college ministers & a regiment of funerals

I had the phenomenal chance to attend my grandfather’s memorial service last night. He passed away last Sunday after a fairly lengthy decline in health. While we are saddened at this loss, the whole family is excited that those issues are now past and Bob Hines is now in the presence of Jesus. I even had the chance to read at the memorial, from the profound last paragraph of his great-great-grandfather’s autobiography.

(My g-g-g-g-gf was Elder Samuel Rogers, a circuit-riding preacher – a.k.a. road-tripper – connected with the early Restoration Movement. So all of my Church of Christ, Christian Church, and Disciples of Christ buddies should be especially excited about that!)

As I considered today’s blog post after last night’s events, I was reminded of how rarely college ministers perform or attend funerals – at least funerals that are in any way directly connected to our ministries. Many of us attend (or even officiate) plenty of weddings, though!

And doesn’t that dichotomy pretty well characterize one major aspect of the work of College Ministry? For all our ups and downs, struggles and heartaches, we still perpetually deal with life at its prime – and we do it in locations that are, indeed, pretty happy sorts of places. Though our ministries of course have moments of suffering, our environments are rarely characterized that way.

Maybe that’s not completely beneficial.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning,” Ecclesiastes 9 (ESV) says, “than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”

“Sorrow is better than laughter,” it continues, and “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”

There may be no literal way to undertake a “regiment of funerals” in our college ministry lives, nor can we force that upon our students. But it’s clear that we and our students are ensconced in mirth, pitching our tents in houses of feasting, participating far more often in the “beginning of a thing” than its end – and yet the end is the crux of the matter, verse 8 tells us. The problem is, our happy estate simply does not aid in the growth of wisdom. In fact, it might even thwart it. (We see this pretty clearly in our students’ lives, as even the atmosphere of the college campus disciples them in foolishness at times…)

How do we gain wisdom, then? And how do we help our students get wisdom?

Two broad solutions come to mind for filling the gap in wisdom left by immersion in the “house of feasting.”

  • Import (wisdom)
  • Export (ourselves)

…in the same way a vital resource might be gained by any other homeland.

What might this look like in your life? What might this look like in your students’ lives?


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  1. Our college years are some of the best years we ever have, and I wouldn’t want to change that, but you’re right, they certainly can lead to a self-indulgence that produces behaviours closer to silliness than wisdom. My best solution is not to make students suffer, but to connect them to those who are. Export is probably the easiest way to do this, with lots of good opportunities to serve off campus (we do some of this). But I wonder whether there isn’t a third option, some way to love and bless those already on campus for whom all is not well. For instance, our University has a food bank for students that we’re looking into as a volunteer opportunity.

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