Last week I met with a group of campus ministers at local joint for coffee and conversation. As I sat with these colleagues, I couldn’t help but notice the stark differences between us- I was a good 10-15 years their junior and I was the only female. At least one has children who are my age. Yet, they welcomed me into conversation and community over a good southern-style breakfast.
One of the things that we discussed was the way in which our ministries reach out to incoming freshmen. We talked about the amount of time that we get to visit with students at orientation events and during welcome week festivities. We spoke of reaching out to youth directors and pastors, but often seniors in high school are checked out of youth groups even before they graduate. That’s when one campus minister spoke from his heart.
He said he couldn’t see why parents did not take a larger role in connecting their child with a campus ministry. He said he’d sent his kid off to camp and let them know the relative or acquaintance who was closest to the camp, just in case. I remember my parents telling me the names of individuals I could call if need be when I moved off to Colorado at 22 years old. Why, then, do parents not try to connect their child with a campus minister?
Admittedly, many do. I’ve met students whose parents dragged them to my table and made them fill out an information card knowing full well that I would NEVER see that student once classes began. I’ve also met parents who signed their child’s name on a card hoping that I could get them involved. The reality is, both of these situations rarely bear fruit. I wonder what would happen if instead a parent came to my table and took my card telling their son or daughter to put it in their wallet and if they needed anything to call me. To call when their car won’t start or their tire is flat, when they need to move a fridge up 7 flights of stairs, when they are homesick, but won’t go home for another week. I wonder what might happen if they brought them into the Wesley Foundation and told them this is where you come when you don’t want to talk to me, your parent, but you need advice or to vent. Because at some point they’ll need it. They’ll need advice about roommate issues, to tearfully share about the person who broke their heart, or to ask for prayers when they’ve made a bad decision and have to live with the consequences.
I think I’ve reached a turning point. I identify with my students- their hardships, challenges, joys and delights. However, I am beginning to identify with their parents, too. With their fears, concerns, challenges, and joys.
To parents who will send your children off to college this year: my prayers are with you. I know it will be tough. There will be nights that you worry about their safety and times when you worry about their sanity. There will be moments of joy and triumph as well as isolation and pain. There will be days when you wish you could drop everything and run to your child to make the world better for them even if its only for a little bit. When you wish those things, I hope that you know I am wishing them, too. Mostly, I pray that in their transition into adulthood your child can be supported wherever they find themselves with people who love them as much as you do.