College Students and the Mainline
If I was to propose how to attract students and encourage their development in the church, it would be to make funding for campus ministry a priority. Most campus ministries I've talked to, don't just face lower budgets; several face the prospects of closing down.
Churches are apt to want to support young adult programs through their parish (and yes they count practically everyone under 40 for this), but not in supporting an campus ecumenical ministry, especially if they don't see the immediate payoffs for their congregation.
The problem is that I've never seen such a program actually attract students. It takes a committment, a person responsible for engaging campus and attracting students. Parish student ministries also end up abdicating the religious public square on their campus.
We've just recently lost one campus ministry in Illinois and others are on the precipice, and this I can't imagine that this is unique for our state. In their place, evangelical para church groups have been filling the need becoming the public face for Christianity.
A good number of students, interested in religion, find that the current public face of Christianity is one they cannot sign on to, either head off to other religions or drop from any religion at all. We can't assume that they'll come back after they have children.
Unfortunately, some campus ministries have substituted left wing politics for ministry. I speak as a lefty who is committed to social witness. It's just that it isn't enough. An anti-war protest alone cannot attract or sustain a Christian community of students.
Christian programing from worship, bible studies, things which connect students to the tradition is needed. And so we have some ministries with little or no students, and one can see why some mainline churches would rather fund other programs.
So besides funding, some greater level of connection between the denominations, campus ministries, and local churches to engage in some intentional discussion on how to outreach to students, provide for their needs, and build a mainline presence on campus is needed.
Local churches should see their campus ministry as their ministry. Denominations should see campus ministry as vital and important as any local congregation. And campus ministry should see student outreach and Christian formation as central, not a peripheral, goal.