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I wish far more college ministry conferences and groups dispersed their training sessions as freely as Campus Ministry United does. Each year, the CMU people upload all kinds of stuff after their annual Campus Ministry Workshop (as well as some of their other gatherings).

And lo and behold, yesterday – less than 36 hours after this year’s Workshop ended – Wes Woodell had the audio up once again.

If you’re looking for a treasure trove of talks about the practice of college ministry, I encourage you to check out this year’s (and past years’) talks. Not everything will fit your group, of course. But I’ve had the chance to attend a couple of Workshops (including speaking at the 2010 Workshop about better ways to brainstorm). And I know that this can be valuable and invigorating stuff.

Here’s the Download site!

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The mission was impossible. Take the head of a public research university and hide him in plain sight for a week. But the University of California, Riverside accomplished it at the request of the hit CBS reality show “Undercover Boss.” (from the UCR web site)

While it wasn’t my favorite episode of Undercover Boss ever, the season finale DID provide an awesome chance to go undercover on a college campus! Chancellor Timothy White dyed his hair, donned a fake ‘stache, and added some specs to complete the disguise – so he could tour his own campus from the inside.

As college ministers, it’s a very cool chance to think about schools the way administrators do – something we don’t spend enough time doing, in my opinion. There are so many moving parts, important (but unrecognized) people, and daily decisions. I appreciate what this Chancellor did to better learn his campus; hopefully we’re doing what we can to learn (and love) ours.

(I also learned some cool stuff about the Highlander tribe of UCR!)

The link below will take you to the video (which may go away soon), and be sure to notice there are seven bonus clips down below!

Undercover Boss: UC Riverside

And for more, here’s the Los Angeles Times‘s coverage of the episode. You can also read a post I wrote awhile back that applied something I learned from Undercover Boss to our world – and it’s still one of the campus ministry ideas I’m most intrigued by.

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The Social Network came out on DVD last month, and it stands to receive some accolades on Feb. 27th at the Academy Awards; it’s been nominated for Best Picture and in seven other categories. It has already won all kinds of film awards, including 4 Golden Globes, as you can see at the movie’s official site. (That site, by the way, is pretty incredible all on its own.)

So there’s no better time to let this stoke the fires of your own ministry work. If you haven’t seen The Social Network, I highly encourage it. And I hope you’ll let it invigorate… even exhilarate you in this incredible work to which we’ve been called. (If the early scenes moving across the Harvard campus don’t fire up your missionary heart, something may be wrong.)

(Note: As always, movies mean we need discernment. This film is certainly PG-13 for a reason.)

I’ve written about Social Network several times, and I hope my thoughts are helpful for pondering how the film connects with College Ministry and ministry to Millennials in general. And as I’ve linked several times, the Christianity Today review offers an incredible summary of why this movie matters.

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Don’t get me wrong: When I attend movies or watch ‘em at home, I usually do it for entertainment. But there are times when I watch something for the sake of ministry or for other spiritual edification – like watching The Social Network for the second time this week, or viewing Temple Grandin with my autistic friend.

It’s Movie Week here at the blog, starting with Monday’s post!

But even when I’m not “on the clock,” watching primarily for these reasons, I would hope that my calling – to the field of college ministry – wouldn’t ever be left too far behind. So lots of times a movie surprises me, because I notice something (or lots of things) that hone my ministry skills in some way or another.

These days, there are lots of movies that give us the chance to learn about, ponder, or (re)discover Millennials… which just happens to be the only sociological generation we campus ministers tend to impact these days. (And it will be for another decade!) Because the oldest of those guys and gals are in their late 20s, Millennials are not only being marketed to, but their ethos is permeating society and is reflected all over. Including in modern film.

So looking for Millennialness in the movies accomplishes at least the following:

  • We are reminded of what Millennials are generally like, as films reflect the members of this generation.
  • We are reminded of what Millennials want and need, as films either reflect that or try to offer that.
  • We see how others (filmmakers, in this case) are targeting Millennials.
  • When a film does well among this generation, we have the chance to determine why a movie “fits” or “speaks to” the Millennials.

If there’s a good perpetual training regimen for college ministers, I would say one powerful – but also fun – exercise is understanding our students through the light of popular culture. It takes a little practice and is helped by a little outside info, but remembering to chew on this idea – whether you’re watching The Social Network or Horton Hears a Who – will get your college-ministry-mind in even better shape.

I have indeed looked at Horton Hears a Who through Millennial lenses, along with a small smattering of other films. (I’d write more, but it’s kind of time-intensive.) If you wanna practice seeing the Millennialness in the movies, you should be able to rent most of these! Here’s the list:

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On Monday, I reviewed the new documentary Cool It; today I wanted to list some ways we might use it in our campus ministries.

Basically, Cool It is a helpful primer on environmental concerns that also provides an intriguing critique – aimed not so much at the prevalent science as much as at the present attempts to deal with climate change. (Remember, the movie doesn’t deny climate change is happening, and it doesn’t deny it’s a problem. This is not a particularly “right wing” film.)

A random example of the Cool It approach: Lomborg, the movie’s protagonist and narrator, argues that while present efforts to slow climate change will perhaps save one polar bear a year, many more polar bears would be saved if we simply quit shooting lots and lots of them.

There’s lots of neato inventions, too. And animals. I like animals.

If your college ministry needs to talk about this issue or if you’re on a campus that might be drawn to these sorts of discussions, I encourage you at least to go see Cool It. Then you can decide if you want to make use of it and/or the Bible-based discussion guide provided by Reel Truths (which doesn’t look like it requires actually seeing the film).

In any case, here are some ways Cool It might be a help to you as a college minister:

  • It may help you catch up in the climate change discussion, regardless of what you believe. (It sure helped me catch up!) Do you know what “cap and trade” is? How much money is being spent on this issue? What happened in Copenhagen just this year? Understanding these climate change issues will at least help you discuss it, as needed, among your campus tribe.
  • In general, something like this is great for kicking off discussion about how and why we help the world (both its people and the planet). Watching this movie with a bunch of students and then discussing it (even just over yogurt) would be a fruitful time.
  • Specifically, Cool It proposes a vital question: What does it mean to truly impact our world for good? As Christians, we should be leading the charge to love in deeds and truth and not just “words and tongue.” As one person in the movie puts it, “It’s not about feeling good about yourself, it’s about actually doing good.” Could that be any more relevant to college students on our campuses?
  • Another specific application from this movie is simply being wise about our stances. The movie helps (it seems) to balance out the arguments. If anybody needs to learn always to back up their zeal with knowledge AND not immediately assume that the popular or emotional arguments are automatically correct , it’s collegians.
  • It’s a movie! And that provides a natural way to get students involved – including students who wouldn’t normally be interested. Couple that with discussion, and you’ve got a neat springboard. The study guide puts it this way:

While a movie provides the framework of discussion, the Bible informs the nature and the direction of the discussion. Your goal through each discussion, therefore, is not necessarily to cover every theme from the movie or to get to every movie clip. Instead, it should be to use the themes of the movie to point each person in your group to God.

I’d encourage you to check out the study guide. As I skimmed it, I was impressed – it’s got links to movie clips, great discussion starters, and so on. They’ve made it easy to discuss this from a spiritual standpoint, with Christians and non-Christians alike.

The movie’s main site is here, and you can find out if it’s in your city now or is opening this weekend.

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Cool It could be a useful tool for college ministers, helping them better grasp the climate change issue and start (or continue) discussions on how their students can help in all sorts of world concerns. The film brings up great questions about what it means to truly help; as the movie says, “It’s not about feeling good about yourself, it’s about actually doing good.” Could that be any more relevant to college students on our campuses?

Theming is fun, so this week is Movie Week here at the blog. Enjoy.

My free screening for Cool It last Thursday came in response to a mass email from Relevant magazine. [And you can go free this week if you live in D.C., Nashville, or Grand Rapids.] Maybe I shouldn’t have assumed the ticket site‘s repeated references to “God’s creation,” as well as the movie’s promotion by Reel Truths (whose tagline is “Finding God at the Movies”) meant there would be overtly religious content here. You might even think the Christian small group discussion guide available for the movie would indicate that it touches – at least somewhere – on the spiritual connection.

It doesn’t. But while the whole experience originally felt like a bit of a bait-and-switch, it’s been good for me to remember that creation stewardship is still a spiritual concern, even if no spiritual case was made within the movie. (And unlike the movie, the free, impressive discussion guide definitely turns that corner.)

In any case, I did enjoy this movie, which takes a look at world concerns and where climate change / global warming fits into those concerns. For somebody who hasn’t paid much attention at all to this issue (and I bet I’m not alone!), the movie at least “caught me up” a bit and put it on the radar for me. But one surprise I appreciated is that Cool It expands its vision beyond discussing climate change to looking at quite a few other world issues, including issues that more directly affect individual lives right now. (“Priorities” is a major concept in the film.)

For a few moments, this documentary reminded me of Expelled; both documentaries reveal ideas skeptical of prevailing scientific opinion that have been supposedly subjected to an excommunication of sorts. But that focus doesn’t turn out to be the meat of Cool It; although the introduction-of-sorts drags something like 25 minutes, it then curves toward even more interesting topics.

Unlike Expelled, the primary subject and the narrator are the same (very interesting) person, Bjorn Lomborg. And it’s important to note from the outset that he is – by no means – a “climate change denier.” This film doesn’t have as obvious a conservative slant as Expelled; for example, while Lomborg’s critique of Al Gore’s work is strong here, he also praises Gore for putting environmental concerns on the world’s agenda. A Reuters article quotes Lomborg elsewhere as saying, “A fundamental problem of climate change is that we seem to be stuck in two positions – it’s either the end of the world or it’s not a problem at all.” It’s thinking about a pragmatic balance that is the heart of Cool It, for sure.

From the movie’s official site:

Award-winning filmmaker Ondi Timoner travels the world with Lomborg exploring the real facts and true science of global warming and its impact. Lomborg is the founder and director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a globally respected think tank that brings together the world’s leading economists to prioritize major global problems — among them malaria, the lack of potable water and HIV/AIDS — based upon a cost/benefit analysis of available solutions. Amidst the strong and polarized opinions within the global warming debate, Cool It follows Lomborg on his mission to bring the smartest solutions to climate change, environmental pollution, and other major problems in the world.

So the movie focuses on more than climate change; it looks at priorities and asks what we can do to help with all sorts of difficult problems faced by the world community. As I noted at the top, thinking about true help vs. “help” is one of the best ways we can help our college students grapple with the very current social justice issue.

Later this week, ideas on why and how Cool It (or other movies) can be helpful to us as college ministers. But I’ve provided enough links and info that hopefully you can consider that already!

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One of the groups connected to our work that is worth paying attention to is Soulforce, a pro-GLBT organization that has worked hard to visit lots of Christian campuses (among other places) in the last few years. I remember discussing a Soulforce visit with at least one institutional college minister, a university ministries director at a major Christian college. If I’m remembering correctly, he described the visit as awkward – and not because of the university community’s response, but because of the visitors and their unpreparedness for actual dialogue.

While I certainly disagree with the theology of Soulforce, it is absolutely vital for us to recognize that the students this organization seeks to serve do feel as if we – those on “the other side” of this issue – have belittled, defamed, and detested them. We do not seem to have been successful, by and large, with expressing well what we actually possess.

So this organization and the many issues surrounding the GLBT (and other initials, depending on your campus) community are clearly important to our field. And I haven’t personally heard of any major efforts from Evangelical Christian college ministries on this front – let me know if you’ve heard of some.

Since the co-founder of this organization is retiring, he took the opportunity to share a detailed history of the efforts and perceived successes in the group’s twelve years. The letter seems to have been cobbled together a bit (for instance, it refers to Jerry Falwell as if he’s still alive) and seems to make some leaps in its correlations of Soulforce activity and certain outcomes. But it’s still helpful for understanding this organization from the inside… and not just their history, but their views, hurts, anger, and concerns.

You can download a copy of the letter here.

And since it connects closely to this issue, I also wanted to point you to Gabe Lyons’s recent Headline News interview. Gabe is one of the authors of unChristian, which has been widely received by college ministers throughout our country. He has a new book out – The Next Christians – which continues his discussion of how Christians can present our views and “the life that is truly life” really well in the present day. It’s a brief interview, but it might get you interested in the book OR provide a great lead-in for a campus ministry talk / discussion.

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Meatier matter from the College Ministers Cohort and the Catalyst Conference will likely come later this week – not only by me (hopefully), but as I point to others’ learnings, too.

But this blog should also report our successes as a field. And I would honestly say I think the College Ministers Cohort at Catalyst was a helpful experience for the field of College Ministry. We can celebrate that! Plus, as God brought it all together, all kinds of great resources rose to the surface – so I’m linking those below!

(If you want to see our official program from the Cohort, you can download it here.)

by the numbers

  • 120ish attended Thursday’s college ministers lunch
  • 150ish attended Friday’s college ministers lunch
  • 30ish stayed an extra day to attend the College Ministers Debriefing
  • college ministers from about 15 different states

By the time we actually got to Catalyst, it looked like we might have that sort of response. But until about two weeks ago, I was guessing we’d have 80 or so attend. So it was thrilling to see just how many college ministers cared about coming together during an already pretty FULL conference, to meet each other, eat together, and view Catalyst through “college ministry lenses.”

by the sponsors

Another encouraging factor was the number of sponsors who made a statement that they want to support the field of College Ministry. Look at these lists:

Financial Sponsors of the Cohort

Additional Sponsors of the Cohort (via giveaways)

Hospitality Awesomeness came from…

Do you see those three lists? Look how many! Look how many major organizations! It is no small thing that these groups would get involved with a gathering of college ministers – even while many of them already had booths at the larger Catalyst Conference.

You can click on the links to see these groups and the opportunities / giveaways these sponsors presented. Nothing was frivolous; each sponsor gave things that were truly appreciated and that I’d encourage you to learn about.

And if you want to help our field (and help these groups continue to be involved), please let them know you appreciate the support!

by the by

I know that the Catalyst organizers themselves noticed our little ol’ Cohort – particularly because after all was said and done, it wasn’t little after all! Our turnout was apparently larger than at least several of the other cohort-ish lunches, gatherings, etc., dotted throughout the week. And we “did it big” twice! Our Cohort attracted the attention of other Christian organizations besides Catalyst, too.

From everything I could tell, the sponsors seemed genuinely happy to have been a part of this, too. I felt their presentations to our group were spot-on, with college ministers throughout the room recognizing that these sponsor-speakers understood their needs and had something significant to offer. A couple of sponsors (MJ from Future Marriage University and Ian from NewChapter) also took the opportunity to stay for the Saturday debriefing and contributed wonderfully.

Ultimately, I hoped that this Cohort would add value to the Catalyst experience for those in our field. I know it sure added value to my time, and hopefully it did for everybody else. And as I said above, I honestly feel like these sorts of thing help – in their own way – to advance our field as a whole. Hooray!

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Whether for providing video clips to use in a message OR springboarding a small group to some deep discussions, some TV shows offer a chance to connect with students in a neat way.

Certainly, few TV shows are as clean as we would like. Sometimes DVRing and watching ahead is a good move; other times, you might decide you’re fine with showing something off-the-cuff. Pray it through, and do what’s best.

A few TV shows potentially worth your attention, now or in the coming weeks:

dating in the dark

I thought I had written about this show last summer, but maybe I’m just remembering that I wrote my community group at church about it. Because whether for college students or young adults, Dating in the Dark offers a surprising amount of truth-revealing and reflection-prompting.

Sadly, I think Season 2 just ended Monday, but you can watch some free episodes still on ABC.

The big premise (if you don’t know already) is that individuals have to decide if the people they’ve gotten to know in a pitch-black room are worth dating once the lights come on. Each episode offers that big theme to talk about (“How much do looks and ‘attraction’ matter?”), plus several other themes. So if you can find clips, they’d be great for a dating talk (or other talks), or I can see an episode being a valuable small group convo starter – even if you just need a break from whatever the usual routine is.

the office premieres…

…on September 23rd. While it might not prompt a lot of soul-searching discussions, just watching the premiere of The Office together could be a great get-together for your college ministry.

Although I could envision a small group for soon-to-graduate students that watches the new Office each week and then chats about life after college.

community

Last year’s season of Community was actually pretty great, and as I had hoped, it actually did address many of the issues of Millennials and collegians. Not every episode was spot-on for small group discussion, but plenty of them were. And of the three shows I’ve mentioned here, this one’s probably the most likely to “push the limits” morally.

Still, this is one you might want to consider; perhaps you could DVR for awhile and then pick your top 5 for a small group series.

Or, again, this might be a great show for providing clips for some of your talks on a variety of issues, for laughs or for contemplation. (This show goes surprisingly deep sometimes.)

Like The Office, this one premieres on September 23rd.

do you have any thoughts on these or other shows worth checking out?

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My annoyingly long title explains the themes of today’s post, which is my attempt to cram in a couple of College Ministry Frideas you might find helpful as the school year starts.

However, these two Frideas happen to come to you via audio, from a seminar and “application time” I led at this summer’s Campus Ministry United forum.

In the first half, I discussed a better way for college ministers (and their students / student leaders) to come up with ideas for the campus ministry. I was encouraged by the phenomenal feedback I got on this talk, so while it does cover some of the ground I’ve discussed here at the blog, hopefully you’ll find it encouraging. (I imagine this is the time of year when lots of brainstorming is taking place!)

The second half starts with some Q&A, but then the audience and I had the chance to apply the “Better Brainstorming” I had described in the first half. I took suggestions from the audience about what we might brainstorm about, and they chose the ever-popular Back-to-School Move-In. So if Move-In is something your college ministry participates in as the school year opens, you might enjoy hearing all the “modifications” we brainstormed together. Or if you listened to the first half, this is a great chance to see that “Better Brainstorming” method in action.

Here’s the audio, available for free download from Campus Ministry United. Right-click the links to save the file to your computer (by clicking “Save Target As,” “Save Link As,” or something similar). Or you can probably play it directly (by simply clicking on the link) if you have a good connection.

NOTE: I realized last night that if I didn’t get this up here, it might be too late. (Sorry if you’re already past the time when better brainstorming OR move-in ideas help…) However, I haven’t actually listened to the audio of these messages. (Largely, I’ve been procrastinating because I hate hearing myself on tape.) So I can’t vouch for their quality or how well they picked up what happened in those neat sessions. Hopefully, though, you can find a lot of it quite usable – and because time is of the essence, I wanted to post ‘em anyway.

Let me know what you think!

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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