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This was originally a Fridea awhile back, but since our church is hosting a Marriage Ministry Training right now, I thought it appropriate to repost…

I’ve recently been reminded of the roles marriage ministry – usually in its pre-marital form – can play in collegiate ministry.

One method – very accessible for most college ministers – could be absolutely revolutionary in certain students’ lives.

What if you pulled in “mentor couples,” Christian spouses specifically excited to hang out with seriously dating or engaged college students?

It’s easy to think of this only in terms of “premarital counseling,” and that could be one function here. But it could be much simpler than that, too. What if seriously dating couples simply had the chance to share a meal with an older married couple? You might be surprised by how quickly your students could jump at this chance.

And while we’re at it, let’s take this one step further: Could you ever offer something along these lines to your campus as a whole? What could that even mean?

This is an old Fridea that hasn’t lost its steam – with a month to prepare…

October 31st is “celebrated” differently campus-to-campus, and many schools may not see much when it comes to the nearby weekend or the night of Halloween (this year it’s on a Tuesday, FYI). But other schools see quite a bit of Halloween-inspired activity – it may be the moment when everybody drinks, or when the costumes come out (and not unto holiness), or when debauchery is otherwise at its worst.

So my Fridea and encouragement this week is to respond as God leads you and your ministry. Five ways you could do just that:

  1. View what takes place, like a missionary would/should. Let it break your heart. Let it open your eyes and your students’ – and especially your student leaders’ – eyes. Let God use what’s actually happening – not just what you assume is happening – to provide ministry ideas for the weeks to come. (I’ve spent some time praying while I drive through the “scene” in a campus area before, and it definitely broke my heart.)
  2. Serve students. Like Spring Break mission trips or finals week, your campus might respond well to free midnight pancakes or van rides. Maybe you need to create an “alternative Halloween” that’s a blast… without the debauchery. Yes, you’ll need to think through what’s best (and what’s in fact “enabling”), but it’s worth considering how you can serve – and build relational bridges to – students.
  3. Think long and hard about how you can best serve, impact, and encounter your campus at the Halloweens to come. This means getting students together to brainstorm, talking to other college ministers, asking advice from your overseers, etc.
  4. Pray. Pray for your campus, even that very weekend or Halloween night. This might be a night for all-night prayer, or it might be something you intercede about regularly, leading up to Halloween.
  5. Teach. The issues raised by Halloween – and not just the occult issues, though those are real, too – are worth discipling students about, right? Why shouldn’t a girl “dress to impress”? Why wouldn’t a college student drink to excess occasionally? What’s so wrong with a night or weekend of debauchery? How can students serve their peers when they’re wrapped up in these things? Have you taught your students about all those issues that will come up during this one season?

How does your ministry (or how do you, as a spiritual leader on your campus) respond when “news breaks” about your school?

In light of the FBI investigation of some NCAA programs, it’s a good time to imagine how you might handle your own campus showing up in newspaper headlines. My fear is that college ministers, by and large, would automatically ignore the issue.

I’m certainly not suggesting every issue should be addressed. Sometimes it would even make a bad situation worse. But we’re called to stand up for justice, integrity, and other ideals at times, too.

So my problem is with the word “automatically.” My fear is that college ministers, by and large, would automatically ignore such issues, relegating them to the “not my problem” pile as a matter of course.

If college ministers don’t even give a thought to addressing larger campus issues (or larger societal issues, like the national anthem-kneeling issue), then they might miss a leadership moment. Sure, it can be tough to stand up to the athletic-industrial complex on campus, or to bring biblical wisdom in the midst of passionate support of various causes (and passionate arguments on opposing sides too). But it’s worth weighing whether God would have us make a response to each issue that arises, because once in awhile these moments might be your ministry’s designated leadership moment, too.

Among the very first things I would encourage you to share with freshmen – even before they walk through the doors of your ministry – is to beware jumping into a bunch of commitments right off the bat. A student joining a college ministry and the spelunking club and the intramural ultimate frisbee team and the Freshman Leadership Council will find herself in a very different situation than she might think.

I’ve penned this previously:

Have you already warned your students – especially any freshmen you get around – to “guard their signature” in these early days of school?

The busyness of the semester isn’t a calculus curve, nicely sloping its way to gradually-more-busy. It’s got cliffs and chasms, but most everybody starts in a chasm. It feels natural and fun to start signing up, and freshmen especially don’t realize…

  • They’ll feel busier than they’ve ever felt in about 3 weeks
  • Spreading interest and impact across several organizations isn’t very useful at all
  • They should be thinking about four years of impact
  • …so making those decisions slowly isn’t usually a bad idea
  • The Bible is clear: Actual commitments can’t be broken (without the “commitment-holder” releasing you), so be sure you’re clear on what level of commitment is actually being asked for

I’ve pondered before about what might happen if college ministries’ Large Group Meetings resembled late night talk shows just a bit more. I don’t mean in “entertainment,” exactly, but simply in the organization of the evening and perhaps too in how some methods are presented.

So along those lines…

I wonder if any college ministries have ever attempted announcements that go beyond simply “ministry events” alerts, wading into a look at current issues. A talk show’s opening monologue – even though it’s presented with humor (and for the sake of humor) – actually does help viewers “process” the headlines of the day. (Sadly, for many in the audience this may be their primary exposure to the news.)

Shouldn’t college ministers be in the business of helping collegians process current events, too? I’m not suggesting a turn to jokes or ripping off the Onion. Instead, I find myself drawn to the idea of a short, weekly description of one or more current issues, along with…

  • a Christian response (if there’s a clear one),
  • possible Christian responses (if there’s not one obvious path),
  • noting the ispiritual issues at hand within that topic that Christians must consider,
  • offering resources for wading through the topic from a Christian perspective,
  • or any mix of the above.

Can you imagine how that might not only help your students process in real-time, but it might help them learn to think when it comes to current events? And how often would that prompting then lead to great conversations in class, with roommates, with friends, or with family?

One added (possibly discouraging bonus): This might be many students’ only exposure to this type of news. If that’s the case, then you’re also helping them keep up on the goings-on beyond their campus. And that’s a good thing.

Here’s a weird one that could be quite applicable…

I don’t know what role “conflict resolution” plays in your ministry. I don’t know if you teach it or foster it or see it happen a lot. Hopefully it’s not needed all the time, but if you have more than a handful of students (and even if you don’t), it’s likely that students face conflict with each other… and certainly the students in your ministry occasionally conflict with others in their lives.

So what if you pushed them to clean the slate over the summer? To think back either to mutual conflict or to ways they may have sinned against people – roommates, friends, classmates, family members, even professors?

There’s something about summer break that gives space and time to think about this stuff – although it likewise breeds “out of sight, out of mind” too. Well, maybe it’s your job to bring it (back) into mind, encouraging students to get up to date on all apologies, reconciliations, and amends that remain outstanding.

Occasionally I’ve pointed out that Thanksgiving Break serves as an awesome warm-up for the looming Christmas break. Most of your students likely go home for just long enough to remember/realize what they’ll face when they go home for five-ish weeks in December.

But the same is true for Easter. Though not all students likely went home, I bet plenty did. And now, Summer Break is right around the corner.

One of the less-apparent but most valuable roles a college minister (or student leaders) can play this time of year is helping students intentionally prepare for the summer. Specifically…

  • How will they continue to grow in the Lord, not simply coast?
  • How will they respond to and minister to old friends?
  • How will they avoid old temptations?
  • How encouraging or discouraging do their family dynamics tend to be… and how will they respond there?
  • If they have a job, how will they work “as unto the Lord”?

I’m not sure this happened much when I was in college. While I remember offering prayer requests in small group settings, I don”t remember anyone helping me process the summer ahead – identifying the opportunities, identifying the challenges, developing a plan, and organizing mentorship or accountability.

But you can do this for your students. If they’ve just spent time home at Easter, then it’s an easy discussion based on that “experiment.” But regardless, they can recall Christmas break and look ahead to summer. And they can prepare for what the Lord might want to do.

I’m taking a vacation this week, so I’ll have a collection of favorite posts about one topic that hits most college ministries… the Large Group Meeting! Whether you have a classic “sing-n-speak” or some twist on the all-come gathering, I hope you’ll find these useful.

One of the most important teaching steps college ministers can take is to define terms. Especially when it comes to exhorting students to “be” and “do” like Jesus, we’ve got to make sure they actually know what’s being said.

(Of course, that means the teacher has to know, too.)

Off the top of my head, here are some examples of terms that defy easy definition, either because it’s hard or because we (wrongly) think the meaning and application are “obvious”:

  1. “Gossip”
  2. “Judge” (as in, “Judge not…”)
  3. “Gospel”
  4. “Lust”
  5. “Self-Control”
  6. “Humility”
  7. “Sexual Purity”
  8. “Repenting”
  9. “Church Involvement”
  10. “Confront” / “Hold accountable”
  11. “Commit” (as in, what it means to commit to do something)
  12. “Dying to yourself”
  13. “Accepting Jesus” / Converting / Becoming a Christian
  14. “Honoring your parents”
  15. “Being a good steward”
  16. “Shame” (as in, the difference between “good guilt” and “bad guilt”)

That’s just off the top of my head, although a couple of them stick out for me. In high school, a youth pastor hurtfully brushed me aside when I expressed that some people don’t know exactly what “gossip” consists of. And in college, it was really helpful (and guilt-relieving) to hear a speaker and a pastor (two different guys) share what “lust” really is – and what it isn’t.

Think about the most recent message your students heard: Was every exhortation fully defined?

And another thing…!

And there’s another area that could often use more definitions. Too often we ministers assume students understand the words they’re singing during our “praise and worship” times. Words like “Hallelujah” or “bless the Lord” or even “Jehovah” are sung… but how sure are we that students know what they’re singing?

Have you “vetted” the songs you use for potentially-unfamiliar words?

What about the concepts they’re singing? In this case, especially if you’re singing older hymns (even if they’re set to newer music), there may be concepts that should be explained… or else our students really aren’t praising at all during those moments, are they?

On a less urgent note, a third way to facilitate our students’ worship is to help them connect the concepts in songs to Scripture. Sadly, we can’t assume that even songs directly derived from the Bible are understood as such by our students.

Have you considered highlighting connected verses, either alongside the songs, or before/after certain songs are sung? Even if only one song is “amplified” in this way each week, your students’ worship would be awesomely deepened.

What’s more, you could even consider teaching on the songs you regularly use in worship – either from the stage, in a series of emails, or by other means. How cool would that be?!

Many college ministries have made overseas missions a priority. Whether by taking mission trips together, encouraging students to consider short-term or mid-term missions opportunities, or simply seeking to lift up students’ eyes to the (overseas) fields, international missions is a regular “push” for many college ministries.

So in light of yesterday’s themed reminder, I want to encourage some of that zeal to be channeled toward the campus tribes.

My wife and I are planning a vacation (to Hawaii, in fact), and as I often do, I looked for college ministries I might visit while we’re there.

And so far I’ve found… very little.

I’ll keep looking, but it reminded me that plenty of campuses remain largely “unreached” (from a missiological standpoint) – and in this case, that status may be applicable to an entire island or two. Hopefully I just haven’t found these ministries yet.

But my encouragement stands: Would you urge students to consider if God might call them to college campuses? “Unreached” campus tribes aren’t the point – though hopefully it’s part of the consideration. The point is recognizing that missionaries are needed all over the place, and that college campus offer one of the greatest opportunities for that very pursuit.

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!”

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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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