Celebrate each step. Recognize that maturing spiritually is a process that takes time, and that each person is a work in progress. Don't wait until the college students that you mentor achieve a certain level of spiritual maturity before you celebrate their progress. Instead, rejoice with them whenever they take the next step God is leading them to take in their lives. Celebrate the steps they're taking rather than highlighting the ones they haven't yet taken.

Keep loving students even when they make mistakes. When the students you mentor mess up in some way (such as by cheating on an exam, getting drunk, or sleeping with someone they're dating), offer them unconditional love. Although you do want to encourage them to confess and repent of sin in their lives, you also need to show them that they can't outrun the reach of grace. Ask God to help you see them from His perspective.

Keep learning and growing yourself. If a student asks you a question that you can't answer, just admit that you don't know, and try to learn more together.  Let the students you mentor see how you're continuing to grow closer to God yourself, as He works in your life.

Invite college students to participate fully in your church. Invite students to worship services at your church, but go beyond just that.  Give them opportunities to tap into their desire to change the world for the better and use their God-given talents by serving the local community through church service projects. Let them know that you value their voices and abilities to help solve problems. Encourage them to play active roles in your church.

Adapted from The Slow Fade: Why You Matter in the Story of Twentysomethings, copyright 2010 by Reggie Joiner, Chuck Bomar, and Abbie Smith. Published by David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, Co., www.davidccook.com
Reggie Joiner is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of The reThink Group, a non-profit organization providing resources and training for churches. He is also the architect of the Orange Conference and one of the founders of North Point Community Church. He and his wife live in Cumming, Ga., and have four grown children. 
Chuck Bomar served for more than eight years as student/university pastor at Cornerstone in Simi Valley, California. Founder of CollegeLender.org and author of College Ministry 101, he is now senior pastor of Colossae in Portland, Or. He and his wife, Barbara, have two daughters. 
Abbie Smith wrote her first book, Can You Keep Your Faith in College?, while she was in college. She recently graduated from Talbot Seminary with a degree in spiritual formation and soul care and resides in Savannah, Ga., as a writer and spiritual director. 

Publication date: June 24, 2010