—  September 24, 2009 — Leave a comment

We all use words to communicate. One problem: we all attach connotations to words.

It’s like naming one of your kids. You have a name you love so you share your amazing idea with your spouse. But he/she knows someone they didn’t like with that name. Because of the connotations your spouse attaches to that name, it changes everything.

Know what I mean?

Defining terms is crucial to be able to focus in ministry. Especially with terms like “spiritual maturity.” I’m assuming we’d all agree that we want people to be “spiritually mature,” but how we define that might be different. Entirely different. And that can change everything in our ministries.

So, how would you define “spiritually mature?”

LA This Weekend

 —  September 23, 2009 — 1 Comment

Friday morning I’ll be heading to LA for the National Youth Worker Conference. If you’re there stop by a seminar and say hi – even if you don’t attend it. I’m going to try to do some video blogs from there – we’ll see how it goes. I’ll be doing a couple of things, but one is a seminar called College Ministry 101. The description for this seminar is:

Many youth workers want to do something for college ministry, but either don’t have the time to invest or the understanding of what’s truly needed. If there is an area of ministry that isn’t understood, can use more resources and training and yet is much more simple than we realize, it’s college ministry. Is being effective in college ministry really about having another church service or having an older youth-ministry-on-steroids approach? Or, is it much, much deeper? This seminar suggests the latter and articulates the things churches are embracing that truly engage and connect with the minds and hearts of college-age people. This seminar will address the following questions:

What is the ONE thing we need to focus on in college ministry?

What are the age stage issues needing specific attention and how do we meet those needs?

What teaching and discipleship philosophies work – and which don’t?

How can I help my church leadership better understand the importance of college ministry?

What resources are available that would help me manage my time best?

Hope to see you there…

"Greek" on ABC

 —  September 22, 2009 — Leave a comment

Picture 1I’m sure many of you have seen – or at least heard of – the show, “Greek” seen on ABC Family channel. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. There are a TON of things I could write about this show as to how it pertains to ministry with college students, what college life is really like, insights into relational boundaries/issues, sifting through and bailing out on previous faith assumptions, dealing with fraternity life, dorm mates, the issue of homosexuality in college…I could go on and on. But, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the show in general and whether or not you feel like it would be helpful to have a series of posts on this show.

Have you seen the show? Have you heard anything about it? Do you think it’s an accurate or inaccurate portrayal of true college life?

Of course it’s a drama, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t provide at least some insights for us. Let me know your thoughts…

While we’re on the topic of community colleges (see previous post) I thought I’d write briefly about some of the things happening on community college campuses, showing the growth they are experiencing. If you are in college ministry and live remotely close to a community college you must begin to be intentional with these schools.

In a recent post on Higher Ed, one professor from Bunker Hill Community College in Boston wrote about the experience of having to teach a midnight class. That’s right, the class begins at 11:45 pm and goes until 2:45 am. And believe it or not, the class is completely full, having 47 people taking the course. In addition it might surprise you that the age range of students in this class is 18 to 59 year olds.

Why class at midnight? Well, professors claim that all other classes are full and there are literally no more scheduling slots in the 24 hour time period to place class times. This particular community college (and others are pretty much the same) has seen a 25% increase in enrollment in the last year. Of course the economy has something to do with this and I don’t think it will change anytime soon. I think the coming 5 years will show community colleges as a real “force” in higher education. And churches better catch onto this! College ministry on community college campuses must be a major focus for us. If not, we’ll be missing a massive part of the college-age population as well as much of the movement of this age-stage from a sociological perspective.

Midnight classes are not all great, there are some concerns. One would be that the typical community college student is not as financially well-off as those say at major universities. And, as this particular post points out, we’re forcing our countries poorest people to take midnight classes. Professors are not paid more to teach these classes than those teaching during daytime areas, which of course will cause some union issues at some point. It will be interesting to see if these schools begin charging less for these less than ideal time slots (believe me, college is a business and I’m sure administrators will figure out how to make the most “bang for their buck”). For some these later time slots works great, but for others it’s simply the only option if they want to obtain a degree.

I’d recommend you not limiting college ministry to 4 year campuses. I know these commuter campuses can be difficult in ways to reach out to (for an article on this, click here). I’ve issued ideas in an Appendix in College Ministry 101, but will write MUCH more on this…


 —  September 21, 2009 — 1 Comment

As promised, I wanted to post some of my thoughts on the new sitcom “Community.” This will be short, as I was fairly dissapointed with the amount of insight it had into the actual life at community college’s around our country. That said, I do think two things came across (which I’ll discuss here) and I am still hopeful that as the series goes along that there will be some more accurate portrayals that can help us in ministry.

First, briefly, it did portray the variety of ages and personalities attending community colleges. This is very true and easily seen. I’m hoping the show will depict more of the not so obvious aspects of community college atmospheres.

The show, of course, was character driven. What else can you expect. The second thing that the show was intentional about bringing out is the perception that community colleges are sort of a “less than” approach to college education. Having worked with many students attending these schools, I have found this to be fairly normal. Students do often feel like they aren’t “really” in college yet, that they’re somewhat behind in their education pursuits, or they feel like they’re having to compromise some things for a time. And most community colleges come with some sort of nickname that has been past down by the students emphasizing the reality that its not a full-fledged university but rather somehow just an extension of high school.

I do think this is true, but I also think this is changing – and will continue to change more and more. Community colleges are growing tremendously! The cost of 4 year universities are rising rapidly, which obviously contributes to this. I also think many high school graduates are just beginning to think about what direction they will head in which also contributes to the growth. Instead of paying huge amounts of money for this time of discovery, why not go to a community college and get some GE out of the way while you do? (more on that in later posts)

Anyway, hopefully this Thursday nights show will have more to write on. For now, here are a couple questions for discussion:

Do you find community college students having a “less than” mentality? Do you see them feeling like they are behind in education somehow? What other differences do you see in community college students from major university ones?

Patriarchal Prayer

 —  September 17, 2009 — Leave a comment

I was just at a “prayer” meeting with some local pastors. I put prayer in quotes because we talked most of the time. I think this was fairly unusual though. Their Thursday morning gatherings are typically spent praying for one another. Pretty cool.

The highlight for me though was listening to Louie, a 90 year old man. Well, I think he was 90. If not, very close. He was there with his wife, whom was sleeping in her wheel chair.

Wisdom spewed out of Louie throughout the meeting. He’s a retired pastor, but certainly seemed to be a godly man. He said something at the end that I thought was very cool. We were just about done talking, when he interrupted and said: “We’ve had a good discussion today, but I just want to remind everyone that Satan isn’t sitting on his butt doing nothing today. He’s tirelessly at work, and we ought to be tirelessly praying.”

We prayed. Afterwards he asked if he could pray for me. He got up and walked over to me as I was sitting in my chair. I stood in front of me, put his hands on my shoulders, and began to pray. I can just tell you that I felt like this man knows God and that when he was praying for me I really felt like God was listening and present. Prayers of the older, yet faithful saints are underrated. I confess that I don’t recognize their faithfulness enough. Man, that was cool. This man has walked with God for more than 3 times the time I have and he had a softness and humility about him that I would love to have at his age.

Louie gave me his number. I’m gonna have a cup of coffee with that man….more than once.

Small(er) Groups [3]

 —  September 17, 2009 — 5 Comments

Over the last few days I’ve issued some concerns with small groups. I tried to make it clear that I was simply issuing concerns, NOT condemnations. I hope that was clear. At the same time I do hope it caused some thought and I’m totally ok if it also caused some frustration. When we’re frustrated, we think more deeply. That’s a good thing. My heart in doing this series was to do a few things:

  • Really force thought on the weaknesses of them. Every structure has weaknesses, but thinking through how we can improve them are a different story. I think we need to be honest about them first of all. And this was my attempt at bringing some realities to surface.
  • Timing. Most ministries are looking to launch small groups soon, if we haven’t already. It’s now, at the start, that we need to intentionally battle some of these (potential) weaknesses.
  • I wanted to (and I admit subversively) get to a point where we were thinking beyond just the small group. This is important, I think, for us in college ministry. I’ll explain.

First, on the weaknesses. I’ll offer a couple suggestions to addressing these in our ministries:

  • Talk with the leaders of your small(er) groups about these weaknesses. Make sure they’re not only aware of the potential of them taking root in their group, but for them to pay close attention to even the slimmest appearance of them.
  • Draw up some questions for the leaders about some of these issues to discuss in their group. For instance, in regards to accountability, encourage the leaders to really ask those in their group to give each other permission to dig into each other’s lives. You have to address some issues like responding in defensiveness, arrogance, tact in approaching someone in confrontation, etc. All of these times of talking about these issues, how to approach them, our attitude when we’re confronted, etc. can provide a TON of teachable moments in college ministry – and particularly a smaller group. These are addressing some major relational boundaries that many college-age people aren’t aware of.

Secondly, thinking beyond small groups. This is vital for collegiate ministry, in any context. It’s certainly not a bad thing to connect college-age people with peers in small(er) groups of people. It’s in these times where we can really dive into age-stage issues that are best addressed in these settings (at least I think they are). But whether we’re church or campus based, we need to continue thinking beyond that age-stage group (which was my challenge when it comes to valuing sameness). It’s my belief that college-age people not only need, but actually desire (and deeply!) connection with older mature believers. And, I think, it’s our job to make sure these connections take place. This provides unique challenges (especially for those in campus ministry), but also provides a good pressure for us as leaders to make sure we’re thinking about the life-long connection of the students we’re working with.

I’ve written a ton about the importance of this in my book, so I won’t rehash that here. But I will say this is crucial to the development of college-age people. And this is true no matter the context.

If we get college students involved in a small group with peers and don’t connect them with the body at large we’re in trouble. Why? How? Well, put as simply as I can make it: it’s my belief that this does little more than extend detachment. At some point there has to be connecting points to the larger body – beyond a church service. If not, when the student graduates or the small group ends, they’re left with no connection. This is why I issue the challenge for us to think beyond the small group.

My point in all this was simply to say: small groups aren’t the end. Just because people are connected in a small group doesn’t mean we’re done. Not at all. And, it could even mean that the results we think we get by connecting people to a small(er) group aren’t actually occurring – but just seem that way. Small groups can be good, but there has to be more in our approach to ministry with college-age people. I hope this series has caused you to be more in tune with what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how you’ll move forward in truly connecting college-age people to the body of Christ.

So, let me end this with a question for discussion: What sort of things are you doing to connect college-age people to the body of Christ at large? What specifically do you do to connect them with older mature believers?

Small(er) Groups [2]: 5 Concerns

 —  September 15, 2009 — 6 Comments

To continue this series, here I will issue 5 concerns I have with our structure of small groups. In the next post (tomorrow or Thursday) I will issue some specific ways in which my concerns affect our college ministries. But this must come first.

I want to make sure it’s clear that these are concerns, not condemnations. There is certainly beauty that takes place in many small(er) groups. I do believe however that these concerns are things we ought to take into consideration and honestly process through.

Of course some of these concerns apply only to some, not all, contexts and groups. But I do think that these apply to MUCH more than we’d like to admit. This structure we’ve instituted over the last 40 or so years, I think, needs to be evaluated clearly and honestly. This series is an attempt to help us do just that – especially in our individual college ministries.

An overarching question I’d like to ask for this is: Are small groups the BEST way to go about ministry with college-age people? Only you can answer that for your ministry – and I hope this conversation helps you in clarifying your position in the ministry in which you serve.

Here are my 5 concerns:

They have an illusion of accountability. Small groups are said to be a structure for accountability, but the truth is they are not. They are a structure for disclosure, not necessarily accountability. In a small group that meets weekly we are only accountable for those things we disclose to others in that particular group. This is “selective” accountability at best. To take this a step further we only disclose what we see in ourselves – which we know we are blinded to some things. In addition, we not only have to see the issue, but we must also want help with that particular area in our lives. True accountability comes when my friends know all my other friends. I can’t hide. True accountability comes when people see me – not at a men’s group – but with my wife and kids on a daily basis. People see all the areas of me, not just those I see in myself and disclose to others. This, is accountability.

For the additional 4 click here