low-hanging grease

If you got a chance to listen to those K-Love segments I mentioned the other day, you might have noticed that they focus on the high school-to-college transition.

Outside of those who actually minister to college students, nearly everybody (if they’re talking about college ministry at all) talks about that transition. Presumably, they care about that aspect because it’s the edge, the brink, of Youth Ministry. And everybody loooooooooooooooooooooooooooves Youth Ministry.

I’m kidding with my cynicism (kind of). But it’s helpful for us college ministers to recognize the “low-hanging grease” for our field.

Low-hanging grease?

Going for “low-hanging fruit” means focusing on taking the easiest “wins” available.

Going for “low-hanging grease,” then, means taking advantage of the easiest ways to “grease the wheels” of your college ministry… to smooth its path, to encourage support, to win fans, to help people care. We need the support; we might as well make use of our easiest opportunities to build maximum goodwill.

One of the clearest ways to get people caring about college ministry is to connect it to the transition to college, since that seems to catch their fancy already. Though we know our ministry lasts beyond than the five months after high school graduation, we may be wise to promote that aspect somewhat disproportionately.

After all, it’s some of our low-hanging grease.

Written from Stillwater, Oklahoma

4 Comments

  1. This post surprises me, because from what I have seen the High School – College transition is being largely ignored by youth ministers. We watch an estimated 8,000 new college students come to our town every year, half of which have a church/youth group background. Of those, maybe 300 will get well-connected to one of the ministries in the area.

    I think that the youth transition is one of our most important battles to fight. And it seems like Youth Pastors are not aware of the seriousness of the situation.

    What do you see happening with the Youth Transition nation-wide? Who is doing the best job of emphasizing it to their students? What are some campus ministries that have been successful at connecting with high school ministries outside of their immediate sphere?

  2. I agree – this transition appears to be largely ignored by youth ministers.

    But of all the resources, discussions, articles, etc., that are connected with college ministry, a huge proportion do deal with the transitions issue. (It’s far easier to find books for high school grads about “staying Christian in college,” for example, than on pretty much any other collegiate topic.) Usually, though, these discussions / purchases are probably driven by parents or the youth themselves.

    Nobody seems to have “broken through” in this area… yet. I do run across occasional ministries that are good at connecting with their own youth group kids (in church-based college ministries); it’s harder with campus-based ministries.

    However, two major initiatives are underway. Youth Transition Network is working on it; it’s hard to tell how successfully it’s going, but they’re trying. The College Transition Project with Fuller Youth Institute also seems like it could end up being really influential. I haven’t dived into either of these groups like I ultimately will, and I haven’t been able to talk to either of them yet.

    Steve Masters, the Baptist Collegiate Ministry director at LSU, heads up this area for Southern Baptists as a denomination. He has good ideas for denominational connections and certainly does round up a lot of names. He’s definitely one worth talking to.

  3. What do you think is the best hope for success? My conversations with Youth Transition Network have not been too encouraging. They sound excited about the project, but are having a hard time getting groups on board.

    Our campus pastor mentioned you and your trip in his message on Friday. He also pointed out how practically every book out there on transitioning to college is written around the theme of “surviving” college as a Christian. He then preached that the book he really wants to see written is “How to be on fire at college”, or “How to explode in your Christianity at your University”.

    Any takers? :-)

  4. That’s awesome – tell him I really appreciate the shout-out.

    You’re right, we often look at college as a time Christians just need to “survive” in rather than THRIVE in. I imagine some of the books that are written on “survival” include encouragements on how to thrive. But the overall approach still suggests something, even subconsciously.

    The sad thing is, our emphasis on the evils of college could cause students to segment their life: They think “This place has nothing to help me grow. So as long as I’m not drowning in unspirituality, that’s about all I can hope for in my relationship with Christ. So let’s look at how I can grow in the other areas of my life.”

    You asked for my personal “best hope for success,” so here goes:

    I think youth pastors and parents have to see successful transition as a fundamental part of their jobs. Their impact on their kids should be evaluated pretty heavily on how well students are flourishing a year into college – even regardless of the presence of college ministries. (Not all campuses have strong college ministries, but students can still walk with Jesus.)

    As they make this a major part of their task, I think students and parents have to let college ministers serve as their consultants for productive preparation. They have to understand that they need our wisdom on doing this well (and yes, I include parents here). So that means our job as college ministers is to be really, really good at consulting – whether that comes through direct contact or things like books.

    I also have a dream that regional “transition” conferences would spring up for parents and their students. I think those could be highly impactful. Again, we have a real chance here because parents and students are so interested in the topic.

    (And as a disclaimer, I hold us college ministers JUST as responsible for the transition students face as they leave college. We are largely to blame transition. So I’m not just down on youth pastors and parents!)

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