The Changing Face of College Ministry (Part 2 of 2)

In my post a couple of days ago I began talk about some of the changing trends in college ministry. This is my second post on this topic. These are trends based on my own experience, anecdotal evidence, conversations, readings, etc. As you see near the end of this post, a few of the trends are things that I have noticed, but I don’t know if they are necessarily a move away from something prior towards something new….or just a movement towards something new and unique. Some of them are also changes that may not be earth shattering in any way, but just unique. Like the trend towards text messaging as one of the only forms of communication with my students, versus phone and email.

So take a look at this post and the previous one, and give me any feedback you might have. I’m really curious to hear from you.

  • We know college students and students in general are always changing, but has there been a paradigm shift in college students and the types of ministry that we do?
  • If you have some further thoughts, let me know and we can interact via blog.

Move Away from Slick, Professional Looking Services/Events, Towards Organic-Authentic Services

  • Student’s seek authenticity, and if something seems to slick, it doesn’t feel organic and authentic to them. This is where the line between doing something excellent and being too professional are very blurred.
  • I just had a talk with a student yesterday who commented that he felt like our college worship service was not raw and organic enough. That the pre-programmed lights, flow and ambiance seemed too planned out and orchestrated. He is not the first that I have talked to this year or other years about this. This is a constant challenge.
  • As leaders, when we plan a service, we often have very different things in mind than those that attend. Too professional reminds them of overly rehearsed TV preachers and evangelists and can cause a bad reaction.
  • College students live very “organic lives.” (Meaning, they often go to and from on a whim, and even though they plan things out, college life is about spontaneity, and being organic and real to the moment.)

Move Away from Loyalty to One Ministry/Organization, Towards Interest, Involvement in Many Ministries/Organizations

  • It used to be that you could find a student, or student leader to commit solely to your ministry for a certain time period. Sure they have always been busy and had their things in other things. But it seems these days that they are involved in many, many things, and your ministry is just one of them. And it many not demand from them the loyalty, time or exclusion that you are expecting.
  • I think this can best be seen on Facebook and other social networking site. Students can join about 150 groups. One only has to watch the news-feed to see the groups that student’s join daily. Now, don’t get me wrong. joining a group can mean nothing. It’s online and often involves no involvement. But some do. But what it is more indicative of to me is that student’s want to be involved in as many things as possible. And to do this means that their time to your ministry is now more limited. Because now they have more access to things available because of the internet. Things that were not available to them, or they did not know about even five years ago.

Move Away from Dispensing Information via Paper , Towards Dispensing Information via Online/Web Based/Social Networking

  • I know, this is a funny one to mention. But the reality is, is that I make about three paper flyers a year, do a bulletin once a week and hang some flyers on campuses. There were several reasons. People just don’t read paper that you hand to them and it’s a waste of money and resources.
  • With Facebook, we create every flyer online in the events option, and we advertise and communicate primarily through our website. I’ve never heard students say they came to our group through bulletins or even some flyers, but rather through online networking groups and our website.
  • Online resources also help eliminate top-down authority and enable the community to collaborate, create and make decisions.

Move Away from Phone Calls, Towards Text and IM

  • I receive possibly, and I mean possibly one phone call a week on my work phone (and it’s never from a student).
  • If any student ever contacts me through a phone, it’s obviously their cell phone.
  • But even now, 9 out of 10 of my communications with students (for meetings, meeting up, questions, etc.) are through text messaging, not through a phone call. This began a couple of years ago when students sort of stopped calling and only texted, I just didn’t have a good enough phone to text rapidly. So I went out and bought one. If students can communicate without a phone call they will. I think phone calling is often seen as an invasion of privacy, especially if you are calling one you don’t know.

Move Away from Email, Towards Social Networking Messaging

  • I receive about 100 emails a day. Mostly from students. In the last few months, 5 out 10 of messages from my students to me come via Facebook now and not email. Everything they do needs to be done on one page. Why move to a different site when Facebook can do it all?

Move Away from the Traditional Favorite Christian Authors, Towards Newer Emerging Ones

Move Away from Political and Social Conservatism, Towards Moderate/Liberal

  • I know this shouldn’t really be surprising, as a lot of college students tend to lean more liberally in college than some of the other stages of life, but when it comes to Christian college students, you usually tend to get Conservatives. I remember when it was a really big deal that we had two Democrats (at least outspoken ones) in a group of about 200. That has changed. More and more students are identifying themselves as moderate and liberal, or just being disillusioned in general with both parties and wanting to vote independent. The most recent Ivy Jungle Campus Update talks about some of these trends.
  • Also, some of the leading speakers that Christian college students identify with (Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne and Donald Miller) aren’t walking billboards for the Religious Right or Republican party. If anything, they have been influencing students in other directions.

Move Towards Eco-Friendly/Green

  • Just look at the news. More and more students are trying to figure out simple ways of living more green, from recycling more responsibly, to driving more fuel saving cars, etc. Many pastors have been preaching series about God and green, so it’s not surprising that this issue has been picking up steam in the church.

Move Towards Social Justice Issues

  • I don’t know if students have ever not been interested in social justice issues. But with authors such as Shane Claiborne, and identification with more independent and liberal politics, to more awareness of global issues such as sex trafficking, etc, students have been talking to me more and more about issues related to social justice.

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