past college students’ defenses

As I noted Sunday, my yearlong road trip was chock-full of learning little gems all along the way. Early on, I came across one clever method a college minister was using to help students find much-needed emotional healing.

What “Carl,” the church college minister told me, is that his ministry places a really high value on helping students find emotional healing from their past hurts and present habits. But there’s a problem: Can you get students who need healing to join a discussion about helping them find it? Or will their defenses, vanity, etc., stand in the way?

So what Carl decided to do was instead offer something these students would be drawn to: Training Sessions to teach students about helping others find healing! Carl wisely recognized what I saw plenty as a Psychology major: that many who most need emotional healing are drawn to helping others with similar issues. And while learning about principles of emotional healing, of course they’re able to apply those things to themselves.

It sounded like this college ministry has seen many students do just that.

This isn’t bait-and-switch, at least not in my opinion. The Training Sessions teach what they’re advertised to teach. But they’re also designed to slip needed teaching past harmful defenses that impede students’ growth. As far as I can figure, this method applies the same wisdom as:

  • having members of a discipling group “teach each other” on topics we know they too need to learn
  • asking leading questions to help students arrive “by themselves” at the answers we know they need to
  • using “anonymous examples” within messages that we know apply to people in the audience
  • doing “fun activities” that have additional motives: teaching, community-building, etc.

Thus we might offer a “Principles of Leadership” small group designed both to train potential leaders and correct those who wrongly presume they’re ready to lead. Or teach a series on “What Girls Should Look for in a Guy” that, of course, has a lot of relevance for the guys in the audience, too. And so on. In each case, we’re exhorting… but in especially palatable ways.

I’m open to hearing differing opinions on this one, because we never, ever want to be shady, as though the ends justify the means. But IF this method is above board, then it might be applicable for any areas where students are particularly hesitant to learn!

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