Discipling Today’s College Students

In this video, Erik and Donna Thoennes summarize the challenges and blessings of ministering to the college students under their care.


The following is a lightly edited transcript; please check the video before quoting.

Erik Thoennes: I would say that distraction and impatience and being easily disappointed are big challenges with a lot of the students that we love and care for and work with at our church and at our university. There is high desire and expectation to have meaningful lives even for that to be costly and to mean something difficult. But they often struggle long-haul patient endurance we’re called to as disciples of simply setting your clock a half an hour early to get up to read your Bible and pray, or to be regularly involved in one’s local church, working in the nursery, not being flaky with that. They can be easily distracted, easily disappointed.

The social media world has brought a level of shallowness and distraction to even every conversation many of them have. So they tend not to listen very well because they’re thinking of the next dopamine hit they’ll get from their device, and it can be hard to help them to settle, and rest, and linger in God’s presence and in the presence of someone else, being a good friend who loves well because you listen well.

Donna Thoennes: I think, too, we’ve seen students who feel a lot of stress, and along with that sometimes is anxiety and depression. But sometimes I think the stress, sometimes they put that on themselves, sometimes it may originate from their family, and sometimes it’s just pressures that come from living in the culture that we live in. But getting really plugged in with your local church and keeping the major important things as the majorly important things, I think can eliminate some of that stress. They shouldn’t expect more of themselves than to just be a faithful follower of Jesus as a college student.

Erik Thoennes: I would say we’re very positive about where younger people are today. They get criticized a lot and there’s some basis for that. But so many of the young people that we meet and get to work with, they really want their lives to matter. They have not bought in as much as they used to to a more consumer-driven, marketing driven, very self/human-centered approach to the church. They want a God who’s glorious and they want a God who is worthy of worship and to be feared.

And so, they need the patience to get to know that God when it doesn’t feel dramatic or provide a good Instagram picture, but there is a desire. And I hope older folks grab ahold of the privilege of being part of leading these dear young people who want to know God and want their lives to matter. And we have the ability to show them what that looks like and say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”