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Yesterday, I threw out a pretty random idea: basically, using “This Week in Christian History” moments to impact your students (or simply to add something useful to your Large Group Meeting).

But today, I wanted to dissect why that “random little method” – one that admittedly doesn’t seem all that interesting – might be a better idea than you think…

But here’s why we’re looking at it: It’s not because I think this is some particularly genius idea, but because it’s valuable to identify the components that connect well with today’s students. There may be plenty of other methods that also accomplish these things for your group! Whether this one idea is best for your group or not, one simple idea has a lot of attributes we should be thinking about incorporating whenever we can.

1. It connects to “roots.” As I’ve written plenty of times before, “authentage” is in. “Vintage” lends an air of authenticity (which Millennials require), whether it’s in the form of a vintage T-shirt, a throwback movie, or an exploration of the roots of our faith.

2. They love variety. How many “segments” does your weekly “Sing ‘n Speak” meeting have? Just two (singing and speaking)? Or maybe three? -if you count announcements (which, by the way, should be treated as really important).

But Gen Y students love variety – how well does your Large Group Meeting reflect the way your students listen to music on their iPods? Of course, some college ministries have already learned to include games, testimonies, videos, meet-and-greet time, prayer time, or other “segments.” A short teaching moment could be your next new segment… and if it isn’t, what will be?

3.It’s a waters-testing method. I think we lean too hard on a “silver bullet mentality” in college ministry, looking for the method, style, teaching series, or event that will take us to the next level. Instead, giving ideas a trial period can be wise.

In this case, you’d be testing out what – in some contexts – has been ultra-popular among students: the exploration of Christian history. Instead of starting with a teaching series, a 6-week small group, or even a Church History “elective” offered mid-week, you can start with 3-minute installments.

That might be a good idea for other things you’re looking to introduce, right?

4. It can involve students in neat ways. This is also a chance to use students in a robust way. Letting students participate in research, help with the applications, or even present the material could be an awesome way for even “rookie” student leaders to get involved in ministry in some really important ways (and in whatever ways match their gifts best).


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One excellent way to use this summer – if it’s a downtime for your ministry, or even if you can find little snatches of downtime – is by updating your ministry to match your audience.

If we aren’t regularly updating the form of our ministry, then then functions of our ministry aren’t being accomplished as well as they could be. The early apostles clearly contextualized their ministries (and their letters), and so have the missionaries that have impacted tribes all over the world. Why would we ever be satisfied with simply doing the style of ministry that comes most naturally to us, that matchesus more than it matches our audiences?

A few quick questions, then:

  1. Have I thought about ways our campus ministry could be more Millennial? (And am I even familiar with all the things that means?)
  2. Have I updated our ministry based on the students who have joined us in the last year or two? What has God revealed we could / should be, through whom He has brought us?
  3. Have I adjusted this college ministry based on any recent changes in our “campus tribe”? Have we watched the campus closely? Are we responding to its needs and people?


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How often do you talk about the history of your campus ministry? How did your organization, church, or other leaders in your position impact that mission field 5, 15, or 50 years ago?

(You know the whole history, right?)

Especially because we’re serving students for whom history and “roots” are important, we should help students realize the great cloud of witnesses that has gone before them in their very place.

If they don’t (or if you don’t), summer’s a great time for catching up on history.


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I first posted this thought after my sister got married two years ago, but it’s a great Valentine’s reminder, too. After posting the Campus Change Assessment yesterday, I figured I’d follow with the Great Couples Assessment for V-Day.

One interesting way to assess your ministry may be along this unique line: the kinds of romantic couples it’s producing. Here are a few questions that are worth asking – even if ministries’ diversities will lead to different “right” answers.

1. When couples emerge within your college ministry, are they awesome? A healthy college ministry will likely produce not only healthy couples, but couples that exemplify the very things the ministry celebrates.

2. Is your campus ministry really good about celebrating romance, relationships, marriage, etc.?

3. Do solid Christians within your college ministry regularly enter into relationships? This isn’t a question that produces a clear indication of a college ministry’s strength by a simple Yes or No. But if you’re not seeing couples emerge from within your ministry (and especially if you are seeing students enter into relationships regularly with those outside your ministry), it’s worth asking Why, right?

Are you providing opportunities for awesome men of God to meet awesome women of God? Is your ministry the kind of ministry that even attracts those awesome men and women? Is there room – even alongside the accompanying awkwardness – for students to enter into relationships with others in your ministry?

[More on the single gender / co-ed ministry axis here – with some great comments from you guys!]

4. Do people get married? Some might presume that a strong college ministry will indeed produce lots and lots of marriages, while others would recognize that the marriage-immediately-after-graduating norm… is the norm no more!

But I think we have to imagine that within a college ministry with more than a dozen or two dozen students, we would likely be seeing the occasional marriage produced (at least). If not, it’s probably worth asking Why – even if in the end, we decide we’re right where we need to be.

So there you have it. Four questions. As you answer them, simply consider what the answers in your ministry should be… and then what they actually are. Ministries will be different, but I think these things are worth examining!

But what do you think?


[Click to ask questions, comment, or see any comments on this post!] posted an article the other day by Catalyst’s head, Brad Lomenick, entitled “20 Points on Leading Millennials.” Obviously, this is our audience – and will continue to be for awhile – so being good college ministers requires learning the Millennials.

What I particularly like about this article, though, is that it’s pretty informal – clearly just Lomenick’s quick-take on what he’s learned in his various ministry roles – as well as from picking the brains of some of his staff members. (Below is the start of the article and some of the most interesting ones, but click here to read the whole thing – as well as people’s comments.)

A good friend asked me the other day my thoughts on how to lead the millennial generation, basically those born after 1980. We gather thousands of leaders who fit this category on an annual basis, and most of our Catalyst staff are under the age of 30.

I have to admit- I don’t always get this right. As a 100% Gen X’er, my tendency is to lean away from several of these points, and lead how I’ve been led over the years by Boomer and Busters. But I’m working on it….

So with that said, here you go, thoughts on leading millenials:

1. Give them freedom with their schedule. I’ll admit, this one is tough for me.

7. Lead each person uniquely. Don’t create standards or rules that apply to everyone. Customize your approach. (I’ll admit, this one is difficult too!)

8. Make authenticity and honesty the standard for your corporate culture. Millenials are cynical at their core, and don’t trust someone just because they are in charge.

13. Not about working for a personality. Not interested in laboring long hours to build a temporal kingdom for one person. But will work their guts out for a cause and vision bigger than themselves.

14. Deeply desire mentoring, learning and discipleship. Many older leaders think millenials aren’t interested in generational wisdom transfer. Not true at all. Younger leaders are hungry for mentoring and discipleship, so build it into your organizational environment.

18. They’ve been exposed to just about everything, so the sky is the limit in their minds. Older leaders have to understand younger leaders have a much broader and global perspective, which makes wowing Millenials much more difficult.

And again, I’d encourage you to click here to read the whole thing – along with people’s comments!


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I ran across a couple of articles this week discussing an apparent change in collegians’ sky-high view of President Obama (or pre-President Obama back then) in 2008. I don’t present this for any sort of partisan purpose, but a sociological one; it will be interesting to watch our students (both those inside and outside our ministries) in the upcoming political season.

Here’s the New York Times article (“A Love Affair with Obama that Cooled”) which first caught my eye, about changes seen among students at one of the country’s most notably liberal colleges.

And the Atlantic Wire’s “On College Campuses, Obama’s Not Cool Anymore” springboards from that article but also points to a few other sources.

Meanwhile, while we’re on the subject of collegians and politics, Goshen College is again deciding against using “The Star Spangled Banner” before games, due to its Mennonite / pacifist leanings. You can read their explanation here.


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A couple of weeks ago, I posted a video of students’ celebration following the death of Osama bin Laden, and I pointed out five things it reminds us about collegians.

I read a good article this week that took a slightly different spin on what we could learn from the celebrations that popped up around the country. Craig Fehrman, Ph.D. candidate at Yale, discusses what collegians’ response shows about Millennials. While it’s a fairly pessimistic take, it’s certainly worth reading.

He also makes some great points about how the media might not always portray Millennials accurately.

In any case, I encourage you to take a look:

Osama bin Laden’s Death: The Millennials Have a Moment (LA Times)


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I’m on my 15th multistate, college ministry-exploring road trip! (Details here.) So whenever I can write, I’m posting anything that comes up, for fun or for learnin’. Enjoy!

It’s fun – and not so unusual – when chances to speak or consult about college ministry force me to “streamline” my ideas. My mind generally houses a messy desk of stacks and semi-categories – a system that works fine in everyday life, because I can find what I need and everything stays “visible” and accessible. But when it’s time to present – whether in speaking or writing – mental filing and ordering have to take place, even if I hate making final decisions about “what fits where.”

One part of my seminars yesterday answered the question, “Who are today’s college students?” Starting from square one – and speaking to a group of mostly non-college ministers – forced me to answer the question more fully than I generally do. And as I did, I realized where some of my frustration about some college ministry training come from.

I finally settled on a two-angle approach for yesterday’s talk:

  1. Lifestage: Collegiate
  2. Generation: Millennial

I discuss the Millennial generation a lot here on the blog. Those issues are relatively new (since the first Millennials entered college only in the middle of last decade). But this discussion really only gets us so far; a full understanding of today’s college students takes into account their lifestage, too.

We’re dealing very specifically with collegiate Millennials. Of course, as college ministers, we tend to be familiar with those issues – a state of transition, the openness and searching of the college years, newfound independence, and so on. These issues don’t change as often as generational ones do. But they’re still very important – and newer college ministers and outsiders (like the senior pastors in yesterday’s audience) might need a refresher course.

Disappointingly, some of the recent books and other discussions related to our field approach students from only one of these two angles. Either they only focus on the collegiate issues and don’t recognize how vital it is to understand their sociological generation, or they treat college students like they’re no different than Young Adults, Youth, or others in the Millennial Gen.

To best understand today’s college students, we (and those who support us, oversee us, or want to work alongside us) have to look at their lifestage AND their generation.

Posted while I’m somewhere between Las Vegas and Flagstaff


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“Topics Worth the Tussle” is a series of themes that might be useful to wrestle with. Whether it’s to teach these topics or just to consider how well your students are living them out, these often undervalued themes might be worth another look!

I appeal to you therefore… (Romans 12:1a ESV)

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. (Romans 12:17 NIV2011)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1 ESV)

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. (Romans 13:13 NASB)

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:13 ESV)

My community group at church has been marching through the Book of Romans, and this week we turned the corner from chapter 11 to chapter 12.

If you’ve forgotten the structure of Romans, chapters 1-11 mostly present very complex theological issues. While it’s not fair (or accurate) to describe those chapters as strictly “Theology” and the last five chapters of Romans as strictly “Application,” the book’s structure does lean that direction.

Theology is, of course, extremely important. The problem is, these days plenty of our students think they’re solid Christians because they’re “Romans 1-11 Christians.” They know what to believe, they know theological terms, they know “deep thoughts” from the likes of John Piper or C.S. Lewis or Matt Chandler or A.W. Tozer or Don Miller or Relevant Magazine or the more “complex” parts of Scripture. Wherever they are on the theological spectrum, these students place a lot of stock in what they know.

But we and/or our students need to wrestle with the Therefore of Romans 12:1. Urging us to become living sacrifices, Paul appeals to us to “by the mercies of God” – the same mercies he’s just spent 11 chapters describing. If these eleven chapters are true, then this is how you’ll actually live, he says. So if we’re not up to the task of Romans 12-16, then we apparently don’t grasp “theology” at all. Or, as Peter puts it, “whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (II Peter 1:9).

Romans 12-16 isn’t really the “shallow” part of Romans, though our students sometimes think that way about “little things” like hospitality and harmony and humility and honoring others… just four of the twenty-seven-or-so commands in the second half of Romans alone.

The “topic worth the tussle” here isn’t just Romans 12-16 (though that could be a phenomenal text for a message series!). What’s worth tussling over is whether our college students realize that “deep Christians” are the Christians who live out our theology, not the ones who can only debate it skillfully.


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While I’m being all vintagey (see yesterday’s post about Lent), I figured I’d pass on a timely reminder I received yesterday from Orthodox Christian Fellowship, the national college ministry for the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity. (Yes, there is one!)

This year, they’re pointing their member ministries toward celebrating the “Real St. Patrick,” and clearly we Evangelicals can celebrate this hero of the faith, too. While not all their suggestions might work for your ministry or in your context, they might be something to springboard from. Be sure to see their downloads, too.

st. patrick as a hero

Examining Christian heroes from throughout the centuries holds amazing potential for impacting our students – while also tying in to Millennials’ love of “roots” and the presumed authenticity that goes with it. I would highly encourage you to consider working “heroes of the faith” (both ancient and modern) into your college ministry in some way – and St. Patrick’s not a bad person to start that list.

He was a missionary to the people who originally enslaved him, don’t you know.

st. patrick’s day as opportunity?

Meanwhile, St. Patrick’s Day at some campus tribes is one of those moments for “unified debauchery.” (See also my post on 4/20 at Colorado from last year.)

Penn State is one of those campuses that goes a little nuts around this holiday; their annual “State Patty’s Day” took place on February 26th this year. (Read a newspaper article here.) But I also heard from one college minister that

On a day entirely dedicated to binge drinking and green paraphernalia, over 500 people decided to be “in it, but not of it.” Rolling up their sleeves, stepping out of their comfort zones, and risking for the purpose of being a peaceful presence, these hundreds were part of a different kind of green that day: the green of life, goodness, and shalom.

How we handle those moments will differ… but in any case, it takes a lot of wisdom and grace. Plus, I imagine, a healthy dose of watching for natural opportunities to arise after a whole lot of prayer and personal preparation. (Don Miller covered one approach in that great “Christian confessional” chapter in Blue Like Jazz, and I know campus ministries take the annual opportunity to share in the midst of Spring Break craziness – just to name a couple more examples.)

st. patrick’s day as unity opportunity

Lastly, this would be one opportunity to venture over to the OCF chapter or Catholic Center on your campus, right? Because your groups might just be able to celebrate the life of St. Patrick together, learn about St. Patrick together, or otherwise come together around this Church History celeb.

Ooh – are there any other Irish-related organizations at your campus? Ethnic, language, or other things? I don’t know – but maybe there’s unity potential there, too.


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On a day entirely dedicated to binge drinking and green paraphernalia, over 500 people decided to be “in it, but not of it.” Rolling up their sleeves, stepping out of their comfort zones, and risking for the purpose of being a peaceful presence, these hundreds were part of a different kind of green that day: the green of life, goodness, and shalom.

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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