The two credit card applications I expected. The handwritten letter was a surprise.
It was my first day on campus as a college freshman. With the help of my parents and two RAs, all of my belongings had been carried from my Toyota to my dorm room that morning. I had unpacked my clothes, plugged in my Macintosh computer (a light-grey tower about the size of three cereal boxes), spread out my new blue and white bedspread, and strategically placed my Bible on a visible but not too obvious shelf above my desk.
About the time I was wondering what to do next, my roommate walked in. I immediately liked Tammy. Not only was she cheerful and friendly, but she was also a Christian (a rarity at my college) who was taller than me (I’m six feet tall, so that’s even more of a rarity). A few other freshmen on our floor swung by our room and asked us if we wanted to walk a few blocks with them to check our PO boxes. Not having anything pressing to do and wanting to get to know our floormates, Tammy and I agreed.
Upon opening my PO box, I immediately discarded the two credit card brochures. My mom had warned me about those.
As I chucked the applications, I was surprised to find a handwritten note. It was from Pamela, one of the high school small group leaders in my home church. The week before I had packed up my car for the drive to college, Pamela had asked my mom for my new school address. She wasn’t even my small group leader, but she knew enough about life at college that she wanted a cheerful greeting from home to be waiting for me.
I walked back to my dorm room and taped that note from Pamela to the right of my mirror. Her note stayed there until Christmas, a daily reminder that my home church was thinking about me and praying for me. I had not been forgotten.
Too many college students not only feel forgotten, they forget about their faith. Multiple studies indicate that almost 50% of youth group graduates—like those from your church or maybe even your own family—drift from God and the church after graduation. To try to reverse that trend, we at the Fuller Youth Institute have studied over 500 young people, 50 families, and 150 churches to try to unearth what parents and leaders could do to give young people a faith that lasts, or what we call “Sticky Faith”.
According to our research, the type of note I received as a college freshman can strengthen a young person’s faith. In the twenty-five years since I opened that mailbox, technology has expanded the quantity and quality of pipes we can use to shower high school graduates with our care and concern. Our research team recently heard from Sheila, a mom who asked a number of her church friends to write to her son Matthew, who was heading to a college fifteen hundred miles from home. A week later Matthew posted on Facebook, “I’ve only been at college for a week, and I have already received countless letters, texts, and posts from my home church. Thank you all so much! Every letter has encouraged me to keep my faith strong. With all the ‘options’ out there at college, it’s comforting to know that I have a church family back home supporting me and my beliefs. If you haven’t written to a college student yet, I encourage you to do so. It will make their day!”
To Sheila’s delight, Matthew received letters from folks she hadn’t directly asked to write him. Upon hearing from others about her invitation, they had decided to pick up a pen to let Matthew know that while he was out of sight, he wasn’t out of mind.
How have you used mail to help build Sticky Faith in young people?
Enter to Win Kara Powell’s new book The Sticky Faith Guide For Your Family + A Family Meal Deal from Papa Murphy’s!