Throughout my travels, it’s been interesting to see cases in which two quite different methodologies are widespread, but few college ministers seem to have considered any sort of combination or compromise.
Such is the case with today’s entry in the “College Ministry Poles” series, which asks, “Does your ministry provide single-gender or co-ed opportunities for spiritual discussion?”
I have been quite surprised to find a stark division here, and I’m not even sure that college ministers in each “camp” realize how many ministries are structured the opposite way!
***Important note: by “spiritual discussion,” I mean chances for interactive spiritual dialogue in an organized setting. This is most often accomplished in some kind of “small groups” but can take several other forms.
On the one hand, many college ministries only present opportunities for co-ed spiritual discussions. Their small groups (or other spiritual discussion offerings) are mixed-gender, many times with both a guy and a girl leader per group.
While the bulk of spiritual discussion within the year takes place in mixed-gender settings, there can be gender-specific “special events”: perhaps a particular week in which the guys huddle together and the girls soiree (or whatever girls do), and spiritual discussions ensue. Or separate guy retreats and girl retreats. Sometimes a few single-gender mentorship relationships might pop up within the group, too. But the week-in, week-out opportunities are nearly always co-ed.
On the other hand, many college ministries only present opportunities for single-gender spiritual discussions. Their small groups (or other spiritual discussion offerings) are boys-only and girls-only.
While the bulk of spiritual discussion within the year takes place in single-gender settings, there can be co-ed “special events”: perhaps a particular week in which a guys’ group and a girls’ group meet together for spiritual discussion. Or combined retreats, complete with spiritual discussion opportunities during that weekend. Sometimes a few co-ed discussion groups pop up organically, or ministry teams or service opportunities might provide some chance for mixed-gender spiritual discussion. But the week-in, week-out opportunities are nearly always single-gender.
Like I said, each of these is very common (which may surprise you!). Yet it’s been quite rare for me to see both options offered explicitly in a single ministry, except in some particularly large ministries. In these cases, both co-ed and single-gender groups may be offered in the context of several small group offerings.
Notably, many smaller college ministries may “accidentally” provide both: Their “large group gathering” is small enough to allow for spiritual discussion (with both guys and gals), while they offer single-gender small groups at other times.
- Has your ministry chosen one or the other? Why?
- Does one have more merit than the other?
- Is there any merit to providing both kinds of opportunities regularly?
- Is providing both even possible? How?
See the other entries in the College Ministry Poles series here.