Marriage and family life can quickly drown out the memories of isolation and loneliness of when we were single. In fact, there may be days when you long for just five minutes alone and quiet. But what you may consider commonplace as a “day in the (maybe crazy) life” of your family, may be something a college-age person longs for. Connections with family life are a great experience during these years, either because they’re missed, or never experienced in the first place. Here are a few practical ways to invite college-age people into the semi-normal pace of family life:
- Around Your Table – You may think you’re simply inviting someone into the chaos of spilled milk and burnt lasagna, but shared meals actually accomplish far more than meets the eye. Many of our most formative and transformative conversations happen over food and around a shared table. Meals affect us, and connect us—physically, emotionally, even spiritually. Jesus could’ve spent His last night on earth doing a mass revival that would reach millions. But he didn’t. He spent it sharing a meal with 12 friends. Clearly, there’s something powerful about “breaking bread” together. More times than not, college-agers are grabbing a Pop-Tart for the road, or eating a microwave meal alone on their couch. So, what can seem commonplace to you (being with family, holding hands and saying grace, interruptions of a 3-year-old burping), can often be incredibly life-giving to them.
- To An Event – Birthday parties, lacrosse games, 4th of July picnic, movie night . . . these are all great opportunities to invite a college-age person into your family’s life. It can be as simple as a text saying, “Grillin-out in backyard. Doors open if you want.” Or “Leaving for church at 9. Feel free to ride with us.” The worst they can say is “No, thanks,” but I think you’ll be surprised at how often they’ll say “Yes,” and how meaningful such times can be.
- Into Your Life – All too often we mentor someone in a set place, for a set amount of time, dialoguing about a set topic (or book, or sermon series), all the while missing the teachable space of our lives. To be a good mentor is to be a whole person, not just an answer-man or a woman who tells you Bible verses at Starbucks every Monday. Let those you’re mentoring in to the things you’re wrestling with at work right now, or with God, or with a family member’s health, or parenting. These are your rhythms. Your realities. Your domains of learning to worship and see God in these places. And they have the potential to teach for more than we realize sometimes.
What do all these ideas have in common? A simple invitation. There’s nothing elaborate. Nothing ornate. Just a simple “ask” to be part of the normal everyday rhythms of your life and the ability to open up your heart, your home and your schedule to someone.