Last week’s Q Conference was an encouragement in several ways. But looking through college ministry lenses, it reminded me of something that collegiate ministers both excel in and can “excel still more” in.

We’ve got to be fantastic about shepherding our students to deal with tough questions.

I had forgotten that “Q” stands for “Questions,” but I quickly realized it couldn’t be a better-named conference. Their approach isn’t palatable for many believers: for one thing, Q gladly puts people on stage who most of the audience (and the organizers) aren’t going to agree with – to offer a “from the horse’s mouth” argument for particular topics that are at the forefront of discussion (Christian and otherwise) today. And like I heard from some on Twitter, other believers aren’t interested in asking Qs without also preaching explicit Answers to each of the questions that are brought up.

Not everything at Q is set up as “point-counterpoint”; most speakers would fit within a generally conservative Evangelicalism – even if the questions they’re considering are uncomfortable for those same Evangelicals.

But in college ministry, we need both:

  • Lots of chances for students to hear strong, winsome, thoroughly Christian, thoroughly contemplated discussions of issues that are being talked about in culture today
  • Plenty of chances to hear robust arguments “from the other team” on whatever issues are being discussed – in a context where those arguments are taken seriously and discussed thoroughly

Here’s a list of several of the “hot topics” that Q brought up this year. How ready are your students for these topics?

  • Transgender issues
  • Marijuana
  • Euthanasia
  • The Presidential Election
  • Gun Ownership
  • Non-violence
  • Native Americans and their historical treatment by the U.S.
  • Black Lives Matter and other Race issues
  • Connecting with those who disagree with our faith

Sure, attention to “hot topics” must fit within all the other themes of student shepherding. (I believe that a campus ministry that focuses solely or even mostly on “hot topics” is missing even more important discipleship issues.) But we can overbalance in either direction. And even worse, we can easily offer “discussion” of these topics through mostly platitudes, proof-texts, and/or presumption that the issue can be “solved” in the course of a 30-minute Bible study.

Not every issue can be. Students need to know that, and they need to see their leaders wrestle with Qs that don’t find an A so easily.