knowing our audience, for real

I have the real honor of teaching a couple of times at Dallas Theological Seminary this month. The topic? “Models of Young Adult Ministry” and then “Church-Based Models of Young Adult Ministry.” (“Young Adult Ministry” here includes Collegiate Ministry, and that’s actually a majority of the focus; the hope is to use the videos of the semester to train collegiate ministers in foreign lands, too.)

So it’s given me the chance to think, rethink, categorize, summarize, and otherwise contemplate all I’ve learned over the last fifteen years of college ministry involvement. I figure that should provide some fodder for the blog, right?

Today, though, I actually want to reflect on last week’s lecture, delivered by an old friend (and college ministry lifer) John Strappazon. He had the fun chance to teach on “Characteristics of Young Adults,” so he walked through a great summary of the very sorts of things I found so formative as we rounded the bend into impacting Millennials over the last decade. Strapp showed videos to capture various Millennial characteristics, shared vital tools like Len Sweet’s “EPIC Generation” model, and so on.

So here’s one of the takeaways for me (and all those in the field of Collegiate Ministry): We’ve got to remember how important it is to know our audience! It was so good to recall how influential similar content had been for me through the years. Three years straight of hearing Tim Elmore talk about Millennials at “Collegiate Week” each summer was the cornerstone of that preparation, and those messages impacted my approaches and my understanding profoundly. But I’ve tried to continue grasping the nature of this generation of students through the years, too, paying attention to Christian and secular takes (and examples) alike.

How much time have you been able to spend getting to know the characteristics of Millennials? Have you come to understand what Millennials – as a sociological crowd – are looking for, what engages them best, what hurts they have, what hang-ups they have, what talents they have? The question isn’t whether you’re doing good ministry to collegians, it’s whether we’re maximizing our engagement with our particular audience, whether we’re “stewarding well” the people God has provided us at this time.

When’s the last time you learned your audience… and adjusted as a result?

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