Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 11.33.20 AMWe all know college has become an important and, in many cases, a necessary step for people to take in our culture. In 1950 only about 9% of 18-24 year olds were attending degree granting schools (which included those attending high school) whereas today 77% of 18-24 year olds are attending degree granting institutions (not including high school – for source click here). However you look at this and whatever we think might be the cause of such an increase, this is a massive cultural shift. Over the course of this trend there have been waves and cycles that have effected a number of things in both the Church as well as culturally, both too long to discuss in this post (to read more of on this subject, click here). For this post, I would simply like to share one shift in how college is viewed that I see having a tremendous impact on how we can minister to college-age people.

Put simply, the shift is that fewer people view a college degree as a right of passage.  What does this mean? Well, the bottom line is people/employers/etc are less concerned with a degree and more concerned with experience – or at least we are moving that direction. The shift that is beginning doesn’t necessarily negate a college degree, but the key is to realize it’s not limited to it. Actual work experience will increasingly become the most critical element in our culture.

I consult with churches, denominations as well as businesses that hire recent college grads. And although the degree can be important for many positions, employers are starting to see the benefit of hiring people with experience over those with degrees.

Does this mean employers are devaluing a degree? Not entirely, but it is losing some value.

It used to be that a college degree was a right of passage into the workforce. For lack of better terms, it was viewed (and still is in some cases) as a ‘hoop’ to get through to do what you want to do. It was viewed this way by all parties – parents, children and employers. Not to take away from the necessity of a degree for most middle-class suburbanites, but the reality is fewer people want to just get a degree…and I believe you will continue to see fewer and fewer employers viewing a degree as a necessity for positions in their company.

So, what does this mean for those of us in ministry?

Here are 2 things you might consider doing in your church with this in mind:

  1. Emphasize and promote work experience. Encourage college students to get work with organizations like GroupMissionTrips.  Organizations like this would give perhaps the most important “work experience.” That is, experience with leading and organizing people. If someone wants to be an engineer, this probably won’t be the biggest factor in an engineering firm hiring someone. But there are a lot of businesses that see experience like this as a HUGE benefit.
  2. Make intentional connections for students. Connect the students you know to real life people that are actually doing what your students want to do. Encourage older individuals in your church to offer internships and maybe even consider going to larger businesses in your area and ask if they have any internships available for students…and then you be the one to make the connection!

People Are Not A Target

 —  September 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 9.59.39 AMSome leaders try to figure out what attracts younger people to a church…but it’s another thing to actually provide belonging for them. Let’s look at that from a little different perspective. Just getting two people from two different generations to sit in the same room at the same time does not mean they are connecting in meaningful and sustainable ways. There is much more to ministry with people. We all know that. We just need to embrace it at the most practical levels. I do a lot of consulting and much of that is with churches or denominations that are trying to figure out how to “reach” younger generations. Some people say “millennials,” some say “college students,” and I’ve recently had a leader tell me they were trying to reach Gen-X. Regardless of terminology, there seems to be a heart to include younger people. It’s encouraging to see people of “older” generations not satisfied with few younger people being around them. But, I would say…if we view younger generations (whatever term we use to describe them) as a “target” to reach or hit…we will surely miss. In church-world I often hear phrases like “we are targeting…” and I get questions worded this way where someone is asking me about the “target audience” we are trying to reach in our church. But, dare I say, this dehumanizes people and reduces them to a stat that fits a desired metric that justifies our position. 

We are talking about human beings, not a demographic to be reached.

Now, I certainly understand the idea of “demographics” and generational distinctions (I’ve written a bunch about generational distinctions.) and using these terms does not necessarily mean we care more about our quantitative metrics than we do relationship. However, I am always concerned about the heart for people being lost in how we talk about and evaluate and program how we go about things in the Church today. I will follow this up with another post sooner rather than later, but for now let me just say this: if we want to help younger people gain a sense of belonging in the Church, we have to take the time to treat them as a human being. And that starts with how we describe them.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 7.35.43 AMYesterday I picked up a rental car (see right) that was, well, small. It was quite humorous actually. I brought Jared with me, he is one of the pastors on my staff. We were in this car for over 5 hours yesterday, and although it was quite uncomfortable it was also a source of much laughter.

One of the things we laughed most about was how HORRIBLE the sound system was. It sounds like the speakers are sitting at the bottom of a toilet.

Anyway, we wanted to listen to some music so I said, “Let’s only play music that would even sound good on these speakers.”  So, here are the artists we listened to on our drive. Some of them you may be aware of but I would be surprised if you’ve heard of them all. But, you should. Gifted people to say the least. 3 of these artists are from the Portland area (where I live) and one is not. So, here they are and a little bit about each:

  1. Beautiful Eulogy - a compilation of three artists: Braille, Odd Thomas and Cortland Urbano. This group of artists writes some of the most theologically-centered rap I’ve honestly ever heard. Their latest album is called Instruments of Mercy and you should definitely check it out – click here. They play all over Portland and are loved by all who listen…mostly non-Christian. At the end of each of their sets they always offer themselves for conversation, and there is much fruit from their ministry.
  2. Liz Vice – another Portland based artist who can flat out sing her heart out. Her music is…get this…a folky sound mixed with an old school gospel. Her album is called There’s A Light. To check her out, click here.
  3. Andy Mineo – this guy is said to be one of the best free style rappers…in the world! Now, you may disagree with that…until you actually hear him freestyle. Until then, if you like rap music, you should definitely check him out. Click here to check out his latest full length album, Heroes.
  4. Josh Garrels – a Portland-based guy who’s lyrics and rhythms will blow you away. His latest album, Love and War was voted the Christian album of the year. Josh is an incredible writer with lyrics that are so deep theologically that you have to stop and chew on them a bit from time to time. Click here to check him out.

And let me just say again…each of these artists even sounded good coming out of the “toilet bowl” our speakers were in :-)

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.04.12 PMI have written a bit about the issue of school debt and how detrimental I believe it can be for people. But it’s not just me, there is more and more research about the negative long term effects of school debt. More on that in a minute.

I just know many people who wish they would’ve handled getting loans differently; many wish they never did it. On the other hand, I have a friend that is very thankful he went into debt. He is a brain surgeon, so his wages are far beyond the normal person. I would like to share an article I recently read about this issue that I think you would be interested in regardless of where you fall on the spectrum. But before I do that, here are 5 things I commonly tell high school/college students when they are trying to figure out whether they should take out loans:

  1. Consider spending time talking with people who have debt to gain real life insights into the experience you will have paying back the money. (Hint: It usually takes 15-20 years.)
  2. Consider taking 5 to 8 years to complete your bachelor’s degree so that you can work and pay your way through (or at least a big portion of it). I personally did this, taking 6 years to work my way through.
  3. Consider attending a community college the first couple years to get general education out of the way.
  4. Consider going to a state school versus a private school.
  5. Consider applying for as many scholarships as possible, regardless of where you go to school.

Even though the price of a college education continues to rise (for many reasons!), there are still options to get through school with minimal, if any, debt.

I recently came across an article about a Gallup project that found the well being of people with school debt to be less than those without school debt in the following 4 areas: purpose, community, financial and physical health. In fact, the article states people with debt to be “struggling” or “suffering” in these 4 areas. Granted, school debt may be the only means for some to obtain a degree, but the long-term effects are beginning to be realized.

Here is one direct quote from the article: “Gallup noted that even after controlling for socioeconomic status (using the common proxy of the mother’s highest level of education), the most indebted graduates still had lower ratings in well-being.”

How does your experience relate to this?

Chuck / @chuckbomar

Be sure to share this article with college students you work with/minister to. Also, check out LIVE College, an editable curriculum designed specifically for college-age students!

In my last post I discussed three relational shifts needed if we are to actually disciple younger generations.

Here, I want to discuss some bigger picture perspective shifts that are necessary. Now, to be clear, these are shifts from what might be known as a “traditional” understanding of discipleship.  In other words, here are three shifts of how we think about it:

  1. From Inside To Including Outside. Traditionally we have separated discipleship from evangelism. We have done this in our programs, in our language and many churches have even done so in their values. But in Matthew 28 Jesus clearly is not defining “making disciples” as Christian to Christian relationships. He is clearly not telling them to go and disciple each other. There is nothing in their experience that would’ve led them to believe that was what Jesus was saying. This shift is no longer allowing ourselves to believe that discipleship is just an “inside” thing.
  2. From Content To Living Example. When we think of discipleship we usually think from the context of a program…or if not, from the premise of content where we begin by thinking about specific doctrines or truths or books that we would want to help someone understand better. However, younger people are not necessarily looking for more content. They certainly want to learn, but the inward desire is to learn from exposure to someone’s living example. The disciples would not have left the conversation with Jesus in Matthew 28 and thought they should meet with someone once a week and go through some content. They would’ve left thinking they needed to go do what they’ve seen done…someone living out what he knew. This of course included content, but it stemmed from experience in life.
  3. From Country to People. In Matthew 28 Jesus says to make disciples of all ethnos - which is where we get our word ethnicity. Somehow we have thought about this as countries. I know it’s mostly translated as nations but it’s really people groups. And, to the first point above, this was radical because it was all people outside of their religious relational circles. This is a critical shift if we want to engage younger generations!

Chuck / @chuckbomar

* Check out great discipleship materials that Simply Youth Ministry has to offer. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 10.04.16 AMOver time things always change…even things in the Church. Some people choose not to change, but others do. There is always a place for both sides of that fence in the Church, but I want to talk about 3 shifts necessary for “discipling” younger generations. These shifts are not earth shaking realizations, but they are in fact different from how older generations have traditionally approached discipleship.

Here I will issue 3 shifts in the context of relationships and how we approach them. Next post will be 3 shifts in the context of “perspective.” There is more to the latter so I will elaborate in the next post on that.

The 3 shifts in relational approach are:

  1. From Information to Wisdom. Wisdom is gained through experience of embracing what we already know. The shift is a big one. It’s a shift from the mentor prepping content to bring someone through…to the mentor becoming a learner of what the other person is processing through and then, when appropriate, offering wisdom from their experience. This where biblical truth comes in. The shift is really from the mentor driving the topics of study to the other person driving the topic of conversation.
  2. From Fixing to Mutual Fascination. Far too often we look at people who “need” to be discipled as a problem to be fixed. The shift is from fixing a person to befriending a person. It’s a shift in relationship that is simply centered on being mutually fascinated with what God has done and is doing in each others lives.
  3. From Teaching to Mutual Transformation. Younger people aren’t looking to be “taught” as much as they are looking to grow and be changed. The reality is when two people become mutually fascinated with what God has done and is doing in each other’s lives…they are also mutually transformed!

- Chuck / @chuckbomar

*Need effective discipleship materials? Check out all the resources for discipleship that Simply Youth Ministry has to offer! 

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 11.09.03 PMSo, I am speaking at a camp this week to a group of just over 1,000 high school students. It’s going well, and I always enjoy speaking here. Last night was “decision night” where the camp has it somewhat designated as the time where we invite people to make a “decision to follow Christ” for the first time. It’s a time of both excitement and caution for me.

Every time I teach and am asked to call students to some type of “decision” I always tell the counselors that I am not going to be around afterward to talk to students. I do this for a few reasons and always tell the counselors:

  1. I’m usually not helpful. I’m not suggesting I can’t offer helpful advice or counsel to someone, but rather that me being the person they talk to is not usually the most helpful for that person. The truth is some people (especially kids) just want to talk to me because I’m the person speaking. I find it much more helpful for those students to talk to someone who will actually be back home with them next week.
  2. I want to protect myself. I don’t want to gauge the success or failure of the night on the amount of people that stayed behind. I always tell people I need to evaluate whether I was clear with God’s message or not and then rest in that alone.

People are usually gracious and respectful of my position on this.

That said, last night people did make a decision to accept Jesus’ invitation to follow him in his ways. I know camps and a lot of people in ministry seem to celebrate the number of “decisions made,” but I wonder if that’s a good metric…?  I certainly don’t think it’s a bad one. People were at a point where they articulated their desire to follow Jesus – how can that be a bad thing?!

That said, I’m not convinced it’s a good metric…or, at least not one where we should get overly excited about. I mean, isn’t the proof really yet to be seen? I think it’s an awesome thing that many kids “decided” to follow Jesus for the first time last night and I would say that should be celebrated…but it’s quite possible that many of those kids won’t hold to it once they leave this environment where it’s actually cool to follow Jesus. The reality is high school students find their identity in their social atmosphere…and this atmosphere holds following Jesus as a very high value. I’m not questioning the authenticity of their decision…but I am a bit cautious (not skeptical!) with the sustainability of the decision because of the environment it’s in.

Now, let me clarify. I’m not demeaning anything God can and does do at camps or in “decision times.” And I’m certainly not saying we should abstain from doing them.

All I’m saying is I’m not sure its a metric we should hype too much or measure our success or failure in. I’ve taught what I thought to be clear presentations of the gospel and have had almost nobody respond. I’ve also taught what I thought to be clear presentations and have had a ton of people respond. This is why I don’t use the metric of the quantity of “decisions made” for speaking or in ministry in general.

What are you thoughts?

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 10.50.39 AMJesus announced the Kingdom (or literally, God’s reign) being at hand in Mark 1:14-15. At it’s core, this is simply saying, “You are now seeing God’s reign firsthand in the life of a human being.” According to Jesus, this is the good news (or “gospel”) he declares for the world to believe in. Jesus was the perfect example of a human being showing the world what God’s reign looks like, 100% of the time.

I think it’s safe to say that leaders in the Church want (or at least verbally express) the people they lead to have God reign in their lives. This may be worded in a number of different ways. Leaders say they want people to:

  • “Be on fire.”
  • “Surrender their lives.”
  • “Live for the Kingdom.”
  • “Be gospel-centered.”

Whatever language is used, the desire is to see God reigning supreme in a persons life. As it should be.

Okay, so here are 3 questions I think every leader who has this desire should ask themselves:

  1. How am I allowing people to see God’s reign in my life, firsthand? (following Jesus’ example)
  2. What boundaries do I need to set up so that I am not trying to reign in people’s lives? (avoiding a Messiah/power complex)
  3. Who is seeking God’s reign in their life and who do I know that can learn from that person? (cultivating discipleship)