various thoughts on charm school, campus tribes, & more (part 1)

On Monday, I posted a video from last weekend’s “CBS Sunday Morning.” (If you haven’t taken a look, this post will make more sense if you do.)

The video shows a two-decade program at MIT that prepares its students for job interviews, fancy dinners, and other (sometimes daunting) activities they’ll face as they approach graduation. As the video makes clear, the need for MIT’s “Charm School” comes largely from the fact that these brainy, often-science-minded students (including many international students) might be in particular need of such training.

As I said Monday, this concept raises some interesting questions for what we do in college ministry. I encouraged you to let the video catalyze some brainstorming in a couple of areas. Today, I’m going to do some “thinking out loud” on the first question (and tomorrow I’ll tackle the second – here’s that post).

Question #1: Is your ministry impacting your “campus tribe” (the college you serve) in ways that fit its particularly unique needs and characteristics?

My related thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. Every campus must be reached on its own terms. The wide differences between campuses means we have to start by getting to know our campus. This isn’t the same as saying that every campus is completely different from every other. The situation is like parenting: We realize that two children may have a variety of differences and a variety of similarities… but we start by getting to know the child! Yes, I believe that treating one campus basically like we would any other campus isn’t loving the campus like we should.
  2. Every campus has needs that affect a large portion of the campus. Why wouldn’t those in love with the campus want to locate some of these needs and see if they can help?
  3. Reaching into the uniqueness of a campus doesn’t mean letting go of “staples” like discipleship or traditional service work. Clearly.
  4. The unique needs of a campus aren’t always obvious – although they may be more obvious to the students themselves than to outsiders. Ask around. The students at MIT are probably more willing to acknowledge the need for Charm School than the administrators are!
  5. Sometimes the needs of campuses might be a bit embarrassing; true service will plunge into meeting needs anyway.
  6. Doing the same as everybody else doesn’t make news on “CBS Sunday Morning” (or even on your campus). Our primary goal isn’t to get famous, but drawing students to our organization and shining our “good works” are both important parts of ministry.
  7. Often, the Big Needs of a particular campus will be shared equally by non-Christian and Christian students. Most students at most schools are not immediately interested in biblical teaching. But find that particular campus need, and you’ll find easy ways to connect Christians with unbelievers (and serve them both).

[Here’s the follow-up post, with thoughts on the second issue the video brings up!]


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  1. Pingback: various thoughts on charm school, campus tribes, & more (part 2) « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

  2. Pingback: what does charm have to do with college ministry? « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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