Let’s be honest, the church has traditionally done a very poor job at handling this issue.  We have addressed it without the grace we all deserve to be given as new creations in Christ and we have just flat out ignored it.  But at times churches have done a great job at addressing this issue…and in my opinion, we are getting much better at it.

And if you are in college ministry, you know this issue cannot be ignored.  So, here are 6 quick tips/ideas for addressing this issue in your ministry:

1. Hold firmly to the whole of scripture.  Teach the truth and do not avoid saying anything, regardless of how hard it may be to say them.  And make sure you include the grace God has shown all of us…no matter how arrogant the people you are teaching may be when it comes to this issue.

2. Remember you have issues too.  Remembering your own weaknesses allow you to bring grace to others.

3. Remember this is not a simple issue to deal with.  People are struggling with this issue and it’s mixed into all sorts of feelings and desires.  This is messy and rarely are there overnight testimonies of how God miraculously took away the desire to be affirmed by someone of the same sex.  Pay the price of time and, at very least, acknowledge the complexities.

4. Accurately expose your students to different views.  People hold to different convictions, that’s inevitable.  The thing you don’t want to do in college ministry is only teach people your view.  You want them to know why you hold to your view over another, but make sure you accurately portray other views – even giving their strongest arguments.  People usually aren’t as stupid as our strawman arguments often make them out to be.  Address the hard issues to deal with.  The fact is there are a lot of arguments out there as to why the scriptures don’t apply to this topic as it’s viewed today.  Do your homework and don’t coward away from the tough questions people are asking.

5. Have a testimony or two shared.  If you know someone who is willing to be open and honest about their struggle, have them share.  I have had single friends share that have personally struggled for over 30 years, couples that have worked through the issue of adultery in this context, and have had college age people share.  I’ve had people that have seemed to overcome the struggle a bit and others share who are having a very hard time.  The bottom line is people need to know others have deep struggles as well.  There is some discernment necessary here, but overall having people share openly about their struggles has proven to invaluable in my ministry experience.

6. Never, I mean never, make homosexual jokes.  This deems you unsafe and arrogant in the mind of someone who struggles.  Don’t make jokes in person or in a message.  Don’t imitate someone using a different voice that could in any way be portrayed as someone who is homosexual.  These are things that many people don’t pay close enough attention to…but it is critical if you want to have a loving, Christ-centered ministry to hurting people in your ministry.

In the last 2 weeks I have gotten 6 emails from leaders around the country that are a part of a church that is seeking to hire a college pastor.  Each of them have asked me for questions I would ask a potential candidate.  So, I thought I would give a short post here with some questions I would definitely want to ask and a bit about why.  I’ll start with these four – not in any particular order…

1. What role does a college age ministry have in the context of the larger church?  If you’ve read any of my books, you know what I’d be looking for in this.  I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the candidate nailing every vocabulary word, but would definitely be interested to see what the convictions were.  The overall philosophy and approach of the ministry can be shaped over time, but I would definitely be looking for assimilation and connection with other older adults in the church to be a key part of the answer.

2. How do you think we as a local church can support what God is doing on the campus nearby?    Far too many church-based leaders try going onto campus and taking other ministries into consideration.  Sometimes it’s much more effective to simply join in what God is already doing on campus rather than trying to start something new and competing for the same students.  Local churches have much to offer campus ministers (namely older adults/mentors and facilities) and we ought to consider partnering more than anything else.  The bottom line here is I would be looking for some big-K Kingdom mindedness.

3. What do you think the first few months of you being on staff would look like?
 This questions would ideally be answered with a relational focus versus programatic ones – both with staff and students.  I would want to get a little insight into whether or not the person can balance quantitative (numerical) measurements with qualitative (relational) ones.  I of course want the person to be relational, but not just in theory.  This answer would help me see if it’s more theory or reality.

4. Why did you initially consider being on staff here?
 The one thing I don’t want to hear is because the candidate has family nearby.  I of course value family, but I’d be looking for their understanding of our church, our mission and culture and need of a ministry to college age people in the area (if they lived outside the area).  Being closer to family is not a game stopper, but if it’s the initial reason they are moving into an area it would at least be a yellow flag for me (the reasons for this one probably deserves a post by itself…I’ll consider doing that at some point).

Mission Trip Musts [4]

 —  May 23, 2012 — Leave a comment

Today we tackle the 4th “must” of college ministry mission trips.  It’s a natural one for all, but still important to include:

4. Give the opportunity to serve. 

Giving people an opportunity to give of themselves on a trip is huge. For us, putting on the camps in Romania was not just physically draining, but emotionally as well. Having people come back exhausted and yet fulfilled is a great outcome for these trips, so planning in light of that is good. In addition, the service aspect allows college-age people (or anyone for that matter) going on the trip to plan, organize, be creative (with crafts, games, etc.), and implement all kinds of things. They can be a part of bringing a solution and accomplishing something that brings a sense of justice to a situation.  They can be a part of leading something specific and directing others toward a goal.

Most important, in my opinion, is to make sure we help them process through how to serve in similar ways in their own neighborhoods and cities back at home.  This can have a significant “jolt” in their thinking and lifestyle.

Mission Trip Musts [3]

 —  May 21, 2012 — Leave a comment

In the previous two posts I have included the following things I believe are musts for mission trips for college age people:

  1. Give Exposure
  2. Create [sometimes brutal] Teachable Moments

Today, here is a shorter one, but just as important:

3. Invite older believers on the trip. 

This is the obvious point here. This is a phenomenal way to have this aspect of our ministry feed our end goal of deeper inter generational connection. We’ve had older adults come and shoot video, be a part of a team and even lead a team. The key is simply having them join the team. When a college-age person and an older adult share this type of experience together remaining connected back at home is much easier.  And in college age ministry, cultivating these types of relationships are the key to effectiveness!

Because of this, we can then encourage older adults to simply continue spending time with those they became closest with on the trip. The connection was naturally made through the trip so now it’s just a matter of continuing the relationship. Another practical thing we can encourage older adults to do is make sure they share about their experience with all of their friends. The more they’re honest about what they learned and particularly how much they value the relationships they built with college-age people over the course of the trip, the better.

Mission Trip Musts [2]

 —  May 17, 2012 — Leave a comment

Yesterday we looked at the first thing I believe we “must” include in our mission trips for college students.  Today we will discuss the second thing:

2. Create Teachable Moments (and brutal ones)

If you take a trip to a second-world country like Romania or a third-world country like India or Cambodia, expect the college-age people that go to be rocked. Expect their hearts to be engaged and their minds to do some intellectual gymnastics. Be prepared to deal with the anger they may feel toward Americans and the American lifestyle when they come back. They usually look at the amount of money, how it’s used and the over abundance of material possessions to be repulsive after these experiences. And, in many ways, rightly so. But how they handle that can be another story. As leaders we have a chance to sieze as well as create teachable moments to help people process the trip in an effective way.

I remember a trip we took to India. We served in a few ways there, but the trip was more of an exposure trip. We went to two or three different ministries a day, listening to the stories of missionaries and their ministries. We spent 12 days in the slums of India, where the poorest of the poor live. We were in some tribal areas outside of Mumbai (what we refer to as Bombay) as well as some slum areas in the city. In fact, Mumbai is said to have the largest slum area in all of Asia having over 1 million people in this one slum. It’s unbelievable to spend time there. Heartbreaking, for sure.

Well, part of the exposure trip is to expose people not just to missionary possibilities, but also to the culture. So I did something a bit risky at the end of a trip to India. I didn’t tell anyone, but the very last day we packed up in our rural location and headed into the city for our last night. Nobody knew where we were going. We took the train into the city (which is a total experience in itself!) and then a cab from the train station to the Gateway of India. This is a national landmark that you may have seen in pictures. We gathered there, sat down by the water, and debriefed some of the trip. Being right next to the slum area we talked about our time there, the things we saw, the things that stood out and those that broke our hearts. When we were done I told everyone to put their backpacks on and we were going to go to where we were staying for the night.

They didn’t realize it, but we were already there. Directly across the street was the Taj Mahal Hotel. This hotel is five star, plus. It’s the nicest I’ve ever stayed, anywhere. If you go to the pool, you have a personal servant. If you want anything, they get it for you.

People were shocked.

No, actually they were angry.

“How could we go through all this, learn what we did the past two weeks and then stay here tonight!?” they asked. “How much are we paying for this!?” one person asked as he pulled me aside.

The intellectual gymnastics began.

I told everyone to go to their rooms, take a shower and meet back in the lobby in an hour. After that hour we walked down the street to a restaurant to get dinner. It was there that we began to discuss this issue. There were some real times of tension, but in the end it was a great teachable moment. The bottom line was that right outside of the walls of the hotel was the largest slum in all of Asia. But India has both extremes and I wanted them to see that. In addition, I didn’t just want them to understand it in theory, I wanted them to feel the dichotomy between the two worlds. And they definitely felt it. It was a challenge to them to begin thinking about what they value as they go back home. We talked about the abundance of comfort we live in everyday and how when we go back we have a choice: we can remember the stark contrast we live in compared to the rest of the world, or go through life focused on our own comfort and forgetting how others live.

[sample taken from College Ministry From Scratch]

Mission Trip Musts

 —  May 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

Doing mission trips with college age people is an incredible experience, for sure.  Over the next few posts I simply want to lay out a few things I believe we should include in our trips.  Here is the first aspect:

1. Have an aspect of exposure. 

Many people, especially in America, have huge misperceptions of what it means to be a missionary. Our students were able to see people with a four-year degree volunteering in the nursery, holding, changing, and feeding babies. They were able to see a guy from Sweden who was there to help with computers. They saw some Germans who were there to teach orphans the construction trade, or people from Switzerland who taught the kids to be mechanics. They were exposed to just about every vocation in one way or another and saw how any trade can be used in the “mission field.” Suddenly these students saw how their “field” of interest could potentially be used for the benefit of someone else rather than just for themselves. Not to say that they would need to move to Romania to use their vocation for God, but it helped them think through their vocation very differently. This was one of the biggest long-term impacts of our trips. Far too many people feel like they have to abandon a particular field of ministry to “do something for God.” That couldn’t be more false.

I even did some trips where we limited the serving aspect of the trip and focused almost solely on this exposure aspect. I’ve led these types of trips in Cambodia, India, and Vietnam. These trips were designed to simply expose college-age people to as many different types of missionary work as possible. They would see anything from a music teacher volunteering in a Cambodian orphanage to a guy who started a church and seminary in India. They would see a mechanic training orphans in that trade, a second grade teacher on a mission base, or a stay at home mom. The goal was to get those who went on the trip to think through their vocational perspectives and life direction differently. And by exposing them to all kinds of people, trades, and stories perspective is easily changed. Even if they don’t move overseas, this is a life lesson we can teach: you don’t have to abandon a profession or field to live your life for God.

 [sample taken from College Ministry From Scratch]

Leadership Thought

 —  May 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

In my most recent book, Worlds Apart, I wrote a chapter on navigating inter-generational relationships.  I talk about this all the time in workshops and seminars, but the bottom line is leading people toward these relationships can be difficult to navigate.  There are all sorts of obstacles to tackle in churches when it comes to cultivating relationships between people of different generations.  I’ve written in LENGTH about these in previous books, but here are just a few:

  1. Intimidation of older believers.
  2. Church models that are geared toward people’s preferences.
  3. Younger believers not seeing the value of having an older person investing in them.
  4. Older believers thinking ‘mentorship’ is simply an unglorified counseling session.

I can go on and on, but there is one thing that I can tell everyone.  One thing that is universal regardless of context, regardless of generational values or preferences, regardless of intimidation factors….there is one thing that everyone needs.  Leaders need this.  Adult mentors need this.  Younger people need this.

It’s patience.

We must pay the price of time with people.

In our culture we are horrible at cultivating relationships.  It takes us a tremendous amount of time to build relationships with other people.  And yet, when it comes to mentorship somehow we expect it to work immediately…and if it doesn’t we think something is wrong.

In Worlds Apart I mention a friend of mine who says something about “discipleship.”  He says this: Disciple is spelled T-I-M-E.

Patience.  It’s how we love people (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Companies and organizations often do “exit interviews” and they do so for many different reasons.  But the biggest one is that they get really honest answers.  While people are “under” you the faucet is often shut because there is usually too much to lose.  But once they don’t have anything to lose, people let it flow.  Companies do these exit interviews so they can learn, become better at what they do and more faithfully care for their employees.

I think student ministry pastors need to do this too.  Asking graduated seniors the following questions can help you become better at what you do, be more in tune with the actual needs of your students and provide a natural way for you to give a few things for them to think about as they move onto the next stage of education.  But mostly it’s about asking them questions and keeping your ears open.

Here are 10 questions to ask graduated seniors:

1. What is one thing you would NOT want to see changed in our ministry?

2. If you were me, what two things would you do differently in our ministry?

3. What questions are you thinking through right now? (note: this is a good one to ask because it can clue you into which questions you should answer for the next years seniors!)

4. What do you think the biggest need is of the students in our ministry?

5. What aspect of our ministry do you think is the most effective in helping students grow in their faith?  Why that one?  Anything we can do better?

6. What do you think the students at (name school here) want the most out of life?  What is a way that our ministry can meet/address that desire?

7. What was it that helped you best connect in our ministry?

8. Do you feel like you were invested in the way you expect churches to invest in people?  What could we do better?

9. Was there anything in our ministry that made you feel uncomfortable or discouraged?

10. Do you feel like you were encouraged in our ministry?  If so, what did you find to be most encouraging?

If you desire to be more effective in what you do, ask for the faucet to be turned on.