Back on this again for part two. It’s no doubt that the mission of Christian colleges has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. And frankly, I’m fairly certain we’re not heading in the right direction with them.

I’m concerned that Christian colleges feel the need to provide yet another separate community apart from local churches. They have “spiritual life” directors and programs, campus pastors…you name it. Let’s think about this for a minute. Is that really the best thing? Is it really best to provide everything on a campus rather than putting that time and energy into connecting students into the life and body of a local church?

Why not connect them with a pastor in a local church? In my experience there can even be animosity in these situations. I have personally faced harsh opposition by seeking to be involved on some Christian college campuses. These campus pastors or spiritual life directors are very clear what their role is and what mine is. And I can tell you from their perspective mine is not on their campus. They have it under control. On these campuses, I simply leave that campus pastor to do their “job” – but frankly I leave with a broken heart, knowing full well that those students are being robbed of the beauty of being involved in a local church.

Let’s say we suggest it’s appropriate to have all a church ought to be doing in the life of an individual on a Christian college campus. What happens when the student graduates? They’ve likely been disconnected from a local church for 4-6 years. They don’t know where they fit, have little of any relationships with others in the church, and will likely not go back to the one they grew up in – that would be going backwards in their mind. How does this make sense?

I’m getting more concerned about the role Christian colleges are playing in the lives of people. I certainly don’t think it’s ill motive or a bad heart, but I do think Christian Colleges are inherently saying through their actions that the church is not important.

Oh man, I’m gonna get into trouble with this series. I’m just beginning too…

College Life Review

 —  May 19, 2009 — 1 Comment

college-life-pic1Last night we saw a few different things in the life of a college student. For this review, I’ll break it up by topic versus by person.

Late Adolescence: If you’ve been watching the show, there is no doubt that you are seeing the inconsistency of each person. This inconsistency is why I would say this is a late adolescent stage of life.

Relational Boundaries: I’ve mentioned this many times before, but again, if you’ve been watching you can CLEARLY see that there is a lack of understanding in relational boundaries! This may surprise you to some degree, but the longer you’re in college ministry the more you’ll see this every day.

Exploration: There is also no doubt that you can see the desire to explore different things during this stage of life. New experiences – whether or not they contradict previous convictions or assumptions – is a key part of the college age stage of life. You see this in Jordan’s partying and experimental dating process. You see this in Andrea (church kid) who enrolls herself in a lingerie fashion show – which by the way, was a sketchy scene. She was very excited about the experience until her friend Erica confronted her on her behavior. You also see this exploration in Josh’s life where he wants to explore a new relationship with Lindsay and now is rethinking his with Andrea. All this exploration helps them discover what it is they really want, desire. Ultimately this is what brings them to a healthy sense of identity. Most struggle with allowing college age people to explore, but I would say it’s necessary. Not fun or comfortable, but necessary.

New Found Freedoms: The freedom had in college life is unlike anything they’ve experienced. Some of this is fun, as we saw last night in the massive snow ball fight at the dorms. Besides the cops being bombarded by snow balls as well, this is the type of thing we want college students to experience.

Pressures: Lindsay was having a hard time from being pressured by her family/parents. We have seen this pressure multiple times in the show. This is something we as leaders must remember. Teaching through topics of handling and dealing with the pressures of their parents/family/others is a great teaching opportunity for you and your ministry. Teach through Ephesians 6 and walk them through the boundaries they have in this context with their parents. Trust me, this will intrigue them!

Next week I’d recommend watching for sure. It’s spring break (so you may want to record it so that you can fwd through some scenes), and I think we’ll see a culmination of a lot of things we’ve been talking about in this series.

I was at a Christian high school this morning. Cool kids. We had some good discussion – I was both impressed with some of their thinking and yet disheartened by the amount of confusion in others.

You could say I’m becoming increasingly concerned about these environments. Whether it be high school or college, I’m finding more and more confusion with those attending these schools. Whether or not it’s the school’s fault I’m not ready to say, but I can say that people in these environments have some of the same confusions and struggles going on.

I’m not saying we should throw them out, nor am I suggesting we should negate them. I’m not saying they are bad. I’m just saying I’m concerned. Thus, I think I will start a series that will go over the next few months that discusses these environments – in particular college environments and how they may or may not relate to the our college ministries.

This series will discuss a ton of questions I’ve been asking in this regard, but today I’ll throw out one question: Why do we have them in the first place? What was the original reason they began?

Christian colleges originated with the conviction of defending the faith. But this is not the case today. So, what is their purpose today…?

picture-2I have a million thoughts running through my mind right now…

I wish I could keep a desk that clean.

What led to this encounter?

Did Bush forget the statue of a cowboy?

Is this is a sign of some sort?

What brand is Obama’s shoes?

Why don’t the boys have jackets?

What’s the picture of in that horrible gold frame?

Odd, but kind of a cool picture.

picture-8Jordan: the all too conservative Christian kid from outside Chicago comes to a point of falling. New Year’s Eve he’s out at a club, kissing a girl…but then can’t handle his alcohol. We see him throwing up in a toilet claiming to his friend that he could’ve had sex tonight if he wanted. If his parents were so upset about his tattoo, I wonder what they said to him yesterday after watching the show.
Insight: We can clearly see a drift from previous convictions happening. This shows us the dire need for churches to release leaders to walk with college-age people! If there is a time to NOT drop people, it’s in this time of new found freedoms and explorations, reevaluation of assumptions and beliefs, and a natural drift away from the convictions they were raised with. More than ever college-age people need someone to pursuea relationship with them.

picture-9Lindsay/Josh: Previously Lindsay was sold on a guy named Max. After he shrugged her off, she recouped over the holidays and met another guy – Josh. We know Josh from previous episodes because he was the guy in love with Andrea. After Andrea shrugging him off, he came back from the holidays determined to forget about her. Then he meets Lindsay. One of the first nights back at school he calls Lindsay, asking if she needs a “snuggle bunny.” He comes over and they watch a movie. Lindsay thinks the innocence of Josh (he’s a virgin) is so sweet and now she doesn’t have to worry about “that part of their relationship.” But later we see Josh rethinking his commitment to sexual purity. He told the camera that if the right girl came along (eluding to Lindsay), and she wanted to have sex with him, he would do so. The last shot we see of the two is them sitting on Josh’s bed, when Lindsay says she wants to turn off the camera.

picture-11Insights: This is a look into the “drift” away from convictions after graduating youth group – he was considered the “solid Christian guy” that everyone looked up to in high school. Previously we saw Josh talking with Andrea about his concern for her drifting away like this. There may be something to him wanting to get Andrea back for dragging him on, but the reality is this drift from previously held convictions is all too frequent. This is really important for us to grasp. If you met Josh in your ministry, you’d probably think he was a solid Christian guy. He could speak the language, has a consistent personality, would do some of the right things…all the while slowly but surely drifting. If college-age people don’t actually drift, we need to understand they do think about it. It’s a volatile time in life, for sure.

Relational Insight: we once again see the complexities of dating or male-to-female relationships in late adolescence. Why Josh would call Andrea to explain to her that he’s falling for another girl is unknown. He did have a “commitment” with her that they would tell each other if this happened, but this again shows us the blurred boundaries in relationships during the college-age life.

picture-10Kevin: Finally informs his mom of getting kicked out of the dorm. It was amazing to see him upset with his mom during the call. He was actually irritated with her mentioning he needed supervision. He was frustrated because he was “18 years old” and didn’t need supervision – clearly he was mature enough to handle being alone. In moving out into “fraternity” housing with 2 other guys, he needs rent money. So, he approaches his mom to help him out. His mom agrees, but says he needs to contribute – still interested to see what that actually means. We get a glimpse into why Kevin doesn’t live in light of consequences – he’s never had to suffer any. After a week in his new home by himself – and coming back after a party happened that he wasn’t invited to – he gets lonely.

Insight: we get a glimpse of some of the dichotomy of this age-stage. After going back to the dorms to hang out with friends, he finds them studying. He wants to party with them, but they “might be open to do that on Saturday night.” In response to their unwillingness to party all the time Josh makes fun of their masculinity. Some of their commitment to study might be because it was at the beginning of a new semester – and this could easily slip as the semester goes on. However, this could also give us a glimpse into the reality that some begin to grasp the idea of responsibility and discipline sooner than others. This ALWAYS creates relational tension. Keep an eye on this in your ministry. When you see feuds in a cluster of friends, dive into that to find out what is causing the tension. It can often be some maturing and others not.

college-life-picDue to some of the complexities of college-age life seen in last nights show, I’m going to break this review into 2 parts. In this first part I will talk more generally and tomorrow I will dive into specifics of each person. My desire for this review is for us to think much more deeply about late adolescent/college-age issues and life. This is clearly an area that has not been developed in literature (but there is more coming, I promise!), and consequently leaders in the church have not dove into this area enough.

Last night we got a glimpse of the reality of all nighters during finals week, procrastination of study, pressure of getting the grade, and exhileration of being finished with the semester. The students go home for Christmas break, bringing home their laundry for their parents to do, and look forward to the annual family traditions of Christmas.

This was great insight for those of you who don’t work in a college town and have students that come back to visit for Christmas break. We got a brief glimpse of the connection even those that go away for school still have to family traditions. This connection with family provides a sense of security for them as they are pursuing what their own life does/will look like. I wish they showed more of what their lives were like at home, but that’s not what the show is about I guess. Even though college-age people are pursuing their new freedoms and discovering who it is they are apart from their family, there is certainly a strong internal connection with their “home life.”

There are a few things I think are important for us to keep in mind:

  1. Pursuing a deeper connection with parents is very ambiguous for college-age people. Although most desire this connection to grow, they don’t know how to pursue it. Balancing their tie with family with their desire to pursue what it is they want is not a balance most understand. We’ve looked at some of the complexities of intimacy in previous posts, and with parents it’s no different.
  2. Typically they will not let their parents in on the nuances of their lives at college – especially their explorations in things their parents might not agree with. This may not surprise you, but we have to understand that this separation probably happens with us as well. Even though you “connect” with a student while they’re home for break the reality is you probably only got a brief glimpse into the realities of their life. I wrote an article I’d recommend you reading about dealing with students that come back for the holidays in December that might make more sense to you now – if you watched the show. You can view that here.
  3. They typically don’t ask parents for advice on issues because their parents will be bias and they know it. However, having someone else about their parents age to talk with would be great for most college-age people! This is where we can connect them with people in our churches. I devoted an entire chapter in College Ministry 101 on how to make these connections.

Freedom Intrusion. The show also showed students returning back to school after the holidays. Although they were excited to go home for a time, they were just as excited to go back to their life at school. This is usually the case. Although there is a desire for connection with family, this is certainly limited. Some parents might have a hard time with this, but we can encourage them that it’s just a part of college-age life. Many college-age people come home, want connection with family, but will also desire to reconnect with old friends as well. Plus, they’re used to a lot of freedom when it comes to their free-time. This often means that students aren’t home as much as their parents would’ve liked. And, typically, if parents push for them to remain home rather than going out with their friends, this pressure can created tension.

A Losing Battle. On top of this created tension, it can push college-age people away even more. I’ve found that this is viewed as an intrusion into their freedoms. They are actively enjoying their new life and when parents pull the reigns on this it only creates a chasm between them and their children. Make no mistake about it, if parents hinder their freedoms to much the parents will lose the fight – their desire for freedom will inevitably win that battle. If you work in a church with parents that have kids coming home for the holidays your ministry to the parents can be very useful! Sitting down with them and asking them how their time was, how they’re feeling, whether or not there are tensions in their relationship with their kids, etc. can be very beneficial.

Abandoned Convictions. If you watched last night you also saw the typical youth group kid beginning to settle into college life, and often abandoning previous convictions they held to. This drift away from convictions held in youth group/high school life is very typical in this stage of life. This may not surprise you, but we’ll take a look at the specifics in tomorrow’s post when I look at each individual person’s drift and late adolescent tendencies. The truth is last night we got some great insights into real life college-life issues that we MUST understand!

picture-6There is a lot of thought out there about how today’s “youth” are against institutions. The context of the conversation is often about rebellion against the “instiutionalized church.”

Some would even use this as a support for the house church movement.

I don’t totally disagree with the idea that there is some hesitancy with the “institution” side of the church. But, I don’t think the structure or institutional element is the problem. Why? Well, because look at how many young people support Obama and all that he’s trying to do THROUGH the structure/institution of government. You’d think if the institution were the problem, the government would be “rebelled” against as well. It’s clearly not.

There has to be more to it than just the institution side of things…