Adopt an Aggie is making a comeback. The long-standing tradition of  A&M UMC families providing support to college students went on hold during COVID-19. Now it’s back after a three-year hiatus – and better than ever.

Instead of resurrecting the program as soon as in-person worship resumed, A&M UMC decided to first spend time to assess the effectiveness of the ministry.

“We sat down this past year,” College Pastor Bryan Jody said. “We wanted to look at who our church was and how we can better serve students.”

While Adopt an Aggie had been a successful ministry, the congregation found a few weak spots. For instance, a student might connect with a family, and then the family would be away for a semester. Or a student might sign up and ultimately never engage with a family.

A solution, Jody said, was found. Instead of pairing a student with one family, this year, groups will be formed of four students with four adults.

That way, if an adult is out of town, the students will still have others to call. Jody explained that the adoptive families might give a ride to their Aggies, who do not always  have their own cars. The adults are ready to help if a crisis arises – or even to deliver needed supplies.

The idea, Jody said, is for the Aggie to have a whole extra family to help them through college. Most of the students in the program are freshmen.

“Some of these students are leaving home for the first time,” he said. “It’s hard – and it can be terrifying. It’s a lot easier if you have three other students and four adults you can connect with.”

Parishioners who want to adopt must be ready to make a year-long commitment – to support, provide guidance and encourage their students. Already 90 members have expressed interest.

Jody said that the church will work to make the best matches between students and adults. Perhaps they will share a career interest, a major or a hometown.

A&M UMC will host a couple of congregation-wide events for the students and their adoptive families each semester. Each group of eight will be seated at the same table.

An information session about the program was held on Aug. 9. Then, students moved into their dorms on Aug. 17. Two days later, the campus wide Howdy Week welcomed all to the university.

“We threw a big tailgate at our church,” Jody said. “Our church members were cooking all day.”

On Sept. 10, A&M UMC hosts Student Joining Sunday, when Aggies are invited to join the church or become affiliate members. A luncheon will be held that day – and the families and their Aggies can meet for the first time.

From that moment on, students will know that they have a supportive adult awaiting their call. “We don’t want the students to feel like they’re doing this alone,” Jody said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Lasting connections have formed over the years. “Life-long relationships have been forged from this,” Jody said. “There are people who have been connected for a decade because of Adopt an Aggie.”

He hopes that the outpouring of love and fellowship will demonstrate to the Aggies what church is all about. “This is a really powerful way to show students what the local church should be,” he said. “Our congregation members are going to receive a student and pour everything they can into them. If that’s not church, I don’t know what is.”

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