This post was written in the midst of our world experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it discusses topics specific to this time, its insights and scriptures can be appreciated at any time.
This is part one of a two-part series on relationship building for college students. Check out part two, which is geared towards men.
Being a college student can be one of the most fun and exciting times in life.
For some, you can eat as much as you want, stay up as late as you want, and sleep in as long as you want before starting your classes at 3 pm. For others, college is not exactly like this. Maybe you are working to put yourself through school.
At different times and in different ways, we all experience the ups and downs of being a college student. But one of the most meaningful parts of the college experience is the forging of relationships that last a lifetime.
God is both willing and able to give us a life with deep, profound, and close relationships.
While college is a unique opportunity to build great relationships, a lot of college students are actually very lonely, and that was before COVID-19 forced us all to shelter-in-place. In a 2017 survey by the American College Health Association, 64 percent of college students said they had felt “very lonely” in the last 12 months. That is why it is important for us to understand that God is both willing and able to give us a life with deep, profound, and close relationships.
In this study, we will cover 5 tips from the Bible for building close relationships for college students.
Tip 1: Be Spiritual
Seek God. When school is in session, you can feel the pull of the pressure of hanging with friends, going to class, studying and doing your homework. Let’s be real though – homework isn’t something many of us actually feel pressure to do until we see our grades.
For the time being, that has all changed. Classes and friendships are all virtual until further notice. But guess what? God is still the same and always available. No amount of weak WiFi can stop you from connecting with him.
“Listen, GOD, I’m calling at the top of my lungs: “Be good to me! Answer me!” When my heart whispered, “Seek God,” my whole being replied, “I’m seeking him!” Don’t hide from me now!” Psalm 27:7 MSG
He is Always Online. Make it a goal to spend quality time with God as David demonstrates in this Psalm. Consider what it must be like to seek God with your whole being, to give 100% intentional focus and commitment to get close to God. It can be both exhilarating and tiring to think about.
This is a great illustration of what it means to be spiritual – the consistent desire to be connected to God. When you are connected to God, being close to people will be your natural overflow (1 John 1:7). You will want to talk to people. You will let down and tell them what’s on your heart because you have gotten comfortable doing it with God.
- What is something you need to work on in order to be connected with God?
- What specific changes would you have to make daily to seek God wholeheartedly?
- Who can you team up with to help you make these changes?
Tip 2: Be Persistent
Building relationships starts with being available and consistent. It takes effort to initiate and to be deeply invested in someone else’s life. To persist in a friendship does not just mean we hang out regularly; it means that we decide to be all in and are willing to be a friend no matter what it takes or how long it takes to be close.
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,” Colossians 1:9 NIV
One of the ways we can persist in relationships is through prayer. Whether a relationship is easy or hard, praying for another person can help us think and care more deeply for them. We should continually pray and ask God to move in our friends’ lives to help them grow spiritually and to deepen their faith.
Oftentimes I struggle with being persistent in relationships because I focus on the faults or shortcomings of others or why I might be better off if I didn’t have to give to them.
I lose gratitude for God and the relationships He has put in my life that have helped me. It is in these times that I have to stop being focused on people and instead choose to be grateful for God.
When we pray persistently for others, God can give us a genuine care and concern for the things they are going through. God can reveal things and give us insight to know what questions to ask and how to be the friend they need.
- Who has God put in your life that you can be a friend to?
- How can you be consistent in the friendship and persist in prayer for them?
Tip 3: Be Vulnerable
Another way to build close relationships is by being vulnerable. I’ve found that it’s impossible to be close to someone when I’m unwilling to share my real emotions and thoughts. My best friends are the ones who have been there for me in my weakest and most vulnerable moments.
I remember a time in college after going through a break up and letting down with a few of my roommates. I felt embarrassed as I ugly cried and sat in despair on our living room floor. I felt so weak in that moment but it helped me to share how I really felt and my roommates were able to be there for me and help me through it.
In addition to expressing our emotions, we can also be vulnerable by sharing our thoughts, desires, fears, and insecurities. Some of the things I found important to talk about as a college student and particularly for women include: anxiety, guilt, addiction, past abuse, family dynamic, emotional health and physical health.
Relationships flourish when we decide to be open, honest, and fully known.
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also. 2 Corinthians 6:11-13 NIV
God intends for us to have close friendships. We can build close relationships when we open wide our hearts by saying everything that is in our hearts and in our minds. It can be scary to be vulnerable, but when we choose to do it, we can experience real relationships and inspire others to do the same.
If the thought of being vulnerable frightens you or you don’t feel like you have any close friends to talk to, I have always felt that sharing vulnerably with God gave me the courage to initiate this kind of depth in friendships. God can give us the power and desire to share with those around us (Philippians 2:13).
- What is an area of weakness or need that you can be honest about?
- Who can you be vulnerable with this week?
Tip 4: Be Creative
Building close relationships should be fun and creative. In college, we have the free time to think about others and to do things that can inspire and strengthen their faith.
“Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. 25 This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning. Hebrews 10:24-25 TPT
This scripture helps us understand that creativity is inspired by a heart to care and love. In this way, creativity is a spiritual quality that can help us build and connect with others in a loving way.
There are so many ways to creatively encourage others. You can start by finding out what someone is interested in and do that with them. You can also take time to express your gratitude for the relationship and share the things you really admire about the person.
Another way to encourage someone is to make a thoughtful card or prepare a Bible study. Calling up a friend you haven’t seen in a while to let them know you care and are interested in how they’re doing can make an incredible impact. The point is there are countless creative ways to be encouraging.
- Which friend in your life needs some encouragement?
- How can you be creative and do something to build their faith?
- What can you do to go out of your way to care for them?
Tip 5: Be Bold
Make HIS/HERstory. We are living in an historic period. The year 2020 made an incredibly disruptive entrance into our lives. We’ve lost several change makers like David Stern and Kobe Bryant, and the whole world has been shut down by the coronavirus. This current crisis is inspiring countless acts of boldness in many who stare down their fears in order to make a difference in people’s lives.
We should be bold as well. It’s in these moments, that people search and seek God because they realize that they are living in a world they cannot control and often beyond their capacity to handle.
“25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:25-27 NIV
Let’s help our friends see this as their time to seek God. Boldly, share your story of what made you seek God. Inspire them to give God a try.
- Which friends come to mind that you can inspire to seek God?
- Who can you share your story with today?
- Who can you do a Bible study with today?