When I was a child, my mom often told me to act my age. I think my wife has said that to me a time or two. But, those that most need to hear it are.....College Ministers. It is my deeply held belief that every age can be a plus in College Ministry. Each age has both strengths and weaknesses in our ministry to college students. I do not believe the "Golden Age of College Ministry" is young. In fact, I'm embarrassed about many things I did and did not do when I was young in College Ministry.
It is my belief that each age category has it's particular strengths which we must recognize and lean into. Conversely, each age category has it's weaknesses which must be acknowledged and then can be addressed. Here is a quick description of each of what I call "The 4 Seasons of College Ministry".
THE BEGINNER OR NEAR PEER - It is easy to mix and mingle in the student world and connect to students on their level. They have a joyous optimism. The obvious weaknesses are that the ministry is often limited to those who respond to that individual personality and the lack of overall experience to draw on. a plus is the optimism or can-do spirit that goes with this age.
THE COOL ADULT/THE ROLE MODEL - This is the real world functioning single or one with a spouse and possibly children. An obvious strength is being able to model the next step in life. Plus, there is now some experience to draw on. But, a challenge, particularly at this point, is learning to balance both personal life and ministry...particularly those with young children. It's easy to be unfair to one or both. This often is a quitting point for some.
THE RESPECTED VETERAN/THE PRO - This College Minister has a strong background of experience and relationships on which to draw. It is much easier to relate to college administrators and pastors/church staff as a peer. This opens lots of doors. They have a developed philosophy which benefits the ministry. A weakness of this season can be the temptation to get into a rut of just doing the same old same old at the same time each year. There is no vitality or freshness. Plus, it is easy to become rigid and unwilling to change or adapt. But, the huge pluses are there.
THE STATESMAN/THE BUILDER - This College Minister has done it, seen it done, and knows the how's and why's. They have an even larger network of alums, friends, administrators and peers that can benefit the ministry. Lots of resources are available to them. They often can have a very positive parental style relationship to students who need it. Their age and experience draws respect. But, It can be easy to just become an administrator or fall into the trap of "preaching at" students. It is also an opportunity to build for successors and leave the ministry stronger than they found it. Those in this season are great team leaders and mentors.
Unfortunately, too many quit College Ministry because they think they have aged out....when in reality, they may have just learned enough to be really effective. What's the "Golden Age of College Ministry"? It's simple....it is the one you are....IF you recognize the strengths, lean into them....AND, acknowledge the weaknesses and address them. Plus, look forward to the next season that just might be even better! Act your age and God will use it!