sex, the soul, and counter-cultural college ministry

On Wednesday I intro’d the idea of purposefully counter-cultural college ministry work. And lo and behold, God provided a cool illustration that very day. It came via sitting in on a lecture at SMU, which itself was a great opportunity I wasn’t counting on.

Dr. Donna Freitas of Boston University described her research – fascinating stuff – on college students, their sex lives, how they feel about their sex lives, and how they connect spirituality to all that. There’s a lot there, and this talk by itself certainly convinced me to check out her book sometime. It’s called Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses.

But I want to key in on one big point for now that connects to using counter-cultural themes (on purpose) in college ministry.

Dr. Freitas described college students being thirsty to discuss sex in a deeper way than the unsatisfying gossip, exploit-exaggeration, and other peer conversations they were used to. She talked about guys and girls being unaware that many felt the same disdain for – or at least discomfort with – the casual-sex-culture they felt obligated to participate in. She actually had students begging to take her research survey or participate in the interviews she conducted! And in all that process, she discovered that college students generally struggle to understand the connection between sex and their spiritual lives – even though it seems to them like there is a connection and there should be a connection.

Christianity offers that link. We have it. We have real, deep, and satisfying answers for sexual questions and a bigger story that offers abundant life in this area!!!

Of course, this probably means going beyond our general “relationships and dating” talks, which are perfectly good but aren’t the counter-cultural methods I’m talking about this week. But discussing romance, dating, sex, campus sexual culture, and God’s connection to it all… in intelligent, thoughtful, interesting, winsome, and very public ways…

That would be counter-cultural on many campuses. And it would draw students. (And imagine the potential fruit! -liberation and peace and healing and glorification like crazy…)

One particularly fascinating part was hearing Dr. Freitas talk about using I Kissed Dating Goodbye as a text for her original course on these topics. (She was looking at several “takes” on the matter; Joshua Harris’s book was simply one of those views.)

She said that while she personally hated the book, her students loved it. These were not Evangelical students, but they were fascinated by something that connected sex with spirituality and even offered an alternative to the “hookup culture” they knew.

In other words, when they saw truth that ran happily counter to their culture, they were drawn to that beautiful contrast.


  1. Caleb Lloyd

    I am intrigued by the concept of counter cultural ministry. How are you putting into practice yourself. also, what are some of the things that you would consider essential to any college ministry.

  2. Hi Caleb! Thanks for joining the discussion!

    Right now, I’m not leading a college ministry, though I do volunteer in one. But keep reading the blog, and I should be discussing other possibilities for counter-cultural college ministry soon.

    As for the things that are essential for college ministry, that’s a pretty big question – and it makes a difference how “essential” is defined. Certainly, I would say that any leadership – whether volunteer or paid – should have a love for God, a tested spiritual maturity, and a love for college students. Those are the MOST essential things.

    But I would still generally encourage more before starting a college ministry, and I address that numerous places here in the blog. I’d encourage you to start by looking through some of the Blog Categories over in the sidebar! (You might start with the series I did called “Ten Big Ideas”; you can find it under the Special Series and Trips category in that list.)

    Thanks for reading and for the question, Caleb. Keep ’em coming!

  3. Hey,

    Just came upon your site. Listening to your 19 min podcast. Very insightful and enjoyable. I have a few questions.

    Presently our family is in the UK. We have lived overseas since 1989.We are from the US and are sensing that we are to come back to the USA and minister among Uni students. I have been working among Uni students for the past 8 years in a small town in England. I was wondering if I could call you and ask you a few questions to get some insights. We are at the charismatic end of the Christian community and unaware of the Uni student scene in the USA within this stream of Christian life. Funding is not an issue. We have been raising our own support for 20 years and would continue to do so. Thanks for your time.



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