Preparing your students for college – Brian Mills

Lee Lethers Podcast

It is never too early to begin to prepare your students for college. In this episode, Brian talks with Brian Mills about what you can do to prepare them. Brian is the College Pastor at Cross Church in Fayetteville, AR where he ministers to over 1,000 students. Prior to that, he was  a Student Pastor. He is also the co-author of A Different College Experience.

Q: What would you like to tell youth pastors about the college world?

A: Thank you for investing in students and parents. Students are very effective when they come into college equipped by a good youth pastor.

Become laser focused in discipleship to equip them for college. Send students out hunting, rather than just teaching them to fish.

Current trends in college students: (supported by research in the book, iGen)

  1. The Rise of the None (as in “none of the above” when you fill in your religious affiliation on paperwork) – Students do not care to give religious identity a thought. However, when you begin talking to them about faith and life, they open up and their minds start working through it. It is amazing to see.
  2. Mental Health – The unhealthiness of mental capacity is on the rise, including more feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety. Students are mentally unhealthy. The book iGen pinned this trend back to 2007, the same year the iPhone was invented. Students may not come to you to talk about mental health, but they appreciate you bringing it up. All their middle and high school career, students have had Instagram, spending so much time on a device that they become isolated. They are not really hanging out with anybody, not learning to talk and create community. God designed community to help create a healthy mental state. Much of anxiety comes from self-centered thinking and control, which social media feeds into like crazy.
  3. Relationships – Develop a deep faith in discipleship so they can live like they truly believe it. Teach them how to have a healthy community so they do not fall into an unhealthy mental state. Ben Trueblood’s work found that students who have multiple adults in their life have a better chance of staying healthy and connected in church. Teach them healthy views of relationships, sex, and address the pornography issue. Students do not know how a godly man or woman acts in the role parenthood, marriage, friendships or in dating relationships.

Q: What are the dating struggles you see in the college students you minister to?

A: They do not know what a healthy relationship is, and students only do what they know. They can struggle to communicate in a relationship, but also grow tremendously in this area when they learn to do so.

Students do not have a healthy view of sex or temptation. Often couples stay at each other’s apartment thinking that nothing will happen. They need to grow a healthy respect for how strong temptation is to avoid foolish sinful moments.

Pornography is destroying relationships. Start addressing this with the students and parents by 6th grade, or sooner if you can.

These struggles are much of the reason we wrote A Different College Experience, so students could have a resource to empower them to truly live a different college experience. And I am watching kids do it. They can follow Christ in college and be healthy.

Q: What can youth pastors do to prevent students from wandering away from the church?

A: Recognize that students are wandering away from the church. Re-evaluate how you should redistribute discipleship to best equip them with a detailed faith in preparation for their future.

Figure out how to stay a youth pastor through your student’s freshman year of college. Reach out to your college freshman and follow-up with them. Make sure your students are doing what you discipled them to do. Own responsibility for that student for one more year.

Connect your student’s future college pastors with the students coming their way. Share their contact information and ask the college pastor to follow-up with your students.

Last Thoughts for youth pastors:

Do not give up on your college students after they walk away. They might come back the very next semester. “We reach a college campus, we change the culture of America.”

For More Information:

A Different College Experience by Brian Mills and Ben Trueblood – Our book can be found anywhere books are sold. runs a special, $8.50/book so you can buy it in bulk. A lot of churches have bought A Different College Experience as a senior gift for their students, and we love that. They are providing students with a roadmap as they go into college.

Connect with Brian – follow him @Brianmills247 on social media

Connect with Ben Trueblood – @BenTrueblood on social media.

We will both respond and help in any way we can to help further the conversation.

(Brian Mills was also previously a guest on the Multiply! Podcast in episode 6.)

Word of Life would love to help you focus on discipling your students, just like Brian mentioned. Check out our resources for student ministry at