New students are everywhere. On campuses around the country, churches and collegiate ministries have countless opportunities for faith engagement with students in these critical days of transition. The chances to reach students are there every day for the rest of the year, but these days especially call for a sense of readiness, expectancy, and immeasurable opportunity. All that to say, it definitely feels like if there is ever a season in which I don't have time for alumni, it is now!
Though it seems counter-intuitive to think about alumni this time of year, I need to be thinking about them with gratitude and engagement. As we continue to unlock what it means to reach this campus our alumni cultivate so many areas that make us more effective.
Cultivating Prayer - Since it is such a crucial time, it is wonderful to know that alumni and friends of the ministry are praying during these days of opportunity. We sent our latest alumni newsletter in early August and in it I shared that our opening series for our large group gathering would be in Ephesians. We requested that they would pray Ephesians 2:10 - that students would see that they are God's workmanship and that God had given them some purposeful places in which to walk. It was encouraging to hear back from so many alumni that they were glad to know where we were focusing and especially pleased to be praying for students based on what they were studying.
Cultivating Resources - Because alumni give, it is so much easier to reach out to these new students. Some have given of their time providing food and hospitality for our events or prepping our facilities at our alumni work weekend. Because of alumni that give financially I have staff in place to serve with me, scholarships for retreats, funds for facilities and equipment, and people willing to fill financial needs as new opportunities arise. Our traditional cooperative giving channels are still a huge blessing, but the constantly growing edge of our resourcing these days is through our alumni.
Cultivating Perspective - Alumni also remind me that life does not always run by semesters. While I am dealing with freshmen name overload, many alumni are in the middle of discerning what it looks like to follow God through job transitions, marriages, retooling their skill sets, births, grief and loss, and unexpected changes. Life after college is called "the real world" not because college is completely synthetic, but because life after college is so different than the college experience. Thinking of the celebrations and struggles of our alumni makes me a better campus minister as we disciple students for the long haul. And that dovetails right into....
Cultivating Vision - Rhinking of where many of our alumni were when they were freshmen helps me to be patient and trust God to grow our current freshmen and young leaders over the long haul. Thinking of where our many alumni are now gives me hope for the church. It drives me with a sense of what an honor it is to have this calling. It helps me begin with the end in mind and makes me remember the call to grow mature believers with the students in front of me.
Enjoy the fall. Welcome and love the freshmen well. Before you know it, those freshmen will be the alumni who are resourcing and encouraging those reaching out in Jesus' name to the generations after them.
Darrell Cook is the Baptist Campus Minister at Virginia Tech and is widely known for his outstanding work with alumni. He is also known for having the World's best filing system!