A question many church-based leaders of college ministries face this time of year and throughout the fall is: should I connect my students to a campus ministry on campus or a local church ministry?  There are a few tensions here that need to be recognized:

1. Everyone says we need to be involved in a local church, but many lose contact after engaging with a campus ministry.  Also many, although it’s tough to put numbers on it, who attend Christian colleges that provide everything a local church does (chapels, accountability partners, small groups, bible classes, etc) also lose touch.  This is just a fact.

2. I have noticed most campus ministers say they value the local church, but tend to develop structures on campus that hinder people from engaging in a church (although not intentionally) versus structures that are pushing people to be involved and to be connected to one.  I recently wrote about this in my column in Youth Worker Journal.

3. Those that disconnect from the local church during their college years, even though they are engaged on campus with Christian community, tend to have a hard time reconnecting back into the local church after they graduate.

So, here are some thoughts for those who are church-based:

  1. Continue to encourage people to be involved on campus.  There is amazing peer-to-peer connections to be made and huge evangelistic opportunities on secular (and even some Christian campuses) to be had.
  2. Continue walking alongside students, even if they are thousands of miles away.  Keep in touch, call, text, email, Facebook, tweet, instagram….use this resource, keep in touch and allow them to see there is someone in a local church context that believes in the local church and still cares for them.
  3. My advice is, and you may disagree here, if a student has to choose between being involved on a campus ministry or a local church ministry for whatever reason, tell them to be involved with the church.

About a month ago I was sitting outside my favorite coffee shop talking with Landen, a freshman at Cal State Northridge, while sipping on a vanilla latte. He was telling me about how lonely the fall semester was for him. It came as a shock to him because he never expected college life to be this way. Initially he was excited about meeting new people and the next stage of life—you know, “the college life.” But like most college students face (at one point or another), loneliness rudely interrupted his life.

In high school, he had a lot of friends, a serious girlfriend, was president of the Christian club, and was a very good athlete. This didn’t just keep him busy, but kept him feeling good about himself and his life. But then his friends went in all different directions, things didn’t work out with his girlfriend, his superiority in sports was very different, and to top it off, he wasn’t totally sure what he was going to do with his life. He was starting at square one again.

It happens naturally and pretty much to everyone, but college freshmen typically have their entire identity tied up in their high school life. Then overnight, it is gone. When you lose your identity, you begin to question, search, and turn within to find answers. Then loneliness begins. This is the identity issue of the university world.

Up until junior high, your identity was pretty much tied to your family life. In high school, you more than likely found your identity in the group of friends you had. You felt comfortable around them, clicked with them, they understood you, and you understood them. Maybe you played sports, an instrument, or acted in the school plays. You may have even found much of your identity and self-esteem in getting good grades or possibly even your youth group. Whatever it was, you never thought about it, but you searched for and probably found your identity in something.

Now think about it for a minute. Take all these things away, and who are you? How would you define yourself? You spent four years of your life with this identity, and now, most likely, it is all going to be taken away. The struggle you will have in college is finding a new identity.

Life’s circumstances always change. Each stage of life brings different issues, struggles, joys, and pains. You cannot allow these things to define who you are. This is a lesson you will need to learn quickly.

The Scriptures talk about who we are: children of God. This is our true identity. This is where our self-esteem really comes from. We search for our identity in all kinds of things other than who we are as a Christian. The thing we need to realize is that all of our circumstances stage in school, relationships we have with people, sports we play, or even careers we have—will at some point change. The only thing that won’t change is who we are in Christ.

In college you will inevitably face lonely times and turn within to figure out who you are. The question is where will your identity and self-esteem be found? You can temporarily find it in your current circumstances or the people who are around you, but these will eventually leave you searching for something else to fill the void. At some point, hopefully sooner than later, you will find it as a Christian. Away from a church, campus ministry, sport, grade, or career…just you and God, in your personal relationship with Him.

Who are you? This is the question you will have to answer. I hope you find it in the One that will never change, never leave, and never disperse. Let the search begin…

The next couple posts for me will be letters/articles I would write to a college freshman/graduating senior.  Here is the first one:

You may be involved on your high school campus now, but when you become a college freshman, you are entering a world that is bigger, tougher, and much more difficult to feel connected in. The comforts you now know in school will be gone, at least temporarily. Here’s some advice—be prepared.

This may not be as drastic if you are attending a junior college because your community of friends will not be as rudely disrupted and your family likely lives close. However, when you go away to school, you will have to find a completely different community of friends, and for some, adjusting to college life is tougher than others.

Your biggest sense of involvement will come in your time with the individual friends you make. These relationships will take some time to develop, but they will come…with roommate(s), classmates, and those beyond. The key is finding an encouraging community and choosing it wisely.

The Unimaginable

You might not be able to imagine life without friends you have in high school, but this will change. There might be a few of your high school friends that you keep in touch with, but most you will only see at reunions. Most move on, grow up, and have a life that doesn’t include high school friends. You will probably do the same. It’s not a bad thing. It just happens.


The friends you are closest to in college will be your friends in life and will be around much more than your high school friends ever were or will be. Some will have the same life direction, major, and goals. They want what you want. You sit in classes with them—multiple ones. You study for tests, write papers, and present projects together. You will study at the local coffee shop with them at 3:30 a.m. cramming for the test at 8:00 a.m. You will know them…they will know you; you will be in their lives and them yours.

Beyond the Classroom

People are always your point of contact in life—whether it’s in college or in finding a job after you graduate. Making new friends is harder for some than others, but eventually your contact with people will lead you to involvement. On the other hand, a lack of relationships could lead to a lack of involvement. If you want to be involved on campus, you must be involved with people.

One of the things you will find on more major universities, and even smaller ones, is different faith-based organizations that meet on campus. The Christian world is often small, but key in getting involved.

Be prepared to adjust in college—you are about to enter some new struggles in your life. This next stage for many is by far the toughest of their lives. There are many reasons—too many for this article—but just know you will likely face some depressing and lonely times. Getting involved in a ministry on campus is a key element in not only making it through these times, but also possibly helping you dodge some of the tough times.

There are many great Christian campus ministries on college campuses. Here are some thoughts on them that are worth thinking through.

  • They will provide a community of friends that can be very healthy. These people can serve as a great source of accountability and connection. Some could be your best friends that help you through tough times.
  • You will be exposed to people with completely different backgrounds—church and family—and view things entirely different than you. You will start to see different ways of viewing things in which you were not previously aware. You will be forced to think through why you believe what you believe—possibly for the first time in your life.
  • Most of these ministries have a mission on campus. This is great for you because your tendency may be to lose your sense of mission. You will be focused on yourself, your homework, and your social life and can easily lose sight of the fact that people need to know what you know—the gospel. These ministries can really encourage you to stay strong in this area.

It is vital that you get involved on your campus. This is the place that God has placed you…embrace it with everything you have. Despite coming struggles, you are about to enter a great time in your life! Meet people. Get involved. Cause waves. Make a dent. Charge it.

We all know the gay/lesbian debate is nothing small these days.  But one article I read that speaks to the Presbyterian and Episcopal decisions of late, breaks down the perceptions of different generations toward this issue:

The generational divides in the Presbyterian vote also suggest that for churches who are interested in keeping younger members in the pews, strong opposition to equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans may an be increasingly difficult stance. Strong generational divides on same-sex marriage persist in the general population, with two-thirds (67 percent) of Millennials (age 18 to 29) supporting same-sex marriage, compared to about 1-in-3 (32 percent) seniors (age 65 and up).

It seems as though church-growth is, at least partially, driving some of these decisions to be made.  I find that fascinating.  Here’s another brief section:

There is some awareness of the potential for more conservative stances on gay and lesbian issues to estrange young adults from churches: half (50 percent) of white mainline Protestants overall agree that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues. The perception that Christianity itself is opposed to gay rights is also strongly felt among young adults: according to the 2012 Millennial Values Survey, 55 percent of white mainline Protestant younger Millennials (age 18 to 24) say that “anti-gay” describes present-day Christianity somewhat or very well.

Thoughts on this?

John Piper calls college students to abandon retirement.  Thoughts?

Book Releases Today

 —  August 7, 2012 — Leave a comment

Well, I’m happy to announce that today is the official release of my newest book, Better Off Without Jesus.  This has been a completely different type of writing project for me.  Mainly because, well, it’s personal.  It’s my story of trying to decipher God’s voice in midst of the biggest trial I’ve ever had to go through.

It’s not too often the FBI shows up at your door to ask you “questions” and sifts through all your financial records, etc.

It’s not too often that a friend commits fraud against you, causing you to lose everything.

And, if you haven’t noticed, the bible doesn’t directly address how to overcome or work through that sort of stuff.  This is the sort of thing that leaves us in the land of ambiguity, trying to decipher what God wants us to do.  But, and it’s a BIG ‘but,’ we all want to hear God speak to us.  We all want to know what He is saying.

For some that sounds weird.  But the bottom line is we know God can speak to us…but struggle with insecurity in our own ability to discern whether or not it’s actually Him.  Anyway, here is what a few people have said about the book:

How do we know when it’s the Spirit or just our emotions?  We have all made foolish decisions by mistaking our feelings for God’s leading.  Those decisions often lead to pain and regret.  My friend Chuck does a great job of explaining the process of joining Scripture with the Spirit’s leading in order to honor Christ in our decisions.  This is a much needed tool in a time when so many lack discernment.

_Francis Chan

It took me forever to finish this book because I kept wanting to put it down to pray.  This book did not leave me with the desire to know “about” the Holy Spirit, it made me want to get on my hands and knees and experience Him personally. In fact, I had sent it to the rest of the guys in my band before I even finished reading it!

_Mike Donehey, lead singer of Tenth Avenue North

How do you know what God is telling you to do? Sometimes we make it awkward or mysterious, but in Better Off Without Jesus Chuck Bomar makes it street-level practical by letting us into his own experience of trying to figure out the right next steps for situations in his life.

_Reggie Joiner, Founder and CEO of Orange

Chuck brings practical truth and insight to what is often a neglected or confusing part of the Christian life.  I firmly believe if we would practice what Chuck writes about in this book our lives, and thus our churches, would be incredibly changed.

_Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus But Not The Church, and pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA.

“Better Off Without Jesus” helps many of us who never know what to say when someone tells us “God told me”. Chuck helps bring the issues of spiritual living and biblical discernment into the adventure of living in the Kingdom in a way that moves people toward a deeper spirituality as they follow Jesus.

_Rick McKinley- author of This Beautiful Mess and Kingdom Called Desire

I’m speaking at Hume Lake this week.  There are about 1100 high school students here.  It’s a ton of fun.  I’ve been to A LOT of camps around the country and, if I’m honest, I’ve never seen camp done as well as it is at Hume.  Fantastic place.

Last night was ‘commitment night’ and there are always things I keep in mind for these evenings:

1. The message I give is not the end.  I used to feel a lot of pressure during these nights, feeling as though everything depended upon my talk or my invitation.  I don’t anymore.  I realize the power really is in the gospel message and the fact is my time of speaking is simply a catalyst for counselors to have great conversations that are based in relationship.

2. My goal is to communicate clearly.  My measure of success is simply in whether or not I articulated the gospel clearly and concisely in a way students can understand.  I used to measure these nights on how many students stayed behind, or how many counselors talked to me the next morning, detailing the conversations they had after the talk in their cabin.  Not anymore.  In fact, to protect my heart in this, after I’m done speaking I simply go backstage.  This way my measurement is accurate, solely vertical, and I’m not affected by how many or how few kids stay behind.  This also protects the kids who come to the speaker and confess things they’ve never told anyone.  This makes them feel like they released a pressure valve, when in fact they haven’t.

3. The power is in the gospel message, not the pain Christ endured.  Too often these nights are packed with details of how painful or brutal crucifixion was.  Although there is truth in all this, to me, this is emotionally driven and a dangerous way of communicating to kids – especially who get tired and the more tired they are the more emotional they get.  I want to protect from pure emotional decisions being made in these nights (knowing God can use emotion, of course), and rely upon the Holy Spirit to use the truth to bring people to repentance.

4. Kids adapt who they are for where they are.  This is a practical thing I always keep in mind and drives me to protecting the hearts of kids.  Mid-adolescents lack a sense of self awareness that allows them to separate themselves from the environment they find themselves in.  Consequently, whatever an environment requires and demands of them in order to be a core part of what’s going on is often what they adjust to.  That said, I’m cautious (NOT condemning) of the ‘altar call.’  At camp environments this type of decision is celebrated, as it ought to be, but it can also be a means for kids to simply adapt who they actually are for where they are in the moment.  They want to function as a core part of these environments, and sometimes ‘coming forward’ is a way they can do that.  It can be the ‘thing’ to do in this environment.  Not always, of course, but I just keep this in mind and pray for it ahead of time.

Generation Screwed

 —  July 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

I just read an article that Newsweek put out called, “Are Millenials the Screwed Generation?”  Interesting read.   The tag line reads, ‘Boomer America’ never had it so good.  As a result, todays young American’s never had it so bad. 

There are some interesting stats that compare generations that may be worth your time.  Here are a few that stood out to me:

1. The median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older is $170,494, 42 percent higher than in 1984, while the median net worth for younger-age households is $3,662, down 68 percent from a quarter century ago, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center

2. Since 2008 the percentage of the workforce under 25 has dropped 13.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while that of people over 55 has risen by 7.6 percent.  The unemployment rate for people between 18 and 29 is 12 percent in the U.S., nearly 50 percent above the national average.  [Note: I think the pursuit of more education, as I write about in Worlds Apart, has a massive influence in this.]

3. The average student, according to Forbes, already carries $12,700 in credit-card and other kinds of debt. Student loans have grown consistently over the last few decades to an average of $27,000 each. Nationwide in the U.S., tuition debt is close to $1 trillion.  The articles states this: “This debt often results from the advice of teachers, largely boomers, that only more education—for which costs have risen at twice the rate of inflation since 2000—could solve the long-term issues of the young.” [Note: I also I write about in Worlds Apart]

They also put together this little video where they compiled some interviews with Millenials.  This isn’t exhaustive, of course, but I think the insights offered by those interviewed are normal…and perhaps more normal than many still recognize as we approach relationships with younger generations. Go here to watch that and see the article.