By Beth R. Bailey
As I walked into the door of Agora Coffee Shop in Fredericksburg, Virginia, I felt a sense of home, a sense of why many college students love to study, talk and read in this quaint coffee shop. I was meeting a Mary Washington student, Jessica, for coffee and to catch up. The moment Jessica came into the shop, her face lit up. We ordered our drinks and sat down at a table at the back of the shop. For about an hour we chatted about how her classes were going, the study abroad experience doing an archaeological dig in Romania, and thinking about her next steps for graduate school. At the end of our time together, she said, “You know, I really enjoy every time you come and visit me. I look forward to it.” I was at a loss for words. This was the exact reason I did this during my seminary reading weeks in the fall and spring. This is why I decided to start these “College Tours” in the first place. I wanted to bring a sense of River Road Church, Baptist, a sense of “home” to each of our young adults in college.
In the spring of 2022, I started the “College Tour” for RRCB young adults who had graduated from the youth group and are in college nearby in Virginia and North Carolina. Having been a teacher prior to attending seminary, I was taught that in order to care for your students you need to meet your students where they are. I think this is true for ministry as well, especially young adult ministry. If we are to minister with our young adults in our churches and beyond, we have to meet them where they are – physically and spiritually. It is physically impossible for a lot of the students I serve to attend their home church more than a few times a year, so why not go to them? Some of our students have found churches near their colleges and still request to have coffee during these College Tours. Providing a sense of home, someone who knows who they are, and loves them simply for who they are and not for what they achieve is hard to come by when starting college. These College Tours also provide a space for me to get to know our students on a deeper level by visiting where they do life.
I didn’t think how simply meeting for coffee with students could impact them and also impact my own spiritual journey. Not only have I created stronger relationships with each of our students, but they have also taught me the importance of being intentional with time and that they still want to be connected to RRCB. Every time I have a reading week or spring break for seminary, I now look forward to the trek through Virginia or North Carolina to visit each of the students. I look forward to simply sitting down and meeting for coffee.
Beth Bailey serves as the Seminary Intern for Young Adults at River Road Church, Baptist in Richmond, VA. She is currently a 2nd year Master of Divinity student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond. Recently, she was awarded the CBF Vestal Scholarship.
I really enjoyed your post about “College Tours”. It’s an excellent idea, but putting that aside, the description you provided in the early part of the post really captured my heart. As I read it, I had a feeling of “home”. Please keep writing!