figure. Regardless of how close in age you are, it is important to not depend on your student for emotional support. Be honest about your struggles and what is going on in your life, but make sure to get your emotional needs met outside of this time and from others you can talk to.
Every once in a while, mix things up a bit. If you regularly meet in an office together, go for a walk instead. You can still talk about life and what you’ve been learning in Scripture, but it’s nice to be in a different environment every once in a while. You can also use this time to prayer walk around campus or share the gospel with someone. It’s also a great time to do a small service project together.
When your student is ready, help him/her seek out someone to disciple as well. As you meet with your student, remember that this is something you can train them to do the rest of their lives. Imagine the possibility of multiplication that can happen as you help your students develop a lifestyle of personal one-to-one discipleship!"Imagine the possibility of multiplication that can happen as you help your students develop a lifestyle of personal one-to-one discipleship." -@yarnell_karin #collegiatedisciplemaker Meeting Gen Z in One-to-One Discipleship Click To Tweet
One of the best things you can do for those you disciple is to be actively following Jesus yourself. If there is sin in your life, repent. Make sure to spend time often in Scripture and prayer-remembering to pray for the students you disciple.