The Ivy Jungle college ministry network sends me regular information regarding their conferences, job openings, trends, etc. Below are some recent trends in college ministry around the country. This is just an annotated list of what they sent me, but I thought you might be interested in what is going on with college students, especially if you work with them.

Below are seven trends or items of news that they have found to be prevalent:

U2 Eucharist: A new communion service found its way into Episcopal churches across the nation. In the service, songs from the rock band U2 are interspersed with the familiar elements of the liturgy. The format, based on a play list created by Rev. Pagie Blair, a parish priest in Maine has spread by word of mouth and clergy email lists and has injected life and numbers into a number of congregations. U2 front man, Bono, who has been outspoken about his faith and justice issues, has not commented on the use of the band’s songs in the worship service. (AP April 14, 2006)

Students More Invested in Religion: A Harvard University Institute of Politics poll shows that 70% of college students believe religion is somewhat or very important. One in four say they have become more spiritual since arriving at college. 54% say they are concerned about the moral direction of the country. (Knight Ridder News April 11, 2006)

Religion Gaining or Losing? In the same Harvard University Institute poll of college students, one’s political views shaped student views of the roll religion plays in the country. 62% of those identifying themselves as Republicans said religion is losing its influence on American society, while 54% of those claiming to be Democrats see it as increasing its influence. (Knight Ridder News April 11, 2006)

Hookahs All the Rage: Popular in Middle Eastern immigrant communities, hookah bars are catching on among college students. Once an exotic water pipe used by marijuana and hashish users, today’s hookahs are used to smoke flavored tobacco. Students have found the social component of sharing a hookah appealing, cheap ($5-$25 for a pipe) – and unencumbered by the hangover or regrets of a night of drinking. According to Smokeshop Magazine, nearly 300 hookah bars have opened since 2000, many near college campuses. Health experts stress that smoking tobacco through a hookah is not safer, and in fact may be even more dangerous than cigarettes. (New York Times April 19, 2006 A21)

College Grads Head to the Big City: While many of the nation’s largest cities have lost ground in total population over the last couple of decades, nearly all have added college graduates. The Northeast and Midwest continue to lag behind the South and West in both total population growth and college graduate growth. Economists believe the percentage of college graduates relates directly to a city’s economic growth and success. Currently about 25% of the population 25 and older holds a bachelor’s degree, up from only 10% in 1970. Studies show graduates follow both jobs and culture to the city. However, as the Northeast demonstrates, cities often have a harder time retaining college grads once they begin families. Even though Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey are among the top five states in regard to percentage of population with degrees, Boston was the only city in the Northeast in the top 20 cities for college graduates, with most degree holders opting for the suburbs once they have children. Seattle boasts the highest concentration of degrees with just over half of its adult population having finished college. (AP April 12, 2006)

Soulforce Tour Hits Christian Colleges: A homosexual activist group has embarked on a bus tour to bring their message to 19 colleges that have policies against homosexuality; many of them part of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. While some schools have barred the group from their campuses, others such as Azusa Pacific and Wheaton College have created open forums for student interaction when the group arrives at their campuses. The schools say they remain committed to the historic biblical stance against homosexuality, but will make the most of the uninvited group’s arrival for student discussion on the challenging topic. (Chicago Tribune March 29, 2006 p. 8)

Spring Break and Anorexia: As spring breaks draw near, many female students begin dieting in preparation for trips to the sun and beach, often banding together for support and accountability. For some, this dieting leads to something far more dangerous – anorexia and bulimia. What were once ad hoc groups of friends and sorority sisters have become more organized thanks to the internet. A number of websites and message boards fill up with information on diets, support groups and controversial “pro-ana” material as winter turns toward spring. Some provide contests for who can starve the most – with points for days subsisting on less than 500 calories, points for diet pills consumed and even points for posting pictures of skinny celebrities for “thinspiration.” Many experts fear that girls use spring break as an excuse to dabble in risky eating habits. (New York Times April 2, 2006 p.6)