two angles to today’s collegians

I’m on my 15th multistate, college ministry-exploring road trip! (Details here.) So whenever I can write, I’m posting anything that comes up, for fun or for learnin’. Enjoy!

It’s fun – and not so unusual – when chances to speak or consult about college ministry force me to “streamline” my ideas. My mind generally houses a messy desk of stacks and semi-categories – a system that works fine in everyday life, because I can find what I need and everything stays “visible” and accessible. But when it’s time to present – whether in speaking or writing – mental filing and ordering have to take place, even if I hate making final decisions about “what fits where.”

One part of my seminars yesterday answered the question, “Who are today’s college students?” Starting from square one – and speaking to a group of mostly non-college ministers – forced me to answer the question more fully than I generally do. And as I did, I realized where some of my frustration about some college ministry training come from.

I finally settled on a two-angle approach for yesterday’s talk:

  1. Lifestage: Collegiate
  2. Generation: Millennial

I discuss the Millennial generation a lot here on the blog. Those issues are relatively new (since the first Millennials entered college only in the middle of last decade). But this discussion really only gets us so far; a full understanding of today’s college students takes into account their lifestage, too.

We’re dealing very specifically with collegiate Millennials. Of course, as college ministers, we tend to be familiar with those issues – a state of transition, the openness and searching of the college years, newfound independence, and so on. These issues don’t change as often as generational ones do. But they’re still very important – and newer college ministers and outsiders (like the senior pastors in yesterday’s audience) might need a refresher course.

Disappointingly, some of the recent books and other discussions related to our field approach students from only one of these two angles. Either they only focus on the collegiate issues and don’t recognize how vital it is to understand their sociological generation, or they treat college students like they’re no different than Young Adults, Youth, or others in the Millennial Gen.

To best understand today’s college students, we (and those who support us, oversee us, or want to work alongside us) have to look at their lifestage AND their generation.

Posted while I’m somewhere between Las Vegas and Flagstaff


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