I noted earlier in the week that our church was holding its first large-scale Marriage Ministry Conference, training marriage ministers from around the country (and elsewhere!). So I’ve been reminded of the ways marriage ministry – usually in its pre-marital form – plays in collegiate ministry.

So for this week’s Fridea, something that’s accessible for most college ministers and could be absolutely revolutionary in certain students’ lives… if you can make it “normalized” within your ministry.

What if you pulled in “mentor couples,” married people specifically excited to hang out with seriously dating or engaged college students?

It’s easy to think of this only in terms of “premarital counseling,” and that could be one function here. But it could be much simpler than that, too. What if seriously dating couples simply had the chance to share a meal with an older married couple? You might be surprised – your students could jump at the chance.

And while we’re at it, let’s take this one step further: Could you ever offer something along these lines to your campus as a whole? What could that even mean?

I’ve offered this before, but it’s been awhile.

For ten years now, I’ve supplemented my ministry and now my family with a side-project reselling textbooks. While I was a college minister out in West Texas, I helped develop a little textbook store. The purposes were serving students (since there wasn’t any textbook competition before us) and sustaining me so I could do ministry. It was a phenomenal time out there, and the seasonal textbook-buying and -reselling have continued even as I’ve road-tripped around the U.S. and landed in Dallas.

A few years ago, I started offering my services to college ministers, encouraging them to…

  • …ask their students to donate textbooks toward a cause (like a justice cause, a mission trip, or just the ministry). Just about any textbook can bring in funds, including the ones the local bookstore won’t buy back. (But donating a student’s best books is even better.)
  • …send them my way. There are cheap enough postage options to make it worth your while, for sure.
  • …let me sell those textbooks for you, sending back most of the proceeds. I have the infrastructure, which is required if you’re going to sell more than a few books. And even a few dozen books can bring in hundreds of dollars – but think about what could happen if your whole ministry or campus got involved.

Because I already have the operation going with the textbooks I purchase out west, this is a chance to support any college ministry that takes me up on it. Only three or four have ever tried (which bums me out!), but I’ve got three ministries now that regularly send me books. And I’m about to cut another round of checks.

If you’re interested, let me know. If it’s too late for this semester, we can talk about it for the summer or fall.

If not, then I still hope this has been a cool chance to think about how your ministry can raise funds in creative ways where you are!

Among the many other things on your to-do list for the summer, I want to encourage you to make sure you’ve developed both your

theology

and your

delivery

on the topics of same-sex attraction, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.

College ministry has been on the front lines of this issue for a long time, so the rest of the Church should be coming to college ministers to understand how to deal with it practically. But would you be ready to share what you believe… and how you share with students about it?

My church’s Marriage team is putting on a major Marriage Ministry Conference today. And while I don’t have any connection to it (except helping with parking!), it does remind me of the interesting issue of marriage preparation within collegiate ministry today.

While dating will always be a topic, I’d imagine many college ministries have discovered that the “felt need” of specific preparation for marriage has lessened over the last decade. This isn’t to say that dating preparation – and dating itself – isn’t part of marriage preparation. Of course they are. But I’m not sure students are drawn to a “marriage seminar” like they were when I was in school… since it’s become so “normal” to get married later on.

But that doesn’t mean we need to pass the baton to our Young Adult Ministry brethren without considering marriage preparation.

For one thing, many students still will get married while in college, or within the first couple of years after graduation. But secondly, a certain level of “marriage talk” prepares students to aim high, fight their flesh well, be patient, and ultimately marry well – whether that’s 15 months or 15 years after graduation.

And finally, there is a subset of your students who will be “seriously dating” or engaged while they’re under your care. What’s your plan for them? Are you prepared for premarital counseling, either two-on-two or in a large group? Would that make sense in your ministry? Or is this another great opportunity to lean on others in your church / other churches in town?

If you ever doubt that one Christian college student can make a ruckus, just think about Tim Tebow.

You might need to remind your supporters or overseers, too.

Regardless of your thoughts on Tebow, may we be in the ruckus-makers-making business.

I’ve preached here before that, whenever possible, events should be followed by a process – follow-up equipping or accountability or unpacking the themes over time or helping students develop ways to respond or any other long-term effort that carries the momentum forward.

That’s a big way to make sure we’re providing impact, not just activity.

Obviously, we think of “events” as the big things we plan (and sometimes plan and plan and plan). But another type of “event” is only realized in retrospect:

  • A night at Large Group Meeting that turned out to be especially profound for your ministry
  • A smaller event that turned out to be really memorable
  • Realizing that God had been “up to something” (a theme you didn’t really plan on) all semester long
  • Anything that turned out to be especially effective, inspiring, or impactful

It’s not all that complicated, really: As you look back at this spring semester, what has God been up to (whether or not you would have classified it as an “event”)?

And then ALL that leads to the Fridea: Add a process to that “event,” too.

There’s no reason not to go with the momentum that God has provided, even when we didn’t plan to jumpstart it with a planned, singular event. (There’s no reason we can’t carry that process into the summer for our students, either.)

Here you are, at the end of another semester. You’ve likely already got some great ideas for next school year, or at least you’ll start brainstorming on that when summertime comes.

But here’s a key way to brainstorm that you might not have considered: What have you decided you don’t need to do next semester?

Think about activities that would be tempting but are either being covered by other ministries or just aren’t in your ministry’s wheelhouse. And think about the activities you’ve been doing, that you should stop.

There should probably be a healthy list of these every school year. Have you made yours?

Our church is holding a Young Adults Ministry conference this week, and I have the privilege to speak to them about mobilizing their Young Adults to serve.

There are several points (probably too many for my 15-minute talk…), but one of the biggest is the encouragement to partner rather than create activities – whenever possible, of course.

College ministers have the opportunity to partner in a lot of ways – not just service opportunities. Whether it’s for service opportunities, teaching, disciplemaking, worship, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, retreats, mission trips, or other aspects of our ministry, there are churches, campus ministries, and other ministries near and far that might offer great partnerships. You may partner once for one event, or you may partner in an ongoing way.

There are still plenty of times that you need to create your own opportunities, for a variety of reasons. But if this stuff is happening anywhere, why wouldn’t you at least examine partnerships first?

All year long, you’ve been encouraging your students to do some stuff.

Serve in the community.

Share their faith on campus.

Participate in a small group.

Go to the college ministry’s big events.

Invite friends to your Large Group Meeting.

Sign up for a missions opportunity this summer.

And so on.

Depending on your situation, you may already be experiencing some of the same things. For instance, you may lead a small group, or you may be leading the summer mission trip. But I bet there’s something in that list (or more important, in the actual “list” you’re asking from your students) that you haven’t done in a while.

April is a good time to experience those things. Even just to sit in on a small group (that you’re not leading), or go with the Evangelism team, or go to one of your college ministry’s parties as a participant, not the one setting up the snacks.

You’ll notice a lot. And you’ll be leading by doing, too.

You may know the concept of having students write “letters to themselves” – notes to their future selves that outline who they want to be, that you hold onto a send a year (or many years) later.

But in light of talking about students summer with families this week (here and here), here’s a Fridea:

Have students write to their “June selves.”

The content of said letter wouldn’t just be an encouragement to love their families well – although that would make a good section! But the letter can include any goals for the summer, any motivational oomph, any encouragement to avoid particular temptations that come with home, and so on.

(And it’s a lot simpler for you to mail some letters in a couple of months than in a couple of years!)

It’s amazing how quickly the good intentions formed in April get wiped out by the busy and/or lazy days of summer. A note from themselves might just remind them of what they’re supposed to be about… and the letter-writing process, of course, makes them define those goals.

Welcome to Exploring College Ministry

After ministering to college students for 8 years, I've spent the last 6 years trying to help push our whole field forward. This meant, among other things, a yearlong road trip, an e-book (Reaching the Campus Tribes), exploring 250+ campuses, consulting, writing, speaking, and more. I love any opportunity to serve college ministers or to consult with churches and others about reaching students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.

...and if I can help your ministry directly (or you want to support my mission), contact me!

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