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You’ll want to read yesterday’s post to get the full context for this, but how can you “produce” students who will influence and impact well as post-college young adults? Here are eight examples of ways students need to be ready to have a ministry in their next church – some specific, some pretty broad.

(And no, this isn’t exhaustive by any means. But it should get you started with your own brainstorming!)

1. Know How to Serve on a Team

If students can’t function well alongside others – when they’re personally not in charge – there will be a lot of potential volunteer opportunities they just won’t be a fit for.

2. Know How to Lead a Discussion

Plenty of young adults are drawn to lead with youth ministry, where small group leadership ability is vital. But that’s true for several areas of the local church. Can your students lead a discussion?

3. Worship Leaders Who Shepherd

Helping talented musicians learn that Worship Leadership involves shepherding is a huge opportunity for any college ministry. Will your graduating musicians provide a shepherding boost if they’re afforded worship-leading opportunities at a church?

4. Can Interpret the Bible Faithfully

You may not have called it “hermeneutics,” but faithful biblical interpretation should be familiar to every college ministry student by the time they’re graduating. The Church needs – and local churches need – those folks.

5. Respect for the Church

If they’re not willing to submit to, honor, and love the local church, they’ve lost even before they’ve played.

6. Patience in the Proving

Sure, churches can be ridiculously slow when having potential leaders “prove themselves.” But today’s students are more likely to get frustrated they’re not used immediately. Are your students ready to be patient, do good, and dwell in the land for a bit? (See Psalm 37)

7. Knowing Themselves (Enough)

Yes, students will continue to learn themselves, their strengths, and their weaknesses throughout their young adult years. But if they haven’t started on that journey, then they’re going to have a hard time expressing to a church just how they can be used… or they’ll waste everyone’s time trying to “be used” in areas they’re not strong in.

8. Focused

Hopefully by the time they’ve graduated, each of your campus ministry students has learned the value of going deep rather than wide. In other words, they shouldn’t be over-committed but should be making a big impact in one or two key things (at least that’s the hope, right?). They’ll need this skill when they find themselves in a new ministry environment – especially if that church is a big one.

As I discussed yesterday, I have the chance to teach a seminary class this week on Collegiate and Young Adult Ministry. The opportunity to teach both subjects (and they are separate subjects!) reminded me of one of our big responsibilities in the field of Collegiate Ministry.

In trying to outline my talk, it’s clear there’s much more to discuss in Collegiate Ministry than in Young Adult Ministry. That’s not to say Young Adult Ministry isn’t thriving in some places. But comparatively, there are some important things to realize:

  • Unlike in college ministry, nearly all focused Young Adult options are in churches
  • The present approach to Young Adult Ministry (in contrast with the approach of Singles Ministry we all observed in the 1990s) is pretty new
  • Young Adult Ministries generally have to draw from large, geographically dispersed populations; they don’t have the luxury of their locus of community existing in a college campus
  • Even in big cities, there may be numerous strong churches without well-developed Young Adult Ministries. (That doesn’t mean young adults shouldn’t choose them – see below – but it is important to note.)

So what does this mean for us as campus ministers?

  • Our students had better, upon graduation, figured out their ecclesiology (and hopefully well before, of course)
  • Hopefully we’ve trained our students to be ready to flourish in a church, even if it doesn’t have targeted Young Adult Ministry
  • Hopefully we’ve trained our students to find and decide on a church, wherever they go after graduation – just as Youth Ministers need to teach their kids to seek out a great college ministry once they graduate, we need to emphasize the efforts our students should be making to jump into new community

My friend DJ Chuang sent me a random ministry question the other day – and I love random ministry questions. It was a fun chance to think through what I’ve seen (and what I haven’t).

While his question (below) is specifically about post-college young adults, it’s entirely applicable for our field, too. They may be useful to you, as you plan your own Large Group gatherings… but also as you help your ministry, your church, or other churches / ministries in your city. As I’ve written before, this is one area where there’s a lot of “zeal before wisdom.”

Here’s how DJ’s post starts – click here for the whole thing.

More churches are asking how they can reach the next generation (some for its own survival, some for the mandate of reaching more people in their community as part of its on-going mission.) Recently I got this question from a pastor of a church wanting to reach the next generation, and he texted it to me this way: “what are best days/times for worship services for Emerging adults (20s) aka post-college?” I could rephrase it as: what are the best worship times for reaching young adults (to be friendlier to search-engines.)

I checked with Benson Hines, the best expert I know of that’s thoroughly researched  college ministries (chronicled at exploringcollegeministry.com), and thus the subsequent post-college stage of life after the inevitable graduation of most college students. Here’s his reply, posted with permission…

Click here for my answer.

Like I said, I love questions like these – plus, they give me great things to blog about. Feel free to send one my way!

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on a local gathering of Young Adult Ministers. It’s been interesting to compare and contrast their work with the work of College Ministry, and this is the third (and probably last?) post looking at thoughts following that lunch. (The first post is here and the second is here. You can also see similar observations after a Youth Ministers’ lunch right here.)

Today, three more thoughts.

the spectrum is larger than ours

In the first post, I noted that what “Young Adult Ministry” means varies pretty widely place-to-place. It might mean Singles aged 23 to 29 at one church, and somewhere else it might include anybody “post-college, pre-family, married or single.”

But within individual young adult ministries, I think there might be a broader audience spectrum (in some senses) than we have in our college ministries. Right now, for instance, many young adult ministries serve Millennials, members of Gen X, and those in-betweeners (like me) who don’t completely identify with either. On the other hand, we campus ministers are almost always able to focus on serving one generation at a time.

Likewise, many young adult ministries nowadays do have married couples as well as singles. They have a wide variety of occupations represented, along with some full-time grad students or nontraditional students. Young Adults have widely divergent levels of education, too (whereas we’re generally reaching the “completed some college” crowd, of course). Young adults also likely live in a wide variety of local areas (at least in larger cities); many college ministries’ audiences probably live within a three-mile radius!

If I was a young adult minister, I could probably point out other ways that audience varies. But in any case, I’d say their audiences probably vary on certain axes a lot more than ours do.

they get to tell us what to do

Maybe Young Adult ministers don’t exactly get to tell us college ministers what to do, but I do believe – strongly – that we should be getting some cues from them about how we disciple students. Just as I wish Youth Ministers would ask us how to best prepare future collegians, we need to listen more and more to Young Adult ministers.

What are our Christian students lacking when they leave our ministries? And… what do they need in order to succeed when they step into the “real world”? Young Adult ministers may be better prepared to answer these questions for us than anybody.

it’s a newer field

One fascinating realization is that “modern Young Adult Ministry” is really quite new. With the marriage-age dramatically shifting over the last decade, there are suddenly high numbers of 20- and 30-somethings who aren’t married but will be someday. And even many of the married young adults are finding companionship with other young adults (married or single); the real life-stage marker now seems to be having kids, not saying your vows.

In other words, this certainly doesn’t seem to be the same field as good ‘ol “Singles Ministry” of the 1990s.

So while we college ministers (rightly) groan about the lack of development in our field of ministry, we have decades of experiences to learn from. For today’s Young Adult Ministers, it’s kind of a brave new world, isn’t it?

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Last week, I started jotting down what I noticed while attending a gathering of Young Adult Ministers here in Dallas. I think it’s helpful to compare and contrast our field (College Ministry) with others, and perhaps the two best areas for that kind of pondering are the ones that fall (chronologically) before and after ours: Youth Ministry and Young Adult Ministry.

Why?

  • Because much of our crowd comes from or moves to those areas.
  • Because there’s some overlap in strategy, wisdom, and resources between College Ministry and each of those fields.
  • Because in some cases (both in churches and parachurch organizations), these areas share organizational ties.
  • And because these areas often get confused with ours – even though Youth Ministry, College Ministry, and Young Adult Ministry are clearly separate fields.

So today, a couple more observations! (If you missed that first post, check it out here.)

Less organic connection… and less competition? Another thing I realized as I sat with two dozen young adult ministers was that these guys and gals are far less likely to run into each other than we are. College ministers’ stomping grounds are usually defined by the campuses they serve, so college ministers naturally end up interacting. This includes the opportunities we have to collaborate and cooperate; after all, we’re serving not only the same type of person… we’re actually serving the same people when we view the campus as a whole.

Those reaching out to young adults don’t seem as likely to cross paths. There’s no “crossroads” they might share (except for a coffee shop or two). So I would imagine the opportunities to interact would be fewer but so would any tendency to “compete.”

Leadership and volunteers that are harder to “wrangle.” By this, I’m referring to the leaders and volunteers that arise from within our respective ministries.

When you think about it, we’re often able to get some pretty amazing stuff out of our student leaders and other student volunteers. After all, even though they think they’re busy, many college students have more free time now than they’ll have ’til retirement!

But young adults are in that in-between, when free time seems a lot harder to come by. The topic for the lunch I attended happened to be on Using Volunteers, and it was fascinating to realize how much harder (in many senses) it must be for young adult ministers. Not only is it harder to ask for a large commitment, but young adult ministry volunteers may also have a harder time submitting under the leadership of the young adult minister.

So while some developed college ministries might raise up leaders who lead a small group, come together for leader training, and are on-point to help during ministry activities each week, young adult ministries might be fortunate to find people who can give a few hours a month. Obviously that’s not true for every volunteer – and there might be a maturity level that we’d envy a bit – but we should be thankful for the availability of our students.

more to come! (The last post in this series is here.)

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A monthly gathering for Young Adult Ministers has recently started up here in Dallas! And since I had helped with a little input on the front end, I had the chance to sit in with them last week.

To avoid any confusion right off the bat: While there are people who serve both college students and young adults (in some churches, at least), those groups are significantly different. I’ll likely blog more about that in the future, but I just didn’t want anybody to be confused by my contrasting of Young Adult Ministers and College Ministers here.

Last semester, I got to attend a Youth Specialties lunch and blogged about the interesting differences I noticed between Youth Pastors and us College Ministers. So I figured I would do the same for the Young Adult Ministers – not just as a thinking exercise, but to help us examine what we do a little more closely!

It’s churches. Unlike our field, which encompasses four distinct branches (campus-based, church-based, institutional, and collegiate churches), Young Adult Ministries are generally housed in churches… at least for now. The only common exception isn’t really an exception; the “citywide” worship service might draw young adults from across church lines, but even that is often run directly by a single church.

Young Adult Ministry’s “target” varies more widely than ours. In College Ministry, our lines aren’t perfectly clear – some people who aren’t attending classes are still quite “collegiate,” while some who are students will feel most at home in Young Adult or other Adult ministries.

But I think Young Adult Ministries have even much more varied definitions of their audiences. Even in that room of 15-20 Young Adult Ministers, the definition of “Young Adult” varied – in age and in marital status. As I’ve seen around the country, “Young Adult” can mean 18-25, 23-30, 20s and 30s, or similar combos. And it doesn’t always mean just singles. In fact, I think the trend (and it’s a trend that makes a lot of sense) is for churches’ Young Adult Ministries to reach “post-college, pre-family, married or single” – as one young adult minister put it the other day.

But in some sense, we can be thankful that the lines are (usually) a little clearer, and they don’t change much with generational shifts (like the average marriage age).

Clearly, college students are part of the equation. Of course, not all Young Adult Ministries have “post-college” as part of their definition. Many churches try to reach both collegians and young adults as part of an overall “Young Adults” or “Singles” ministry, with varied success. This is an important aspect to note, of course, because it affects all of us who reach college students – including college ministries that aren’t in churches.

As I’ve seen at an awful lot of churches around the U.S., it can be really hard to reach both groups simultaneously. While I certainly think one achievable College Student Plan for churches involves activity overlap between the two groups, it needs to be done strategically and with a recognition that collegians and young adults are simply different. Hopefully our field can help churches think through their plans, including helping them see that sometimes a cooperative approach with already-established collegiate ministries may make a lot of sense!

more observations to come! (Read the second post here.)

One of the most illuminating interactions I’ve been a part of occurred a few years ago at a forum for college ministers.

At the event, a major publisher sent a representative to gauge our interest in their products. They had marketed quite heavily to the collegiate ministry crowd, and they wanted to know how to connect with us even better. (Kudos to them for seeking our opinions!)

What followed was quite interesting.

The college ministers in attendance kept asking if this publisher planned to release any collegiate editions of their Young Adult small groups materials. Or, they suggested, perhaps the publisher could put out collegiate “study guides” to go along with the present materials, which – again – were targeted toward young adults.

It was fascinating to watch, because the representative was quite confused. In fact, I’m not sure he ever wrapped his head around what we were asking for. In his mind, their materials were for college students. But college ministers know better: What is needed by Young Adults isn’t always the same as what’s needed by collegians.

lumping

This is one example of the ways outsiders to the field of College Ministry often “lump us together” with other ministry fields. And so we’ve got another BIG opportunity to help advance our field – by helping delineate our arena of ministry from others.

College ministry isn’t the same as youth ministry. College ministry isn’t the same as young adult ministry, either. Sure, some events (like some large group meetings) might fit multiple groups. Sure, some positions (in churches, at least) might have to cover multiple arenas. But none of that means these fields are close enough to be lumped together in general. It’s like with veterinarians: They may be able to treat different species, but all those species are still different enough to matter.

We’ve got a long way to go here. Far too many churches, for example, treat “18-25” (or an even larger span) as a natural grouping for ministry, when that’s only applicable in a few very specific contexts. Some seminaries try to put both youth and college ministry training under the same umbrella. Publishers, as noted above, might not even imagine we would want something different for our students than their standard Young Adult or Youth fare.

delineate

When we kindly, patiently, and clearly delineate these areas for outsiders, we’re actually helping advance our field! How?

  • They realize that what goes on in our field is something unique.
  • They realize that college students need different things than either high schoolers or young adults.
  • They realize that college ministers need different things than ministers in other fields.
  • …So they have the chance to tailor services and products that help us best.

Often, doing this can be combined with the Catalytic Questions idea: By asking what groups have specifically for college students or for college ministers instead of these other groups, you’re automatically delineating the arenas!

Other times, you may just need to ask for clarification, or provide clarification when outsiders lump us with other fields. (I’ve done that at least two or three times this week!) A question like, “Wait – did you say this was for youth ministers or for college ministers?” helps them know you see these arenas (rightly, I’d argue) as different enough to matter.

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I noted yesterday one of the major resources we have for determining how best to grow the college students we’ve been called to shepherd. Those resources are the Singles Ministers, Young Adult Ministers, and really anybody else who works somewhat up-close with post-collegians.

(Add this area to the list of research projects somebody needs to pursue for our field of ministry. But for now, you’ve got plenty of people in your town you could talk to!)

While I would urge us to “go to the source” and observe our students’ future through the eyes of these ministers, I figured it might be edifying to note what I’ve observed myself. ‘Cause I am indeed a “single young adult,” and I’m involved in a church with a pretty thriving young adult crowd. So after spending a Labor Day retreat with 4 or 500 fellow young adults, this topic is rather on my mind.

What do we as college ministers need to do better to prepare students for their young adult lives?

Again, to be clear, I’m just pondering this one. This is not an area of particular expertise (which is why we need to consult those who actually work in this area!). But I was interested to see the list I’d come up with, and I’m interested to see if you – or even your young adult minister buddies – might have anything to add.

Here are some areas that may deserve a little more suitcase-packing:

  • understanding the power of intimate Christian community and getting over the roadblocks to participating in it
  • being great in the basics of the Christian walk
  • watching out for the legalism and Gnosticism-lite that descends on college students and young adults alike
  • learning and using spiritual disciplines (of various sorts)
  • learning and using their personal spiritual gifts (of various sorts)
  • the wonders of intergenerational connections
  • having a battle-plan for the post-graduation disillusionment & other difficulties
  • biblical literacy
  • reading through the entire Bible by the time they’ve finished college
  • shining the light of what God’s doing in their lives – both among non-Christians and among Christians
  • knowing that God is calling them into a great, personal, impactful adventure…
  • …but realizing that they were never, ever meant to “choose their own adventure” based simply on passions, hopes, desires, or circumstances
  • understanding church
  • finding a church
  • singleness and its glorious opportunities
  • servanthood and its glorious opportunities
  • doing something cross-cultural (or even outside the country) by the time they graduate
  • a realistic understanding of the various waits, slowdowns, and other patience-trying years that may await them in their 20s and 30s
  • glorifying God via their vocations
  • the amazing opportunity to give away much of what they earn, and everything else that it can mean to glorify God with finances

This honestly came off the top of my head, but it was interesting to ponder. What might you add? What do we college ministers need to be better about packing in our students’ post-graduation suitcases?

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A while back, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion by leaders in the field of Youth Ministry at a seminary. The panel was very well attended and really informative… plus, it even showcased an impromptu debate between two really well known communicators about the value of home schooling.

There was space for Q&A, and I got to head to the front and ask a pretty simple question, along the lines of, “In what ways have you been able to get wisdom from college ministers about how high school students should be trained?”

Crickets would have chirped, had there been crickets in the room. Tumbleweeds would have tumbled, too (it was Texas, after all). They clearly had nothing to offer; my question was met with an agreeable response: “That’s a great question, but we really haven’t had opportunity to look at that,” basically.

I think most (or all) of those reading this would agree: Youth Ministers absolutely must seek the thoughts of College Ministers as they strategize the shepherding of their students. If those on the receiving end aren’t consulted about what students will need, what they generally seem to be missing when they get out of youth group, and the general climate into which they’re being thrown, then aren’t Youth Ministers missing an enormous opportunity for wisdom?

Of course they are.

But that’s not what this blog post is about.

Because if you agree with me… and I kinda bet you do… then there’s one more question that needs to be asked: When’s the last time you (as a College Minister) talked with a Young Adult Minister, a Singles Minister, a Young Marrieds Minister, a Premarital Counselor, or any other adult-area minster-type about

what young adults will need,

what they generally seem to be missing when they get out of college,

and the general climate into which they’re being thrown?

You can at least start with the locals, right? Couldn’t you grab coffee this week with somebody on a local church staff?

Tomorrow, I’ll post some thoughts after spending a whole weekend with the (fellow) young adults at my church. [Here’s that post!] But don’t wait for me – there’s better wisdom from the people who actually serve full-time in ministering to the future versions of your present college students!

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If you’re unfamiliar with Byron Borger and Hearts & Minds Books, then that’s a major piece of our field that you should add to your puzzle! But it’s likely you have seen him / them, especially if you’ve made it to an Ivy Jungle gathering or the Jubilee Conference anytime recently.

This week, Byron released a gigantic list of books focused on ministry to young adults, by which he means the segment past high school. In other words, this is perhaps the most exhaustive annotated list available for books connected to the field of College Ministry!

Here’s how it begins, and you can click the link to see Borger’s impressive list:

Sometimes I like to share with readers some of the lists I generate for customers who inquire.  Just today I did a serious list of commentaries about 1 & 2 Timothy, a brief list about war & peace, a good list of some favorite novels for a church-based reading group, and a bunch of books for a friend who has a seeker at work who may read about a book about Christian faith. Want to see ’em, such as they are, just give a holla.

Here is another I just finished, at 2 am tonight.  It is for a good friend who is writing a paper on how churches might reach out to young adults, and how to better understand that “missing generation.”  Since we just did that special offer on the Outsider Interviews I figured this might be good to share now.

Please keep in mind it isn’t exhaustive, and was created for a customer I know well.  There could be some others, but this pretty much is just the real list I sent out today.  Thanks for allowing me to send it to you, here, as well.

Keep reading here…

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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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