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With this week commencing summer for many and Finals for others, I’m going to take a week off from the blog.

But I will not leave you idea-less: There’s a whole category about summertime ministry ideas that I’d encourage you to peruse.

Meanwhile, the Summer Lovin’ series is more about relationships than the actual summer, but you’re welcome to browse those seven posts too…

tribesrow2015

Join me on a vision trip.

Potential missionaries – or supporters – take a “vision trip” to imagine together how God might lead them to impact a particular people group.

Our vision trip takes us to a nation filled with numerous tribes. We’ve heard reports that these populations have a great need for the gospel, that these tribes are still largely unreached, and that darkness abounds within many of them. But these tribes are also highly influential within their nation as a whole, as well as being extremely open to influence – whether ours, others’, or their own educators’ and chiefs’.

The vision trip’s timing is fortunate: Representatives from nearly seventy of these tribes have recently gathered for a great annual contest (known to the natives as the “Tourney”). Elite warriors from each tribe compete in contests of endurance and skill, while thousands more surround the games to root for their delegates. By the time of our visit, only four tribes remain – four potential champions, finally whittled down from the original dozens.

This event could provide an excellent window into these tribes, so we watch.

We notice immediately that each tribe rallies around an individual identity, a nickname or costume that seems to bond its members rather mystically. Three of the remaining tribes have been named after animals – a common waterfowl, a fighting rooster, and a tenacious canine. The last tribe’s name derives from its region’s historic industry. But these four tribes defeated others, just as unique, to reach this point – many of these also named for animals, from Wolverines to Razorbacks, and others that hope to embody the spirit of Musketeers, Mountaineers, or simply the Irish (known as “Gaels”).

(The variety of tribal names reflects the striking variety of these tribes – a diversity between locations that might not be recognized by those unfamiliar with this mission field.)

The Tourney inspires much festivity, and all the more in these final stages. Dancers are prevalent – as are musicians, food, drink, wagers, and even prayers. The chiefs of the tribes are here, and can even be found celebrating alongside the youngest from their villages. Healers stand by, though actual bloodshed is minimal. Impartial judges are assigned to regulate the games (but face much taunting throughout). And often, above the din, tribal chants can be heard: sometimes jubilant or jeering; often rhythmic, even solemn.

But we look closer.

We can’t deny the deep passion in these tribes, among warriors and watchers alike. When competitors win the crowd’s elation is profound. But losing warriors may weep with bitterness that would be shocking if we hadn’t seen fervent zeal displayed all along. We view transcendent “shining moments” when Davids take down Goliaths, when boys become men for a few crucial minutes, when weakness is turned to strength to put opposing armies to flight. These brief contests reveal passion and enthusiasm that have yet to be tamed – not only in contestants, but in their tribes. There is a grit here, a rowdiness, a wild youthfulness. Wisdom will be important to add to this zeal, of course – but with this energy, much could be accomplished for God’s Kingdom.

It becomes clear that creativity and intelligence abound within these tribes, as well, and it’s not surprising that national and world leaders will come from within their ranks. Meanwhile, we also notice that the bond between tribe members – known as “spirit” – is not frivolous. It is through this sort of community and comradeship that truth can travel quickly – but so can falsehood.

As we continue observing the Tourney with missionary eyes, we are thrilled that God might ask us to reach such a unique people. Of course, this will not be an easy ministry (as though any missionary activity was ever easy!). Surely patience, energy, and investment will be required if strong and lasting work is to be built. But even a quick, competition-filled vision trip has shown us: These mission fields offer great opportunity and blessings untold. And if these particular people are reached well, they in turn will change the whole world.

All the “madness,” the excitement, the passion, and the valor found in this Tourney reflect the beautiful tribes from which the contestants come. And there are far more than sixty-eight tribes to reach.

This is the 2017 version of my annual “sixty-eight” essay.

I’ve had the amazing opportunity to visit 39 of the schools in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and I proudly wear shirts from 4 more that were donated by ministers or alumni.

As Easter approaches and you make your corresponding plans, I just wanted to remind you of something that should encourage your students – and give them something to pass on to classmates.

If you haven’t browsed over at the Veritas Forum page recently, I encourage you to do so. They’re very generous with the content they generate on campuses, allowing you and your students to hear real-life debates and seminars that speak directly to the educated masses that are your mission field… and topics like The Incarnation are particularly pertinent around Easter.

That’s all. I hope you take a look.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about Easter possibilities. But can campus ministries even celebrate Easter, or use Easter time strategically?

Of course they can.

Combining and revising a couple of posts from long ago, here are some thoughts about the upcoming holiday.


Easter and Christmas, THE two biggest “liturgies” among us Protestants, are both widely ignored in the context of college ministry. Students are often home at Easter and pretty much always home at Christmas. Students who happen to stay in town (or live locally) aren’t going to celebrate these holidays with us.

But that’s kind of a shame, isn’t it? Because not only should we help our Jesus-following students better comprehend and celebrate the magnitude of the Christmas and Easter stories, but the non-Christian and “de-churched” students around us might be more likely to reflect in these moments than any others.

So first, here are six straightforward ways to impact your students and/or your campus at Easter:

  1. Round up your students who are local to participate in something a local church (or other college ministry!) is doing (like a special worship service, a seminar, a family Easter event, etc.).
  2. Connect with a local church who could use some extra hands during Easter week, preparing for their big service or other event. Recruit students to help.
  3. Before they go home, give students tips and exhortation about sharing Jesus with family over the long weekend.
  4. Encourage students with tips and exhortation about witnessing to friends around Easter week.
  5. Prepare to do something with your students after the Easter weekend to debrief about the weekend, or about opportunities students had during Easter week.
  6. Prepare to do something after Easter to impact your campus.

When it comes to those last two notes – stuff to do after Easter – here are a handful of great ways to carry that out:

1. Let students share. How often do we ask students to share the growth they gained away from our ministries? Yet some of your students probably did reflect on Easter, celebrate Easter, and grow in the context of Easter in awesome ways. Shouldn’t they share that with you, their college minister? Couldn’t they share that with the whole group?

2. Don’t let Easter season pass by ’til you’ve fulfilled your ministry. Sometimes we’re so interested in putting on a good “show” that we wouldn’t dare do something silly like talk about the Easter story after Easter! But if there’s something God wants you to teach about Easter… you need to do that. Even after Easter. (Your students won’t care that you’re reflecting on the Easter story after Easter; in fact, it might make it “stick” better.)

3. What are you going to do for Christmas? The seasons aren’t exactly the same in college ministry, but they have some similarities. Start pondering now.

4. Ponder what next year’s Easter will look like. It makes sense to consider your Easter and “Resurrection Week” activities for 2018 now. You don’t have to decide everything, but you should

  • analyze how well this year’s activities (if you had some) accomplished your purposes
  • contemplate what you might want to do next year (while you’re still “in the moment”)
  • write down any worthy thoughts – and maybe set a reminder to make sure you look at ’em in 11 months.

By the way, Easter 2018 is earlier – April 1st. I already hear preachers around the country polishing up titles (and church sign guys laying aside phrases) like, “When God Pulled the Best April Fool’s Prank Ever” or “No Foolin’: He is Risen Indeed!”

A fitting Fridea for Inauguration Day:

Once per collegiate “generation,” you get a prime teachable moment – another U.S. Presidential election.

So how did you do this time around?

If there’s any weekend to debrief how you took advantage (or didn’t) of this teachable moment from late 2015 until now, it’s this weekend.

Write yourself some notes. Ask student leaders for ideas for next 2020. Weigh what you wish you’d done, what you wish you hadn’t done, and what you would change for next time.

(One bonus of debriefing now: It will help you keep your own interest/excitment/annoyance at next time’s candidates from affecting your shepherding approach.)

Just a challenge: Have you properly debriefed your students after the craziness of this year’s presidential elections (and their aftermath)?

Whether you campus collectively cheered, booed, argued amongst yourselves, or seemed pretty apathetic to the whole thing, you don’t want to miss the chance to “close the loop” on this amazing discipleship opportunity.

“Out of sight, out of mind” and “water under the bridge” shouldn’t apply here. Plus all of it may come up when your students are home. So be sure to finish our your shepherding on this important topic.

I hope you’ve been using this election as a teachable moment, regardless of where you or your students “land” on people and issues.

If you need some inspiration/thoughts on discipling through this, here you go:

It’s a Gold Mine

Please Get Political

The Major Plus the Moment

Beware the Political Obvious

Christ in the Middle of Political Discussion

 

A holiday like Thanksgiving shouldn’t pass without college ministers pondering how they might leverage it. And yes, Thanksgiving is a prime opportunity – with weird schedules, unique groups of students “left” on campus, and more.

I’ve posted these potential opportunities before, but they’re worth revisiting:

  1. Service projects. Find out some ways to impact local ministries, and throw those ideas out to your students.
  2. Meals or other fun. Students who are here during the Thanksgiving weekend would probably be especially blessed by being offered a chance to get together – they’re likely bummed they can’t be home with family. This includes international students! If you’re going to be around, consider inviting students into your home, or find a place (like a local church or somewhere on campus) where you could hold a meal / games / football-watching / etc. day.
  3. Point to other orgs’ planned opportunities. What are the local churches (including your own) doing? Does the campus have any official plans? Do any local organizations have plans for that week? (You might be surprised what you can find.) Service projects? Serving meals to others? Holding festive meals for their own members (and potential student visitors)?

One more tip: Talk to administration (including the office that looks after International Students). Not only might they have ideas, they’ll likely love the fact that you’re serving students during this weird week.

Students – if they’re paying attention to world events, which isn’t always the case – are often zealous to help when crises hit.

And Hurricane Matthew has provided such a crisis this week.

So how well are you shepherding how they help? Because there’s no more obvious place where zeal-without-knowledge can be unproductive or even counter-productive than in disaster relief. Students giving to sketchy GoFundMe accounts, students loading up a car to go help (without direction), students launching social media campaigns (or just updating their profile picture) – these aren’t particularly effective go-to steps.

So how are you shepherding students about help that really helps?

This is on my mind because we’ve been working on it at my church. We just rounded out our first attempt at an ongoing Disaster Relief page yesterday. (We’ll update when a crisis is current.)

I keep harping on it, but it continues to be true: You won’t have another teachable moment – in the subject of politics, government, etc. – as strong as this one, with these college students. They’ll be gone by 2020.

That’s the point of my haranguing. Not that we need to be all politics all the time, but that we should take the teachable moments as they come.

But you know your own campus – maybe students aren’t talking about the election. Or maybe your students aren’t talking about it. (Although if the campus is abuzz but your own students are apathetic, that might be reason to talk about it all the more.) This is even the sort of thing that a well-planned campus-wide discussion could address; I’d be so excited to hear that numerous college ministries were holding “Does God Care about Elections?” events.

And one more thing: Can you imagine having future elections provide more topics than this one?

You’ve got a gold mine here. I urge you to mine it.

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Welcome to Exploring College Ministry

After ministering to college students for 8 years, I've spent the last 6 years trying to help push our whole field forward. This meant, among other things, a yearlong road trip, an e-book (Reaching the Campus Tribes), exploring 250+ campuses, consulting, writing, speaking, and more. I love any opportunity to serve college ministers or others who want to reach college students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.

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