Military People & University Students
Many military personnel and most university and college students are away from home for a long period of time
for the first time in their lives. Most are teenagers, some as young as 17 up through about age 25.
All service personnel and students are faced with daily temptations far beyond the understanding of most of us
not in their generation. At first it may be a little shocking to them, for although teenagers do come across much
temptation during high school days, they do not realize it will be so often and with such intensity among young people
away from home.
Many of these young people are still going through the growing-up stage of seeing for themselves if Mom and
Dad were right. They may take the exact opposite point of view and either discuss it or actually go out and do it,
thinking that they might have been told wrong. They are wanting to make the decision for themselves on what is right
or wrong as a part of entering their adulthood. If they were taught gambling was wrong and are not totally convinced
themselves, when on their own they may begin a little betting just to see first hand. This is not done in a spirit of
maliciousness but of experimenting with life to see what really is true.
Some young people are convinced of a moral just by someone they respect explaining it. Others want to see
examples of people on both sides. Still others have to try both ways themselves to see. This is a difficult time in a
young person's life, as well as those who love them and don't want to see them hurt. They are in need of supportive
adults during this time - supportive in helping them stand for good rather than experimenting with the bad.
Influences of people around them is extremely important during this time in their young adulthood. They feel
an intense desire to be accepted by their peers. Most of them are basically good young people. However, it only
takes one person daring the others to get a whole group doing things they would not ordinarily do alone.
So the challenges continue day after day in the realms of language, dress, sex, drinking, drugs, honesty, etc.
God warned of this very thing. He said through Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:8 and 6
Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with
the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens
the whole lump? Paul was writing this because there was a man committing a sin within the congregation and Paul
was afraid he would influence the others to follow his example.
Young people need encouragement in speaking out against what is wrong and in favor of what is good. One
way is to get them involved in good groups to develop their sense of being good examples. The Bible has several
accounts of young people being examples for good. Consider Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel in the first
few chapters of Daniel in the Old Testament. Consider Joseph as a young person in the house of Potiphar and in
the Egyptian prison as related in Genesis 38-41.
These young service personnel and college people have varying degrees of ambition and desire to better
themselves; but they all have it in some form. They are not generally associated with that part of young people's
society that sits and wants to be handed life's good things. They are willing to work for something. They are
intelligent and will for the most part become positive contributors to society. They can be taught to be positive
contributors to the Lord's work also.
If you live in a town that has a military base or college or university nearby, you have a great challenge
involving much work ~ all extremely rewarding if you can do it. Primarily what needs done is finding the Christians on
base or campus, getting them to come to worship services the first time, and then keeping them interested.
These military personnel learning to defend their country in various ways need to be and can be taught to
defend the greatest kingdom in the world, the kingdom of God, and with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of
God. These college students developing their minds through libraries full of books need to be taught to develop their
spirits through the library of the 66 books in the Bible.
It used to be that finding the Christians on the bases and campuses was not usually as hard a task as it may
seem at fist, even though there are thousands of people there. On a military base, you could go to the chaplain's
office and he could direct you to a source of names by religious affiliation. On a college or university campus, you
could go to the registrar's office and ask if there are listings by religious affiliation.
If neither of the above approaches is possible, you may have to try doing a religious survey of your own. If that
cannot be done, then ads on bulletin boards and base or campus newspapers should be placed. Any way you can,
get names and addresses.
Next, write them a letter. In it you may wish to say merely where the church building is, and invite them to
come. You may include a little tract in it that would be appropriate for them. If you do not know of any tracts for
military or college people who are Christians, perhaps someone in your congregation would be willing to write one
and have it printed.
Your first letter to them will bring out a very small percentage of the people you mailed it to, possibly five
percent. However, this will be your nucleus for further growth. These are the self-starters and will probably be the
strongest Christians you contact. When they come to services, plan to have them over to your home for a meal. Or
if there are more than you can handle, perhaps some other families would like to have part of them in their homes.
Being able to go to a home and not have to go back to the barracks or dormitory will be a welcomed change. Don't
worry about entertaining them. They will entertain themselves.
Never let your service or college people go back to the base or campus on Sunday afternoon to eat "chow"
alone or be too late to eat at all. Offer transportation from the building after that first visit if any had to take the bus,
a taxi, or hitch hike. Be available to pick them up for church meetings from then on if they need it.
Ask one or two if you can handle them to spend the weekend with you in your home ~ to sleep in a real
bedroom, have home-cooked meals, and real live children to delight them. Whenever your family goes on a picnic,
boating trip, etc., invite some of these lonely ones to go with you. You will be richly blessed for it. And try to look
them up on the base or campus occasionally if possible.
Leave openings for them to confide in you or your husband. Remember, life in the military or on campus
presents more temptations and problems than you may imagine unless you were once there yourself. Don't criticize
them for falling into temptation; do encourage them to keep trying to do right.
Just because the student or military person will only be with your community and congregation for a year or two,
do not omit them from doing Christian works with you. Some military people are only at a base for a few months.
Don't let this deter you, for months grow into years, and then where has their Christianity gone?
Some time soon after their first visit to your home, sit down with them, and go over with them the list of
Christians you found on the base or campus. Divide them up among everyone, so that everyone on your list is
visited that week and personally invited to services. It shouldn't take long to go through a dormitory or barracks of
the ones on their list.
You may double or triple the number of service personnel or students you have the next Sunday. Therefore,
plan ahead of time to have a potluck dinner for them if possible, which means each participating family would bring
twice as much as they would eat themselves. Have it inside if it is a cold or a rainy day; but don't miss the opportunity
to have it outside if at all possible. There is something warm and friendly about eating under God's blue cathedral
ceiling, with beams from the very trees themselves, and a chandelier made of the sparkling, glittering sun.
After the meal, you may wish to sit in a circle and talk about what it is like being a Christian in the military or on
campus. It will be good for the students to see that they are not alone in their temptations, and in their trying to live
the way God would be proud of them. They may wish to give each other suggestions on how to handle certain
problems that arise in certain groups or classes. Be sure to show them examples from the Bible who had similar
problems and how they handled or failed to handle them. Indeed, the Bible contains at least one example of every
kind of problem known to man, then and now.
Some Bible examples of young people with problems to face are Noah's sons, Joseph, David, Solomon, Josiah,
Vashti, Esther, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Timothy, Titus.
Friday and Saturday nights are the hardest of the week if a single person has nowhere to go out. Set one of
these nights aside every week for these young people to all get together for a meal, followed by some sort of
A possible Saturday night event may be an open house in your home. You could request that anyone who
comes bring a snack to share. Just make your home available for people to pop in and out starting around 7:00 until
whenever. You would not be entertaining them; they'd be strictly on their own ~ bring games, watch a video, play the
piano, play pool or whatever.
These young people may have some ideas on how to interest those who have not yet started attending worship
services and Bible classes. They will doubtless think primarily of forms of entertainment to attract them. But you
could also guide them in thinking of some forms of Christian service that may attract them. Remember, one of the
reasons people do not come to services is because it has always been "such a bore." What are some forms of
Christian service you might help them consider?
They could practice singing hymns together, and then go to a nursing home or senior residence to sing.
Young ladies can do this alone, or there may be a mixed group. While at the home, they could check to see if they
could do this on a regular basis, every Sunday if possible. (For further details, see the chapters on nursing homes
and senior housing.) Naturally, after they are through singing, they should make sure everyone in the home is
visited for at least five minutes each. It may be that the group or part of the group will want to take the home as a
The group may wish to go to the private homes of some homebound individuals and hold a worship service with
them every Sunday afternoon. If you are blessed with a large group, they could divide up and go to one or two
When was the last time anyone did a religious survey in your town to find wayward Christians or people with no
religious affiliation? Or how about choosing a large apartment complex and leaving a tract or flier and personally
inviting people to attend service? Young people are full of insatiable energy. They could begin on a Saturday
morning, come to the building for lunch, and go back out a few hours that afternoon.
Perhaps once a month on a different Friday night, the young people could have a dinner party for the older
members of your congregation and their friends, and/or any senior citizens you know of in the community. They may
wish to invite an entire senior citizens club. It is often lonely on Friday nights ~ or any other night ~ for them too.
This would be a good time to teach the young ladies to cook for crowds. The young men could arrange the tables
and pick up guests at home.
If there is a special school or class in your town for mentally handicapped children, your young people may wish
to send out invitations for them to come to a little party once a month, perhaps one of the Friday nights. The young
people could make favors for them. After refreshments, perhaps someone good at story telling could tell them a little
bit about God and how much he loves them. The regular teacher of those children could give you further ides on
how to work with that particular group of youngsters. You could win the hearts of these parents forever if you took
such an interest in the mentally handicapped child, so often neglected by society ~ and possibly win the souls of the
The young people may wish to go around to each of the businesses in your community to ask if it would be all
right to place a tract rack in their business. More than you may think would be willing to do this. Once you have a
number of businesses, they can build the racks to be either hung on a wall or set on a counter. Then don't forget to
go back and replenish them every week or two.
Are there any widows, single-again women, or service wives whose husbands are gone and need work done on
or around their houses? Those permanently with no husband especially could use some help with this. Perhaps
these young adults could take one whole Saturday afternoon spring cleaning or winterizing.
Paint the house and fence with donated paint, wash the windows, trim the lawn around the sidewalks, clean out
the gutters, clean the garbage pails, clean the carpets, wash the curtains, move the furniture around if desired, clean
out the cupboards (only if they want it done), clean their oven, repair the leaks in the roof, put up or take down storm
windows. Doing this for a birthday would be a wonderful love gift. Periodic checks of the automobile are much
needed and appreciated also.
Be prepared to think of some way a widow can "repay" or thank you, for she will likely want to do something,
even if it is small. Do not deprive her of the opportunity of doing something for you in turn. If she likes to bake ~ and
many older women do ~ hint how much you love home-made cookies. Or whatever she can do well, drop a hint or
two how good she must be at doing that. Even better, if she would be willing, she could "repay" you by baking the
cookies for someone who is shut in, and passing on the love gifts.
Of course, she may not be able to do anything for anyone else but express her desire to do just something,
anything. In that case, when she brings it up, ask her to say a special prayer for all of you every day. This is about
as special a gift as she could ever give you!
Do not overlook the older widowers. There don't seem to be as many, but they often need as much help with
Is the church building near a shopping center? Ask your elders if the young people can put up signs all over
the center that free child care is available from 12:30 to 3:30 every Saturday afternoon. Under this, mention that no
food will be served. You could set up a regular schedule, much like a Vacation Bible School. Here is a suggested
12:30 Sing Bible songs and act them out
1:00 Tell or read a Bible story, or show a Bible video and follow with questions to see how much they learned
1:30 Color a picture about the lesson
2:00 Have the children put on headdresses like Bible people and act out the story
2:30 Make a little favor reminding them of the story, like a fish, or star, or treasure, or crown
3:00 Sing songs again and talk about their families
3:30 Time to go home
Tell parents ahead of time that only those who pick up their children on time may bring them back the following
week. You'll have to have this rule to avoid being taken advantage of by a few.
But oh the marvelous opportunities to teach the Bible you could have with such a group of children. Several of
them may influence their parents and older brothers/sisters to attend Bible study and worship in that same building
Is there a section of your town that is full of under privileged children? If so, make a special effort with them. If
there is a park near them, knock on doors and pass out printed invitations to join you at the park on Saturday
afternoon at 1:00 for a kind of day camp. (You may have to get permission from the Park Commission.)
Have organized play. If a few show up, keep the group together. However, if many show up, divide up into age
groups. Play lawn games such as kick ball, keep away, cat and mouse, farmer in the dell, Simple Simon among the
younger ones. Have a baseball game or volley ball with the older ones. Perhaps the Parks and Recreation
Department would be willing to lend you equipment if you need any.
After the games, sit on the ground with the group and ask them if they have heard the Bible story about
______. Then proceed, with their help as much as possible, to tell the story to them. You could possibly assign a
praise phrase, or an animal sound or something for them to say in unison whenever the story calls for it.
Do not make the story very long, for their attention span sitting still outdoors is short. Have a small New
Testament to read a scripture or two about the story, perhaps for them to memorize.
End with a couple songs about the Bible. Then ask them how many would like to go to Sunday school the next
day (on the bus if you have one). Probably they will all raise their hands. Write down their names, addresses and
phone numbers. Then tell them you will call them in the morning to see for sure if they can come and can be ready.
No doubt these youngsters will really mean it when they raise their hands and tell you they want to go, and be
very enthusiastic at the time. But after you leave, the enthusiasm will wear off. So Sunday morning they may either
forget, or their parents will forget or object. Call them at least one hour before time to pick them up to ask them if
they still want to go.
Then you or the bus go by a good hour before Bible study starts, for there may even be some you will have to
wait for or even go in and help get dressed quickly the first couple times. Tell the parents when you expect to be
back. If you use a bus instead of cars, have someone available to lead songs and have bible drills to keep earlier
passengers occupied in a productive and controlled manner.
Escort them to their classes when they arrive, and try to keep them quiet and from running. Leave your own
class early if you did not stay with them, to be there when they dismiss. Next show them the restrooms and drinking
fountains. Then go with them to the auditorium for worship. Explain the order of the service and what kinds of things
they will be expected to do - sing, pray with their eyes closed, be quiet, listen. After services, introduce them to some
of the grown ups, and then escort them to the car or bus.
If the families of these youngsters have not previously attended worship services anywhere for a matter of
years, the likelihood of their doing so now is slim. However, do not overlook them. Every now and then invite them.
If they do not have a Bible, buy them one if possible. Write the Bible Society for your country for inexpensive ones if
you like. If the parents never do attend, at least you planted the seed. Do stick with the children; make Christianity
ingrained in them, so that when they're grown, they will not depart from it.
These are just a few of the things you could guide the college students and young service personnel to do for
their Lord as a group. Help them see that Christianity is not being served, but serving others. You can make your
home and your talents available to them. Above all, make Christianity a living thing to these young people; for if it is
not living, it is dead. There are no other alternatives. And the parents of these young people in the military or at
college will bless you for what you have done to encourage their young people away from home!