10 Questions…

 —  October 1, 2009 — Leave a comment

I recently read a blog post by Sean McDowell titled, “Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Professor About Intelligent Design.” It’s written to college students. I’d recommend reading it, possibly even using it as small group discussion at some level. It would take some work to put something together, for sure, but could be worthwhile. I’m not a “science person” at all, so for someone like me you’d need to boil it down and simplify the importance of these a bit. Sean is obviously much smarter than me. But if you have students in your ministry who are really engaging in the science field you might want to pass it along to them. Sean explains the importance of each of these questions in the blog post, but here are some of the questions:

  • If nature, or some aspect of it, is intelligently designed, how could we tell?
  • Should biologists be encouraged to look for signs of intelligence in biological systems? Why or why not?
  • Who determines the rules of science? Are these rules written in stone? Is it mandatory that scientific explanations only appeal to matter and energy operating by unbroken natural laws (a principle known as methodological naturalism)?
  • How do we account for the complex information-rich patterns in biological systems? What is the source of that information?
  • Do any structures in the cell resemble machines designed by humans? How do we account for such structures?
  • What are irreducibly complex systems? Do such systems exist in biology? If so, are those systems evidence for design? If not, why not?
  • The Earth seems ideally positioned in our galaxy for complex life to exist and for scientific discovery to advance. Does this privileged status of Earth indicate intelligent design? Why or why not?

Anyway, just thought I’d pass along the resource…

Book Review: Finding Organic Church

 —  September 30, 2009 — 8 Comments

Picture 3I recently read the book, Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola. The subtitle is: a comprehensive guide to starting and sustaining authentic Christian communities. I read the book because there’s been a fair amount of buzz about it from college-age people nationwide. I have heard of a sort of “rebellion” happening from people in this stage of life after reading this book.

If you’re leading a college ministry, I’d recommend reading it. My guess is this book will gain much more traction, especially with college-age people. I’ll explain more in a minute.

Things I liked: The book had a lot of really good insights into what biblical community can actually look like. And, it was practical for leaders seeking to implement community in their church/ministry. I can say that there were a lot of things I’ve been doing in my ministry for years and agree with. I think any leader can gain some insights for their immediate ministry – regardless of context – from reading this book. I can also say that I think Frank Viola (from what I can tell) loves Jesus, the Church, and is seeking to be faithful. I mean that.

But I’m also very concerned.

My Concerns: To be as blunt as I can here, this book is extremely dangerous. And, I think, it has the potential of causing damage in the body. This is all the more reason you ought to read it!!! Frank Viola’s conclusion is that there should be no long-term leadership or authority in the church. You can probably see why people could grab ahold of this and run, especially the college-age person who has been burned by a leader or has been in a ministry where the leader has abused the authority given. This book, unfortunately, is fuel on that fire. And I believe without biblical grounding.

Frank Viola of course uses a ton of Scripture to back his opinions. He bases his conclusion on a study of the patterns of the apostles – they started a church/community, then left it in the hands of the people there. One problem though: in this book he never addresses passages clearly speaking of spiritual authority in the church. He omits them and this is where the danger comes in. If you take a person who has been “burned” or experienced an abuse of authority in a church context – has a lack of biblical knowledge and only reads this book – they can be lead astray.

This book never addresses Paul’s apostolic instruction to Timothy or Titus to appoint elders in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-7 / Titus 1:5-16) or Peter’s instruction for the elders to “shepherd the flock of God among them” (1 peter 5:2), nor does he mention the role of deacon (1 Timothy 3:8-13). He also doesn’t address passages like Hebrews 13:17 where it speaks of us submitting to and obeying our leaders. What was most surprising to me was he doesn’t mention the apostle’s ongoing leadership in Acts 6 (a book he bases much of his conclusions from). The entire way through I kept waiting for his response to these passages. I was with him on so many things, but was left waiting on these.

There is more and more people feeling like the “American” way of doing church isn’t the biblical way. In some ways, of course, they are correct. We’re not perfect and over the last 45 years we’ve learned a lot. I’d recommend you reading the book so you know how to respond when/if someone in your church reads it.

CollegeLeader Insights

 —  September 29, 2009 — 1 Comment

When I was in LA I had the chance to sit down with some of my friends. One of those friends was Reggie Joiner. In case you don’t know who he is, here’s a few things that might ring a bell: co-author of Seven Practices for Effective Ministry, author of Think Orange, Catalyst Conferences, the founder of reThink, founder The Orange Conference, a guy who helped Andy Stanley start NorthPoint just outside Atlanta.

The more I get to know him I realize, beyond this STUFF that he loves God, loves his wife and family, and those around him (that live life with him daily) love him as well. This, to me, says all I need to know. You should also know that I think he is one of the top thinkers we have in the Church today. For sure. No doubts in my mind.

I have the privilege of currently writing a book with Reggie (along with another friend Abbie Smith) and I’m very excited to be processing through these issues with him. Anyway, I asked him to share ONE quick thought for those working in college ministry. He did. It’s very simple. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Why?

CollegeLeader Thoughts – Reggie Joiner from Kristen Giesenschlag on Vimeo.

Catch Up & Community

 —  September 28, 2009 — Leave a comment

This weekend I was in LA at NYWC. It was an encouraging weekend teaching, discussing college ministry with a bunch of people, hanging with friends, and listening to some good messages. I also took some video of a few friends while we were hanging out who shared some “words of wisdom” about college ministry. I’ll post some of those soon.

But, being true to my word, I wanted to write a very short bit about the show Community. The biggest insight into college-age people, I thought, came in the idea of being a part of a cause. Being a part of something bigger than themselves. It’s no secret that college-age people have zeal, but one thing many miss is their zeal to help the helpless.

This surpasses the recent awareness on social justice. This is an age-stage thing. Some might even say it’s a human thing. But what I can say for certain is it’s a college-age stage thing. Some of this is due to their place in life – or lack of “place” in life. They don’t have direction in life, but we all need direction and “a cause” to live for. Since many don’t know the “cause” for them as an individual yet, their zealous energy is funneled into a cause to help someone else.

Unfortunately when we get older we far too often lose this, focusing on ourselves.

As leaders we need to emphasize focusing on others as biblical and especially during the college-age years. It’s when we can help college-age people focus on a worthwhile cause today that keeps them from devoting their lives to worthless causes later.

I think the show, Community, had some insight into this. It was twisted in a relational mixed motivation plot, but that’s life (and television). The show highlighted this focus of being a part of a cause and I thought rightly so. I also think it’s good to process through for our ministries.

How do you help keep college-age people find meaning in eternal things? How do you help them focus their zeal on Christ-like causes?


 —  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…