When chatting about the Latter Transition, there’s something I have to keep in mind – something I haven’t always remembered when ministering to students myself.
It’s not our job to jam-pack spirituality into our college students in such a way that it “lasts” for several years beyond college. I think it’s easy for some of us (I’m included) to see college ministry as “our only chance,” and we’re tempted to cram our students so full of right-theology-right-practice-right-attitude-right-decisions-right-worldview-right-experiences-right-knowledge that they have all they need for long lives of Jesus-following.
We’re right to realize that we’re on the front lines. We’re right to realize that the stakes are quite high. But I’m wrong when I think God’s not a lifelong Shepherd, when I doubt His ability to grow students after they’ve left my care.
Instead of aiming for the Cram Method, our second option is to see much of our job as foundation-laying. Or we might think of college ministry as primarily a “transitioning” work altogether – transitioning people from adolescence to adulthood. Maybe not much more than that.
That way of thinking means a different kind of ministry in some cases. It means putting one question at or near the top of our priority list as we plan:
What will best prepare these students to keep growing for a lifetime?
Of course we want them to grow now, too. But these four years are a tiny amount of time compared with the rest of their lives (usually). So we have to make tough choices, at times doing things that are less attractive or messier or less enjoyable to choose preparation over present-usefulness. Every time we pick a teaching topic or a discipleship material or a ministry role, we are making a choice. Sometimes their (and our) current needs and wants will be the deciding factors. But hopefully not always.
Across our time with these students, what we provide them may be all (or most) of the discipling they get before graduation. If the “supplies” we have provided don’t springboard them toward flourishing and continuing to grow big and strong, then those supplies will sink with them.
Our students may even sink more under the weight!