the panel that connects

Yesterday, I wrote about making sure students know that we believe ALL of their collegiate experience (and life) connect to the Lord. So here’s an idea from the past that helps make that clear – and helps students make those spiritual connections.

A while back, a brand new college minister I knew had an idea: As Fraternity Rush season descended on SMU’s campus, why not hold a forum to help students work through that decision? Kaity’s testimony involves the sorority world (before and after she came to Christ), and the Greek system is certainly a big deal at that campus tribe.

Her original idea eventually turned into a student-led panel discussion, and I believe they did it multiple times through recent years.

This is the kind of event you could hold for all sorts of choices, from selecting classes to choosing a major to finding friends or “special someones.”

I love this idea for a few reasons:

  • It can highlight the fact that choices are very important. Most students have no idea how much entering a fraternity, joining the ROTC, switching majors, or studying abroad will actually affect their lives. And sadly, they’re probably hearing a lot more “Rah rah you should do this” from present participants (or even their own parents) than they’re hearing “Let’s talk about pros, cons, realistic expectations, past experiences of others, and biblical wisdom.”
  • A “decision forum” doesn’t just give the students the straight dope about how these decisions will affect them, it allows for them to see the theological nature of these decisions. All decisions are spiritual, but sadly our students don’t realize that. This gives us the chance to let them see it – with a topic they’re probably highly interested in already.
  • Obviously, picking something that’s a “campus hot topic” (like Sorority Rush) may draw an audience that doesn’t normally connect with your college ministry.
  • …and it could also be a chance to bring multiple campus ministries together.
  • Panel discussions are disciplemaking with a BONUS of wisdom-from-many-counselors. Could we be more biblical?!

Again, this method can apply to all sorts of decisions: A panel of juniors and seniors discussing how our class choices affect learning and ministry opportunities. Alumni sharing how to choose (and when not to choose) a summer internship. Alumni discussing a successful transition out to the Real World. Sophomores sharing how they chose a major – and why it matters. Students helping fellow-students process the uber-important how-to-spend-my-summer decision. Even Christian students helping pre-freshmen process decisions about what to be involved in before classes start.

And of course, panels don’t just have to be about choices, either. They can be discussions about any facet of the up-and-down collegiate existence.

Because it’s all about God, ultimately.

In case you’re wondering, my pic is of the Chi Alpha house at Arkansas.

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