This very well could be the coolest thing you’ve ever seen for parents (especially dads) or for summer youth group events…you’re welcome.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 1.39.09 PMWorking with parents is one of the most critical (and often confusing) aspects of student ministry. The dynamics of this can be very complex, depending on one’s context. Some are in a context where parents are highly involved and can be overbearing with opinions. Others are in contexts where the vast majority of parents are absent entirely and the work it takes to get parents to engage at any level is exhausting. Then, there are many serving in a context where parental involvement is all over the spectrum and trying to balance this in ministry events/trips/small groups/etc is tiresome, to say the least. The good thing is there are all sorts of resources you can check out for help in these areas.

But there are very little if any for college ministry, specifically.  In fact, I think much of that is due to the fact that people don’t think ministering to parents is a core part to being in college age ministry.

Granted, there is some truth to this. They are over 18 years old and therefore don’t need parental permission slips for over night retreats. Many have moved away to go to school or have moved out of the house and therefore are outside of some of the natural daily “oversight” of parents.

But in college ministry there is a whole other world to working with parents. The biggest difference is the dynamics of relationship. At this stage both child and parent(s) are trying navigate their change in roles and how they are supposed to or want to relate to one another. This can be very complex during this life stage and can be disheartening for families. Parents are wondering what their child needs from them and how they can help. The child is musing on how much they actually want their parent(s) to be around and involved…and then in what areas, specifically.

Complex parental situations come up in things like:

  1. When the child “walks away” from the Church. Out of a desire to have the best for their children, sometimes parents can make unrealistic demands. They often will ask, “I was wondering if you could give my son a call because I’m worried about him.” Although I understand the heartfelt desire for someone to reach out to their child, this is simply weird. And, thus, you have a new complexity to working with parents.
  2. When the child is making a shift in convictions. When a parent sees their child holding to different convictions than they were raised with, parents will often rely on for answers. This might simply be in the means of advice for them, but it can also mean they are looking to you to solve the issue. And, sometimes, the child is embracing a different conviction from their parents because they have been listening to your teaching! And, thus, you now have a new complexity to working with parents.
  3. When dating goes a different direction. When a parent does not support a dating relationship their child is in it can become very complex for you in college ministry. The child seeks your advice because they don’t see eye-to-eye with their parents, which this is a tough balance to keep as a leader because you don’t want to unnecessarily create more division between the child and parent through your counsel. Secondly, sometimes the parents will contact you as a leader and ask you to “talk some sense” into the child. But often times you don’t think the parent is correct. And, thus, you now have a potentially complex ministry with parents.

There are all sorts of myths out there, but don’t buy into the one that says you don’t have to deal with parents if you’re in college ministry.

YM_pc bridge banner

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 4.24.08 PMIn the back of my newly released book, “Ready. Set. Next.” I listed out a bunch of thoughts…some of which are more serious than others. This is my first fictional book, but it’s obviously driven by real life circumstances and situations and is centered around topics I think are critical for people to think through. The book is based on the journey of 3 people after they graduate high school. They are from 3 different backgrounds, have totally different personalities, are going in 3 different directions and asking totally different questions.

Anyway, I thought I would list out a few of the “lighter side” tips I made in the back of the book in the section titled, “Practical Living.” There are 3 other sections in this part of the book: Faith, Relationships, and Classes. Here, I thought I would list out some of the Practical Living tips. I think some of these are funny, but they are also meant to be helpful…but you can determine whether or not either of those are the case:

  1. Wear flip-flops in the shower. Always.
  2. Pack all the clothes you think you will need for college. Then, bring half that amount.
  3. Think. Use Discernment. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. You’ll come back to this one almost weekly.
  4. There is always someone who walks through the dorm hallways naked. Don’t be that person.
  5. Drying your pants doesn’t mean they are clean. And yes, putting a dryer sheet in still does not count as clean.
  6. If you can see the dirt ring where you lay down in your sheets, you’ve waited too long to wash them.
  7. Think about the experience you will have after college when you have to pay back all the loans you get and then ask yourself, “Is that 15-20 year experience of being strapped because you have to pay off your loans worth not working for the 4 years you’re in school?” It may be, but make sure you ask the question honestly.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post called, “Pivot of Perspective On Bible Study” where I talked about a few different ways I’ve been talking to people about how they view the Bible. Here I would like to throw out a few Bible_Coffeethoughts I’ve been thinking a bit through about how we refer to it in our speech. We refer to the Bible in a number of ways. We call it things like:

  1. Scripture
  2. The Bible
  3. The Word
  4. God’s Word
  5. The Holy Bible
  6. Word of God

All of these are certainly good and well-meaning names and I am not saying we need to change how we refer to it. But, I am asking whether or not it would change things. How could that impact how we think of the Bible and could that in some way change the way it impacts our lives? I have found the most common way we refer to it is, “The Word of God.” We have time in the Word. We study the Word.

But the more I study it, I’m starting to think maybe a more accurate and fresh description of it would be the “Acts of God” versus the “Word of God.” Now, I know that would be a bit awkward to refer to it by that name in the contexts we typically use the phrase “The Word of God.” But, just think about it for a second. We are not just talking about words here. We are, in fact, talking about actions God has taken.

Maybe referring to it (or thinking about it) as “Acts of God” would cause us to see how our actions should change? Maybe it would be a refreshing reminder that God took action toward and for us? Maybe understanding it as actions would help us move beyond feeling spiritually mature simply because we studied it a lot? And, maybe understanding it as Acts of God would reach much deeper into our affections/desires/feelings in ways that literally transform our motivations for obeying it?

After all, we do say things like, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 3.13.37 PMWe all need vacation, regardless of profession. Having an extended mental and physical break is critical to sustaining our work ethic. But I’ve found that pastor’s don’t do this well. In fact, I am the first to admit that I have not embraced vacation the way I should have - but have made some drastic changes over the past 6 years. Pastors tend to feel like they can’t actually or fully disconnect. We tend to think that there are unresolved issues that we need to check-in on or follow up with. “It’s just one issue” or “It’s just two phone calls” or “It’s just a few emails I need to check.” And we always seem to suggest that it doesn’t distract from our vacation.

I call “bull” on all that. One email or one phone call causes us to reengage…and, frankly, some of that is simply a Messiah complex where we think we need to be involved in everything. We are not that important where the ministry would fall if we’re gone for a couple weeks. And, if it would, then I would suggest other changes need to be made.

So, I have a vacation coming up soon and over the years I have developed the following practices you might also consider in your own life:

  1. Entirely Disconnect. During my vacation I do not open my computer, for any reason (and I don’t bring it when I travel). I put on an auto-reply to email and will not, under any circumstances, check it. I turn off my phone or leave it on airplane mode and only change that when I’m separated from my family. I also tell my staff to only contact me if someone dies or a person on staff quits. My staff and elders know that if one of these things happen, they can call my wife’s phone. Lastly, I do not go on social media for any reason. I will not post or look. I completely detach.
  2. Extend Time Away As Much As Possible. I used to take a week at a time to “spread out my vacation,” but do so no longer. I realized it takes me 3-4 days to unwind in the first place, so now I will not take any less than 10 days at one time, but usually take two weeks in a row. This really allows my mind and body to actually relax for a season of time. It also gives my family an extended time of undivided attention.
  3. Limit Reading. So many people I know end up reading ministry oriented books while they are on vacation. I don’t do that, but instead limit my reading to the bible or something personal. This vacation I will be reading through the book of Hebrews and will be reading a book called, “The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery.” In other words, this helps me focus my reading in a way that doesn’t engage my mind in matters of ministry.

How do these practices compare to or challenge your own?

Today I made a statement I’ve never made before. I said, “College Ministry is sort of like being a foster parent.” I believe that to be true for a few reasons, perhaps the most obvious reason being college-age people are in many ways “orphaned” by the Church structures we typically live under. But there is another reason I made the statement. Let me explain…

I had a meeting this morning with a pastor of a college ministry who emailed me to see if we could connect. Although I don’t have a ton of time for these types of meetings I always try to make time and really enjoy them. I love meeting new people and especially ministry leaders. He was sharing his heart for college students and expressing his struggle with having to say good-bye to them once they graduate. He really enjoys the relationships and is always in a bit of turmoil when it comes to people moving on from his ministry. One of the questions he had was about whether or not I could relate to the pain of that.

I, of course, said I cannot – I don’t like people.

Just kidding! Obviously I can relate a great deal to this and really appreciated his heart for those he invests in. We talked about how to navigate this, but I did address one thing he pointed out. He was telling me he finds himself, at times, distancing himself from them because he knows they will at some point leave. I totally understand this tendency and this is when I said the statement I mentioned above.

You see, many people say they could never do foster care because they don’t think they can handle the emotional pain of having the give up their kids at some point. I fully understand that protective tendency, but my point this morning was that I find this reasoning to be in opposition to Jesus’ call to deny ourselves daily. In other words, not to care for the orphans of our society simply because we want to protect ourselves from feeling pain seems to be pretty selfish and therefore inappropriate when held up to Jesus’ call for continual selflessness. So, in this context and in light of the gospel call toward self denial, I was trying to encourage him to hang in there and continue to invest himself into as many people as he can – knowing full well it would be hard. It was an encouraging time of discussion with this new friend. We also discussed ways he can have more sustainable relationships, which was fun to talk about as well.

- Chuck

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 7.23.10 AMOkay, personally, I was over the whole acronym thing about 15 years ago. That said, for the first time in that time frame I have come up with one that I think works well. How’s that for internal contradiction? Anyway, I came up with this a little while ago and has served as somewhat of a guideline for putting together my staff, and more specifically, the “pastoral” staff. However, I do believe this can serve as a guideline for any leadership team.

The way I say it is, “I believe every staff is held together by P.A.S.T.E.” I would say that to have the best team possible we should have people in each of these areas. I’ve written brief descriptions of each below so read through them and compare it to those you lead with or those on your team. Also, see where you might fit into the bigger picture yourself.

P – prophetic. This person tends to be concerned with having reverence for God and caring for the poor and needy (like the prophets in scripture).

A – apostolic. This person is a starter of new things, likes having a lot of plates spinning and can generally boil things down into a simple vision people follow.

S – shepherd. This person is caring, a good listener and will generally give people hours of their time in counseling.

T – teacher. This person can bring refreshing and practical perspective on the scriptures for those who are being taught.

E – evangelist. This person can bring the truth of the gospel into an area (whether that be an entire city or a neighborhood or a workplace).

Every person on my staff has at least 2 of these.  For me, mine are Teacher, Apostolic and Evangelist (not necessarily in that order).  How about you and your team?


Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 6.34.48 PMOne of the aspects of ministry I enjoy diving into the most with people is their perspective and use of the scriptures. I enjoy this because many people are finding the study of scripture to be boring. I love trying to help this change.

I would agree that we want to work hard at accurately interpreting the scriptures. So, we teach our people “Bible study methods” (i.e. hermeneutics). We also want them to draw the meaning out of the text verses infuse meaning into it (i.e. exegesis vs. isogesis). All that said, I have recently pivoted my approach to teaching people to understand scripture in a couple ways that I have found to be helpful. Maybe you would find these two pivot points helpful in your own personal life, as well as in bringing some fresh perspective to those you know that seem to be a bit bored with scripture reading.

  1. Read the Bible as a small part of a larger whole. The scriptures certainly address individuals, but it is largely written to communities of people. The New Testament Epistles, for instance, were all written to groups of people. In other words, they are more about addressing the “people” of God than any one individual. In our individualistic culture we always seem to miss this, and therefore privatize our bible study to our personal life. We call them “quiet times.”  These are times where we personally (and usually privately) try to understand and apply the Bible to our individual lives. This should be affirmed and celebrated for obvious reasons. However, one pivot you may consider is encouraging people to read the bible as a part of a larger community of faith versus as an individual with a personal faith. This might seem like a small pivot, but it makes a massive difference. I’ve found that our understanding of both the Church and the scriptures widens in necessary and fun ways.
  2. Stop critiquing the Bible, and let it critique us. Our culture dictates a lot more than we usually realize in our lives. One of those things is that we come to the scriptures as if we are the living subject of the story. So, we inevitably come to the Bible critiquing it. But what if we fully embraced Hebrews 4:12 that says the scriptures are “living and active,” and therefore viewed the Bible as the active subject in our interaction with it? When I make this pivot in my approach, I’ve found that I stop trying to critique the Bible, and instead allow it to critique me. I have found this to be both freeing and refreshing.

I’m not sure if you have any new things you are trying to do in this area in your ministry, but these have proven to be refreshing and fruitful for me.