You may be realising that numbers have started dropping off for events and meetings, students are less willing to talk to you and some have fallen off the face of the earth entirely. You’ve also probably realised that this is because exams and deadlines are fast approaching; undoubtedly the worst time of the year for students. This blog will provide a few bits of (hopefully) helpful advice for student workers and church leaders helping students though this super busy and stressful period. Feel free to contribute some of your own suggestions too!
Sometimes students just need a space to get away from stuff. This could be a house group, a room in the church building or chaplaincy: just a safe, stress-free, quiet zone. Try and make this place a special place if you can. Show your students that they are welcome there and that they can peacefully be in these areas. It can be a place where they can come to let off some steam with other students, or a place where they can sit silently reflecting. If you have the space and the time you could even do both.
It may be the case that you don’t see some students for a while over the exam period, so it might not always be possible to offer support and encouragement in person. If possible (with the correct permissions) drop them an encouraging text or Facebook message to let them know you’re praying for them and that you are available to chat if they need anything. There is always something you can offer that students may not feel able to ask for (think proof-reading or cups of tea!) If you can, try and collect important dates for your students, for example exam dates and coursework deadlines. Sending students a supportive message on the day of an exam or hand-in is always going to be a helpful pick-me-up (don’t be too dejected if they don’t get back to you, either!). You could also make up some little care packages with tea, chocolate and a little prayer card, which is a great way to let your students know you’re thinking of them.
Undoubtedly the best support you can offer your students is prayer. Keep students in your prayers during this period and make the rest of the church aware of what is going on too. Perhaps organise an exam period prayer meeting where you could pray for students in person or from afar. You could also get a list of your students and give out names of individuals to be praying for. It is one of the most powerful tools we have in ministry, so wield it! You might not ever see the effects but we are called to pray. So, we shall.
At the end of it all, celebrate! Students have been working hard over the last few months so find a way to reward them before you lose them to the summer holidays. It can be as simple as arranging some food and a space or you could even just meet them in the local pub. It is important that your students, no matter how well they feel they did, are celebrated for who they are. Be your student’s biggest supporter and celebrate every victory with them in whatever way you think is best.
If you're a church leader or chaplain you can sign up to SCM Connect today and create a profile for your church or chaplaincy for students to find this September. We also offer loads of resources, support and advice for student workers and those in student ministry. Get in touch if you're interested in finding out more or create a profile on SCM Connect.