Six ways your church can support stressed-out students
It's exam season - Ruth Clemence offers practical tips to help ease the tension at this challenging time
Exam season is here again. Late night revision. Restless nights. A year’s worth of lessons crammed into the final weeks before tests galore. This pressure can lead to stress and worry which can impact revision, memory and performance. It can knock confidence, heighten emotions and unsettle the steadiest of nerves.
Nobody likes exams as far as I am aware. However Jesus Christ is a Wonderful Counsellor and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). There is peace and counsel in knowing Jesus.
How reassuring is that? The church has a responsibility to lead young people to encounter the risen Christ who is the hope and peace that can still the weary soul. If Jesus is at the forefront of the minds of students, they can enter His rest and face anything – including exams!
Alongside the peace and counsel that come from knowing Jesus, here are six ways that the church can practically help ease the tension at this challenging time:
Tell students their identity is not in what they achieve
Education is important. However, it should not define someone. Identity is not based on what we do. It should be freeing to realise that God has a plan for the life of each student whether or not they pass or fail. God has given gifts and abilities, talents and dreams, a hope and a future to each individual. Remind students of their gifts and encourage them in their strengths. See if you or someone in the church can help them in areas where they are struggling.
Demonstrate that excellence is important to God
Whatever we do, we should be doing it all for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whether that’s helping students by providing a quiet place to study, organising revision sessions in the church, or setting aside time to pray and read the bible when life gets busy, an example must be set in our own lives. Even though identity is not rooted in achievements, it is not an excuse for laziness (yes, it means giving the best in coursework and exams!) Set an example to all people. Live a life in pursuit of giving Christ the glory.
Invite students for a meal and ask how they’re doing
Students love food. That’s a no brainer! If they are at university they have either lived off quick and easy recipes, take-away or ready-meals or they cook ALL THE TIME. To give them a night off and a good meal is a real blessing. If they are still at home, it’s a welcome change of scenery and nice to talk to someone besides parents or siblings.
Jesus spent time with people over a meal and used the time to speak into their lives. Meals are a time to encounter Christ and to fellowship with one another. It’s a practical way to serve but also a time to ask how they are doing. Get to know them, the struggles and the triumphs they face, and everything in between. Be there. Love them like Jesus. And of course enjoy the food!
Pray for them and with them
Remember students in prayer. Spend time praying for those who you know personally. Pray that they will find time to rest in God alone and that they will not feel overwhelmed. Pray that they will be able to recall what they need to remember for their exams. Pray that they will grow in their faith during this time.
If you can, ask if you can pray with them, maybe in person or over the phone. It could serve as a real encouragement for them to hear the words you pray to God for them. Create a prayer request box for students to ask for prayer anonymously if they find that easier. They may want to leave their details in the box for follow-up. Make it accessible for young people to come forward.
Ask the audience and/or phone a friend
We’ve all seen the quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Sometimes it gets to that critical point to ask for some help on a specific area. The contestant can choose to phone a friend or ask the audience for their answer. It could make or break their climb to a million pounds! Thankfully, we are not trying to add more pressure to the stressed out student. We just want to support them as best we can.
The body of believers is made up of mathematicians, geographers, teachers, historians, cooks, DIY enthusiasts, child development experts (including parents and grandparents), sportsmen and women to name a few. We all have life experience in different fields. See if someone can help mentor and share their knowledge during this time. Maybe offer a Q&A session for students offering extra support and guidance during the exam period.
This is so important. Be available to students to help them in any way that you can. Listen to them. Pray for them. Practically assist them. See what they need and if you can directly meet that need. Let them know you are there. Be there for them throughout the whole year so that when this stressful time is upon them, they can turn to you in confidence because they know that you are available to help.
Picture: Death to the Stock Photo
Ruth Clemence graduated from Plymouth University in 2014 and blogs at The Mustard Seed. Ruth first started blogging in 2011 when she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19, and continues to write about faith today with the aim of pointing more people to Jesus Christ.
Follow Ruth on Twitter: @ruth_the_writer