Where do academic challenges fit in to your ministry?

You’re likely drawing some students who struggle – mightily – to get through the classwork of college. Some even have learning differences or other diagnosed issues that make it all the harder. Others, having made it into college, simply find the level of engagement, expectation, and education difficult to handle.

So how are these students being shepherded and simply cared for?

It might be interesting to poll your small group leaders, or think back about prayer requests you’ve heard shared – even among your student leaders. Are students occasionally bringing up their academic challenges?

This goes beyond praying “for a big test coming up,” but sharing that their grades or other measures aren’t where they want them. It involves being vulnerable in a way that many students may treat as the last hidden piece, in a world where everyone expects everyone else to be “college-ready,” at the very least. Even in a ministry where sexual sin, eating disorders, conflict, controlled substances, big temptations, and other difficult issues are readily discussed, students might keep this one partially or completely hidden.

Prayer requests aren’t the only indicator of strength in this issue, of course. How often does the spectre of academic challenges work its way in to a message? Are students who need to spend surprising amounts of study time – and who do rigorously spend that time – celebrated instead of shrugged off, ignored, or mocked? Have you considered any peer tutoring or any other in-ministry ways to help? Do you already know what the school offers to help these students, so you can point them to those things? Do your student leaders and other volunteers? Would you expect a student to come to you or a small group leader if their challenges meant they might not return to college? (Have you had students who didn’t return because of academic failure?)

It’s funny that in a place like a college campus this could be off our radar, but I think it often is. It might be time to put it back on, and to learn from college ministries that are already doing this well.