Last week, the LO Team set out on a mission: to visit college campuses and bring hope and truth to students. Our team loaded up an RV full of snacks & cozy blankets with big hearts, anticipating what God was going to do.
We had the privilege to interact with thousands of students, on different campuses, from different cultures and backgrounds. Yet at each stop, we heard so many similar themes.
We want to give you a rundown of the 10 takeaways from our week on the road! Although it’s hard to narrow down all our experiences, here are few thoughts from our time on campuses.
1. Students face so much pressure.
The world places so much pressure on us, especially students. There’s so much stress involved with academics, body image, campus involvement, internships, social hangs, summer plans, and more. It’s as if you’re so busy striving for the bright future that you can’t handle what is right in front of you. This was evident among ALL students we encountered at the campuses we visited. So how do we deal with it? When you stop believing that the world doesn’t dictate your worth, you might be able to breathe again. Let’s say this again: The world doesn’t dictate your worth, God does. He calls you worthy, so there’s no need to strive. He calls you loved, so there’s no need to sleep around. He calls you beautiful, so there’s no need to diet for attention. He calls you unique, so there’s no need to compare to who is around you. Lean into the truths of God before you let the world place the burdens of worth on you.
2. Mental health is a major topic of conversation among college students.
Our team was privileged to gather with a handful of student leaders each day and hear what was happening on their campus. Sitting with them, over a cup of coffee, each day we heard the same cry from students: mental illness is running rampant on our campus. Whether it was the pain of someone sharing their own journey in this area or they have friends who are struggling with it, it seemed that nearly every student was impacted by this topic in some capacity.
As a team, we were broken over hearing these stories, yet we were so encouraged to find that many were finding the strength to open up and share their struggles, seek help, and find healing in the Lord.
Would you join us in praying for the mental health of students on college campuses? Let’s pray that students would experience the hope and healing that Jesus brings, that the darkness would flee, and that many would come to know the peace that Jesus offers. Let’s pray that those who are wrestling in darkness and feel alone, would find the strength to reach out for help. Finally, let’s pray that those who see their friends struggling with mental illness, that they would have the wisdom, strength, and patience to support their brothers and sisters as they walk the journey with them.
3. Comparison is a silent killer.
In a day and age where perfectionism isn’t just seen around them, but also plastered all over social media, college students are right in the thick of asking the question, “What is my true identity?” As we visited, we saw how uniquely each of them were created and how beautifully different their gifts were. Because they have each been fearfully and wonderfully made, there is no need to compare. We pray they can continue to see that their true identity is found in running the race set aside just for them and no one else. We pray they can stop looking to the right or to the left, but instead find freedom in simply looking up.
4. Students are hungry to grow and to seek out truth.
Each night our team drove away from the campus with huge excitement and hope in our hearts! There is a true hunger on each campus we visited among students to know the truth of God. It was a joy to cheer loudly and encourage each student we met to keep running after the things of God.
5. There is a difference between “knowing” and “realizing” what is true.
A big theme of the week was explaining the difference between these two words. We may think that we know a lot of things in life, but do we realize what those things are? For example, we may know that we are deeply, wholly, unconditionally loved, but do we actually realize what that means? We may think we know that Jesus came and died for our sins, but do we realize what that means? We challenged students with this thought: there is a difference between knowing and realizing. To know something is to understand it. To realize something is to step into it, to fulfill it. We hope you take a moment to step into the fullness of the reality of what Jesus has in store for you as well.
6. Believe “for” each other instead of “about” one another.
As a major topic of Sadie’s message, she explained we have a choice. As we look at and love others, we can choose to slap labels on each other and believe negative things about them. This could be a label the world has given them, or even a mistake they’ve made. OR, with the love of Christ, we can champion and believe in the possibility of transformation FOR those around us. What a powerful stake in the ground to believe for others when they aren’t believing for themselves.
7. College students have the power to effect change.
Having the power to effect change but no audience is tough. Every person has an audience, whether it’s ten people or ten million people. Every person has influence. Every person has dreams and desires for the world. College students have the power to change the trajectory of the next generation. All it takes is believing that God has gifted you with influence and an audience. That’s right, YOU. Right where you are at today, you have the power to effect life change in the people around you. You don’t have to be in a leadership position for this, you just have to step into the fullness of who God made you to be.
8. You are not alone.
Walking onto these campuses, it felt like a small country, with its own traditions, culture and languages (what does ‘Roll Tide’ actually mean and why did Mississippi State have so many cow bells?). Yet, in a sea of people sharing in the same college experience, so many students we spoke to felt alone.
One day we gathered a group of believers from across the campus together in the same room – most did not know each other and didn’t realize there was an army of sisters on their campus who were also believers. The conversations in the room started off surface level, but as one began to vocalize her struggle in an area, another began to sympathize. Then, another shared their experiences in that same area. Soon, the room began to shift from isolation to community. When we left, the girls were already planning their next meeting together.
Sister or brother, if you are a believer on your campus, your other brothers and sisters need you! Let’s no longer buy into the lie that we are alone. As a body of believers, we are called to walk alongside each other, regardless of your major, the Greek letters on your shirt, or which part of campus you live in. Let’s remind our friends that they are not alone and let’s look around for those who might need a friend or sister, even if it feels uncomfortable. Come out of isolation and step into the beauty that community has to offer.
9. You are not your mistakes.
The truth is, we have ALL made mistakes. College students are facing pressures from voices that regularly remind them of those mistakes. But a different message was brought during our time there. The message that Jesus never reminds us of our mistakes but instead, he always reminds us of his victory on our behalf. He absorbs our mistakes and gives us newness of life.
10. God is at work on college campuses!
Be encouraged! God is at work across college campuses and we are celebrating! In dorms, in sorority houses, fraternity homes, in cars, in classrooms – the spirit of the living God is transforming lives. Join us as we continue to pray for revival on campuses, for students to come to know the freedom a relationship with Christ has to offer, and for the strengthening of the body of believers who are ministering on campus!