Among our church’s staff, there’s a group of about twenty of us who watch the show Survivor – enough to be on an email chain to chat about episodes. A handful of the members – who actually include former staff members and staff spouses, too – have gotten together to watch a couple of episodes, as well. We each “have” one of the contestants to root for, which gives us trash-talking options, too.

It’s been fun to see how it gives us a chance to connect, even though on our large church staff many of us wouldn’t normally interact with each other (especially in just “having fun”).

So that becomes this week’s Fridea: To imagine what “virtual fellowship” you could build within your college ministry, even this summer. A “watching group” (like my Survivor cohort)? What about a chain for those who’ve committed to a certain Bible-reading regimen or reading a certain book “together” over the summer? Or even email lists or social media groups, etc., for specific majors? You might be surprised by how something like this could cross friend groups, ages, and other boundaries to help build fellowship in your ministry.

If you’ve got a campus ministry bigger than a few dozen – where not everybody knows each other fairly equally – there’s probably room to enhance the connections and community. Something like this – especially with a few “leaders” who use it intentionally – could be the ticket.

I’ve often encouraged college ministers to keep (and grow) a supply of resources on various issues that college students ask about. While off-the-cuff advice can be great, it’s great to have something a bit meatier – and more complete – about everything from Using Your Time Well to A Christian View of Homosexuality. (These don’t all have to be freshly written, of course – there are lots of things available online that you can point people to or print out.)

But I’m discipling a guy right now, and I was reminded about a different tactic.

What if some of the resources you prepared, for the most-popular queries, didn’t so much answer the question as they guided a student to find the biblical answers themselves? It’s not hard to extract the verses about a particular subject – especially since many good ones are probably listed in those very same resources listed above, or at great sites like gotquestions.org.

Then those verses, along with a couple of questions, could become your new “go-to” when that question comes up. It’s a “knowledge base without the knowledge” – a “question base” that allows for some great disciplemaking.

Since it happens to be my anniversary (but now I’m sitting down to blog), I’m pondering ways in which my own college ministry experience (as a student) prepared me for the past two years. I’m sure it did affect my road ahead – definitely by being exposed to Tommy Nelson’s Song of Solomon series, and I’m sure I heard talks about dating at church and during the big Breakaway on-campus gathering. Probably in the other places where I was impacted, too, like my Christian fraternity and the freshman Bible studies I was in.

But I’m part of that crowd – not a small crowd anymore – that didn’t get married until my 30s. I have no idea if all those college ministers saw “the Great Marriage Wait” coming or not. But I’m a little doubtful their talks discussed dating and marriage as though it could be a decade or more away for many (most?) of us.

We shouldn’t make that mistake these days, but I fear we might.

Instead, there has to be a long view taken here – preparing students for romance and friendships with the opposite sex; helping them understand wisdom for finding someone when you’re not around awesome people all the time; spending your single years (or decades) really, really well; understanding what role physical attraction should or shouldn’t play; forming attitudes and theology now that won’t change if “desperation” comes; truly understanding the why and what behind sexual purity and wisdom… even knowing how (and when) to break up. And much more, I’m sure.

Are you raising up students who will be awesome in regards to the opposite sex and their own sexuality for the next decade, even if they don’t get married during that time?

On Monday, I posted some notes about a better way to brainstorm – and I said it would be worth trying this summer. That got me thinking about other options for summertime, when things usually just look different in college ministry.

I know it’s not true for all, but for many, one of those differences is that things are slower. If that’s the case for you, now would be the perfect time to look at creating weekly content for your students, either in written, video, or audio form. (And that means blogging, YouTube videos, or podcasting, respectively – or similar forms.) Summertime’s a great chance to get over the bumps of figuring it out, to dabble in various options, AND to produce an impactful tether to students’ college ministry while they’re away.

Many college ministers avoid jumping into routines like this because of the daunting nature of doing it forever.

But you don’t have to. You really, truly could simply produce something this summer. Let everybody know that it’s “just for the summer,” and you’ll let yourself off the hook.

Of course, if it goes well, you could surprise everyone by declaring it will now be an in-semester production, too. And by then, you’ll have the momentum and the encouragement you’ll need to keep it going after things get a little busier.

Or – like the TV show Big Brother – it might simply become a summer staple.

And if it’s “just okay,” you can never speak of it again – and rest easier now that you’ve given it a try. No big deal – it was just for the summer!

One of the most brainstorm-producing, creativity-inducing, devil’s-advocate-playing, mind-freeing experiences you can have comes from doing the opposite of what we usually do.

Often when we seek to learn (about college ministry or any other field of ministry), we seek out those who are similar to us. Not the same, mind you – we of course want to learn from those who seem a little bit further down the road than we are. But we generally end up learning from those on the same road – similar methodology, similar style, similar theology, etc..

We don’t even make a conscious choice to do this, much of the time – the InterVarsity guy goes to conferences with other InterVarsity guys, the church-based college minister gets to know others in her branch of college ministry (and her denomination, too), and all the college ministers on a campus (and therefore within the same culture) bump into each other plenty.

There is plenty of value in learning from people who are, indeed, just a little bit further down the same road we’re taking.

But as my opening sentence states, while your step-by-step, grind-it-out growth will often happen this way, there are leaps you might miss if you only mingle with the similar.

This summer, what if you sought out quite different ministries to learn from? Take it from the guy who has learned from hundreds of college ministries – the ones that are different-from-you will radically enhance your outlook.

What to stop.

What to start.

What to continue.

This three-fold evaluation is valuable for any organization, including yours. But what it misses is something you’ve got to include this summer.

What to celebrate.

Please make sure that you, your staff, your overseers, your volunteers, and your supporters take time to celebrate the ways God moved this year. Heck, even your friends or spouse or small group at church should hear you babble on about it a little.

It’s even worth spending more than a few minutes on remembering these points (quick recollection is always the temptation). “Brainstorm” this question like you would all the others. Mental exertion matters here – first, so we duly glorify the Lord and “forget not all His benefits,” and secondly because the scattered wins throughout this past school year didn’t all come in April, nor were they all in obvious packages.

And then write this stuff down. You’ll need it later, I’m sure.

On Friday, I encouraged you to think about evaluating your school year differently than you have in the past – whatever “different” might mean in your case. And I through out some options for “different”: including Who you involve, What you evaluate, and When (or how many times) you debrief this summer.

The method I used to get to those simple suggestions is one I’ve discussed before, but it’s been awhile. And the fun thing about this method is that it makes it easy to brainstorm even if you’re not particularly creative.

“Exploring the edges” is what I’ve called this method – it’s an adaptation of something Seth Godin calls “edgecraft.” And you can read all about it here, which I’d really encourage you to do. There you’ll find an overview as well as other links to apply the format.

As I write there,

The truth is, our usual approach to “brainstorming” doesn’t always work very well. The classic picture is of a group of leaders, sitting around a room, throwing out random ideas and hoping something will stick. While useful ideas are sometimes produced, I want to offer a method to produce ideas in a bit more purposeful way…

And it’s the type of thing that would be truly worth trying out this summer. Jump in here.

What kind of “Fridea” do I post on the last day of school for many campuses across the country?

As you head into the summer, you’re likely to debrief about the semester – whether that’s with your large staff or just you and a spouse or dog or the Lord. Whatever the size of your debriefing cohort, you’re (hopefully) going to spend some major time looking at this last year.

…which brings us to the Fridea: Debrief your year differently than you have in the past.

I’m not about to suggest that “different” path, mind you. Though I’ve blogged plenty on suggested “assessments,” this week’s idea is simply to re-imagine ways in which you could evaluate differently than you have before. Because if you shift the way you evaluate, you’re likely to peek into some corners and realize some opportunities you haven’t before.

If you want to start building a different evaluation, think about our old friends:

Who: add to the group that evaluates? shrink the group that evaluates? think way outside the box on WHOM evaluates?

What: evaluate only a handful of most-vital areas for longer? evaluate MORE than what you have in the past? evaluate surprising areas of your ministry?

When: do it earlier in the summer than usual? do it later, after you’ve had time to reflect? do it longer than usual? do it more quickly? do it in multiple sessions?

 

Yesterday I highlighted an excellent article from Harvard’s student newspaper, a reflection by a student facing deep pain. I hope you read it!

It leads me to ask these questions, and it might bring even more to your mind:

  • Are you raising up college students who are looking for those in pain around them – not just in their friend circles, but even in their student organizations, classes, and other venues?
  • Have you developed community within your college ministry, such that any involved student couldn’t “slip through the cracks” when facing deep pain?
  • Do those in your ministry see your college ministry as a first place to turn to if facing deep pain? (There are plenty of exciting, fun, impactful college ministries that still might not be seen by their students – rightly or wrongly – as a great place for those facing deep problems.)
  • Is your ministry seen as the kind of place that’s “there for people” when they’re in pain, even if they’re outsiders or non-believers?
  • Would there be any way your ministry could offer materials, seminars, audio, or other resources for the campus as a whole? (This gets easier to imagine when we realize that college ministry is just another form of missions, and that college ministers are really just missionaries…)

Last week, The Harvard Crimson shared an anonymous article written by a student in deep pain. The title – “Pregnant at Harvard?” could lead one to believe that collegiate student pregnancy is the point. But this article is much more profound, in sharing the angst any student at your school could be facing, whether or not they’ve hit the rocks in just the way this student did.

I encourage you to read it, and even to share it with your students. We don’t always have a window into students’ pain; this is a pretty strong one. Here’s how it starts:

I still remember freshman orientation, when the Office of Student Life had us all bond with our entryways by sending us on a dorky scavenger hunt through Harvard’s plethora of campus resources, from the Bureau of Study Counsel to the Office of Career Services to Room 13. In the Women’s Center, my friends and I giggled awkwardly at the rainbow condoms and joked about a brochure entitled “Pregnant At Harvard?” I never dreamed that it would be relevant to my life. And yet two and a half years later, I walked sobbing out of a clinic in Boston after having an abortion.

Okay. Rewind needed. …

Read the rest at http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2015/4/28/pregnant-at-harvard

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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