Do you remember the first time you came home after being at college for a semester? I do. I was headed out to see some friends and it was 11pm. My mom asked what I was doing and where I thought I was going at that “time of night.”
You already know where this is headed, right? I casually told her that I was headed out, 11pm was a normal time to leave the house for a college student, and I would be back later. Within seconds, two things were clear: 1) both my mom and I were convinced the other had lost their mind and 2) I was not leaving the house! I had been home for a total of six hours and I had already blown my witness with my parents and been handcuffed with a curfew! I’m not sure who was more ready for the semester to start back up in January, me or my parents!
The transition back home for our students, especially our freshmen, can be hard for several reasons. They are moving back under the direct authority of their parents. They may be moving home to some sin patterns that they had left behind or a tough family situation. A little preparation on our part with our freshmen can be the difference between a Winter Break that propels them forward with their walk with Christ or a Winter Break that is a “break” in their walk with Christ. Helping them answer a few simple questions can put them on a path for spiritual success this break!
1. What are the house rules?
It is always a good idea to help them identity the biggest differences in their life at college versus at home – living as a single on your own versus being a part of a family. Help them process questions like: Are my parents expecting me to help around the house? Do they expect me to let them know where I am going and when I will be back? What should my response be if I feel like they are treating my like I was back in high school? Honor your father and mother is a command no matter if they live on campus or in their parents’ house.
2. How has God changed me this semester?
The growth in many of your students this semester has been exponential! You’ve seen them walk in freedom from sin patterns that once held them captive. They’ve begun to share their faith and take ownership for their faith. For several freshmen, the last time they lived at home they were non-Christians but now they have a relationship with Jesus! A lot can happen in a semester! You’ve got to help your students identify what they’ve walked out of since being home and what God has done in their life since coming to campus. Have your student write down a few of the ways God has changed them this semester. Have them identify some sin patterns from which God has delivered them. This can make them aware of the victories they’ve experienced this semester as well as some potential pitfalls of going home for break.
3. For whom is God is sending me home?
Some of your students come from really broken homes and heading home is a great incarnational way to share the gospel with a lost parent or sibling. Maybe for your students there is a high school friend who needs to hear the gospel and what God has done in his or her life over the fall semester? Have them write down 1-2 people who they can be on mission for this break. Have them begin praying now for them if they aren’t already.
4. How can I continue to grow?
Winter Break is a break from classes not a break from Jesus! What is the saying? Failure to plan is planning to fail? We see this over and over in students. The lack of schedule or the new environment and our students look up and they’ve ignored God for a month! Talk to your students about setting some goals on how they want to grow over the break. What books are they going to read? How often are they going to spend time in God’s word? How many scripture verses are they going to memorize? Perhaps they can write out their goals, make a copy, and then put it in a self addressed envelope and give it to you. Half way through the break mail their goals to their home address. It can be a catalyst to help propel them forward to grow during the break. It is self-accountability!
5. Who can be my battle buddy?
Break can be isolated and lonely for some of your students. Their high school friends are distant or they are bored and don’t have a lot of friends around. Some of them are walking right back into the unhealthy situations that caused all the baggage you had to process with them during the semester! Help your students connect with other students in your ministry who are from the same area. Encourage them to meet up for encouragement, prayer, and accountability. What if all your students went home and knew they had a battle buddy they could text or call when things got tough? The power of knowing someone is holding the rope for them while they are in the trenches can be the encouragement, accountability, and strength they need.
The different pace and environment of break for students can be fertile soil for the gospel to continue to grow, not only in their lives, but in their family and friends! It can also can be soil that remains uncultivated if we don’t help students see that the harvest field is ripe and ready and God is sending them as the worker! As the semester begins to wind down take some time and give your students a plan that launches them into their Winter Break with the tools they need to continue to grow in their faith as well as impact their hometown and family with the gospel.