beware the temptation to miss the practical

There are lots of ways to think about the teaching that takes place in a college ministry.

There are many styles, for instance: from semester-long series to regular one-off messages (perhaps with a different speaker each time). What we attempt to accomplish varies, too: using exciting teaching series to purposely draw new students, using teaching to steer the ship and set the values of our ministry, or focusing on “great in the basics” and (whatever the topic) aiming to point students back to a life of simply following Christ.

Our methods differ, too: exposition of the biblical text vs. teaching topics, short vs. long, always using a skilled communicator vs. allowing for individuals to “give it a try,” using the same teacher weekly vs. hosting a variety of teachers.

But here’s one thing any of these teaching efforts can miss if we’re not careful: the “practical counsel” side of shepherding, where we take the opportunity to express biblical wisdom on “small” topics that our students face. These don’t always fit our usual series, nor do they always seem complex enough to spend a whole message on. But they’re the kinds of things we’d be sure to talk with our own kids about, and they’re the issues that your students are wondering about… but may not see their college ministry as the place to hash those things out.

Do I have examples? Sure. But the danger in listing these is that you might not see them as issues your students face (which may be true). But there are “small” issues your students face now – or need to know post-graduation – and it’s vital to figure out how you’re going to fit those kinds of things into your ministry, whether from the stage or through various other communication means. Things like…

  • Should I give money to the homeless guy on the corner?
  • Why is cheating on a test wrong?
  • Should I go to the same-sex wedding of a friend?
  • How – really – should I respond when a teacher challenges my faith?
  • How do I deal with money after graduation?
  • Should I – or how should I – confront a roommate about sin, if they’re not even a Christian?
  • How should I deal with sin in other believers’ lives?
  • How should I respond to a Christian who believes differently on ___________?
  • Why should I go to church now? After graduation?
  • How does “honoring my parents” apply when I’m out of their house?
  • What’s gluttony?
  • What amount of money should I give, and to whom?

I’m making these up on the fly. But hopefully they give you something to think about: How practical do things get within your college ministry, and should you adjust in any way?

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