One of the things I’ve been hearing around campuses more and more from both students as well as faculty is phrases like, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” Here phrases like this often?

I’m not entirely sure what it means. It seems like a sort of in-between, socially acceptable way of saying, “I have my own deal going on so don’t try to influence me with your ideas.” I don’t know if that’s accurate, but this statement certainly says something while at the same time shuts down conversation from going further.

Accept if you ask more questions about their beliefs. And I love to do that.

What I’ve found through asking students more about their ideas (and even one of my neighbors who is a professor at a nearby college) is many of them actually have decent theology. Not entirely biblical, but there are some people that shock me (in good ways) with what they deem as “spiritual.” Having said that, I’ve heard very ambiguous things from believing in some sort of “higher power” to someone claiming to be Jesus Christ himself – I live in Portland so that can happen more frequently than I’d like to admit.

The phraseology of “spiritual but not religious” could also just be a negative response to organized religion in general. But, in my experience, I’ve seen that be used more as a surface, regurgitated and generic response more than a real heart-felt conviction. More often than not I’ve actually found college-age people to not be against structure and organizations as much as people often suggest.

CNN recently put out an article about this idea of spiritual but not religious that you might be interested in as well. For that, click here.

Cornerstone Video

troy —  June 3, 2010 — Leave a comment

I spent just under 9 years at a church in southern California. That church was Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. I left in April of 2008 and came to Portland, Oregon as a church plant of Cornerstone. Francis Chan, the founding pastor of Cornerstone, is a great friend. He in many ways is like a big brother to me. God has used him in my life and continues to do so. Anyway, here is a video they showed in this weekends services. It was his last week there. It’s a cool video (despite the quality of my portion of video) of what God has done through the ministry of Cornerstone Church and Francis there. Enjoy….

USA Today put out an article called, “Degrees of Difficulty.” The article highlighted 5 different “non-traditional” students. There is a video series coming out that you might be interested in watching as well (click here if so). Now, these are clearly part of the campus sub-culture referred to as the “vocational” students. I wrote an article about them here as part of a series of articles on the major campus sub-cultures.

Anyway, the article begins with this statement, “What comes to mind when you hear “college student”? To many Americans, it’s someone who goes to college straight from high school, lives in a dorm, and gets a degree four years later. But things have changed.

What might be the most surprising to some are the stats the National Center for Education is putting out now. Check these out:

  • Three-fourths of today’s students no longer fit that traditional model. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, about half of today’s students are financially independent; 49% are enrolled part-time; 38% work full time; 27% have dependents of their own. Almost half — 12 million — attend two-year community colleges rather than four-year schools.
  • And most students who start college don’t finish. Only 56% of students at four-year colleges complete a degree within six years, and just 20% of first-time students at public community colleges get a degree or certificate within three years.

Moving forward it seems that this is going to force a few issues for us in college ministry.

  1. Age-range of people we focus on is going to be rethought. Many are wondering if their ministry should be specific to 18-22, 18-25, 18-28, etc. Conclusions on this issue ought to be drawn depending on the context of your ministry, but with ministries designed to reach a broad demographic that’s worded something like “students on a campus” will have to rethink their current approach.
  2. How we reference our ministries will need to become even more precise. I prefer the term “college-age people.” And by that I mean people between 18-25. I choose that wording because of my time with people in this age group. My terminology is driven by the people themselves, not a sociological theory. Having said that the national average to complete a 4 year degree is 5-7 years, which does affect my range. I have 4-5 other reasons, but for this post I’ll simply say that the ever-changing scope of people attending degree granting institutions will force us to continue thinking about how we reference our ministries.
  3. Churches that are not located next to a major University no longer have an excuse to not engage in ministry to college-age people. Over the years I’ve literally heard hundreds of people talk about how there’s just a “community college” nearby. They speak of it as if it’s a lesser ministry or campus. But the truth is these campuses are exploding! More freshman students start here than every before. And if we have a heart for this age of people community colleges must be focused on. I have 4 community colleges, totaling over 75k students, within a 20 mile radius of my house. That is fun.

Casting Vision

troy —  May 27, 2010 — Leave a comment

In leadership part of our job is casting vision. We paint a picture of where we’re heading, why we’re heading in that direction, and how we’re going to get there. This is a huge role for a leader. But easier for some than others. I’ve learned a few lessons the hard way about casting vision. I’ve found the following 4 things to greatly hinder our communication of vision:

  1. When we say what we’re NOT doing. For instance, we can easily say what church “is not” (like buildings and programs) more than we can accurately communicate what it “is” and how that ought to play out in every day life. But communicating what we’re not doing is not helping people understand where we are heading. I have made this mistake many times and I can say from experience, it doesn’t help.
  2. When we use too many words. When telling people where we are going and how we’re going to go about it we have to be clear and concise. The more we think through things, the more concise we can be. The more concise we are the more helpful it is. When communicating vision, I believe, less is more.
  3. When our leadership uses different terminology. If people use different vocabulary vision is confused in everyone’s mind. A great deal of time must be spent on getting everyone to “speak the same language” if we want to cast vision.
  4. When words are not clearly defined. Everyone tends to attach connotations from our past experiences to words. So, if we’re going to clearly communicate our vision we have to make sure everyone knows how we define terms. For example, if we desire people to live in “community” we will have to define what it is we mean when we use that word. If we don’t, expectations aren’t met and confusion sets. This inevitably leads to frustrated people who don’t see the vision we’re seeking to cast.

Notice These Things?

troy —  May 24, 2010 — Leave a comment

This is a pretty cool depiction of where youth are today and what they want and what they don’t. I think, at least in ways, this applies to our ministry to college-age people as well. This is put together by Student Life and, in my opinion, it’s very well put together. Anyway, just some reminders of who we are reaching out to and what it is they are want/need from us…

Letter To A Young Graduate

troy —  May 18, 2010 — 1 Comment

I just read an article by Mike Yaconelli that was, well, cool. Inspiring in many different ways and yet dangerous in others. But good. He wrote an article called, “Letter To A Young Graduate” that would be a good, fairly brief, read for you. Here’s a brief blurb from the beginning…

“Dear David,

When I think of you getting out of high school I think of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15). In this parable from Jesus, the younger son goes to his father and says, “Give me my inheritance.” In my perspective, the younger brother wants his inheritance not because he’s greedy or shallow or disrespectful but because he’s dying inside. He wants the inheritance because the light in his soul is going out, because life at home is dampening his spirit, because something in him tells him that there’s more. More!

So the younger son tells his Dad, “I’ve got to get out of here. I need to see if there’s more to life than being a good . . .” And the father (who is supposed to represent God) says, “Sounds like a great idea. You’re making a great move. Any time you want to go and seek life, I’m all for it. Here’s your money. Go with my blessing. Seek and you shall find.”

So off the young son goes with his dad’s blessing and for the first time in a long time he feels alive. He feels free and full of possibility. He’s finally following this burning in his chest. He’s following this desire…”

To read the full article, click here.

Hanging At OSU

troy —  May 17, 2010 — 2 Comments

Today I decided to come down to Oregon State University to work. I’ve never been here before. Odd, I know, being that I live in Oregon. But, I live about 90 minutes away and there are over 100k students on campus within 20 minutes of where I live. In other words, I’ve had plenty of other campuses to visit. Anyway…

I came here today to just check it out and get some work done from a coffee shop around campus. I love hanging out around campuses, especially when I’m writing. But, as usual, I met some people. It’s amazing what can happen if you just hang out around campus. I wasn’t here for much more than an hour when I met Isaiah and Amy. They work at a coffee shop called, “The Beanery.” Conversation moved from coffee, to their lives, to Isaiah heading off on Friday to Thailand to work with children caught in slavery. Long story short, before I knew it I had met 6 different students and listened to their story of what God is doing through them here on this campus. They even took me upstairs to their “upper room” where they rent an apartment to set aside for prayer. The picture on the left is their prayer request and answer wall.

From what I understand the rent for this apartment is funded solely by student donations. So cool.

It was fun to meet them, hear their story, and to pray for them and be prayed for by them. Great, and encouraging time.

I guess my point is this: Not frequently hanging out around college campuses only causes you to miss out on so many things. Don’t miss it. Get out, frequently and consistently, to campus. Pray for God to bring up fruitful conversation. We don’t need to force it – I never do. But it’s amazing what happens when we pray……

"Non-mentor Mentorship"

troy —  May 12, 2010 — 3 Comments

In The Slow Fade we discuss something we call, “Non-mentor Mentorship.” I recently did a seminar in Atlanta on this concept. In that seminar I described 3 major shifts a Non-mentor Mentor makes from the traditional idea of “mentoring.” How do you compare?

  1. From Information to Imparting Wisdom. The shift is moving away from our tendency to view mentorship as giving information and moving toward a focus on living out the information we already know.
  2. From Fixing to Mutual Fascination. The shift here is moving away from viewing a college age person as someone who needs to be “fixed” – or as a project that we need to move toward completion – and moving toward a relationship where the mentor and mentee are simply fascinated with what God is doing in one another’s lives.
  3. From Teaching to Mutual Transformation. The shift here is moving away from the mentor simply making sure their conclusions (or the church they attend) are being known by the mentee and moving toward a relationship where both are being transformed by the way God is using each in the other’s life. It’s a movement from conversation focused on conclusions to walking together in/through daily life as followers of Jesus.