Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Quality or Participation/Ownership?

One of the discussions in college ministry today is, "Do you hire professionals to 'put on' the best collegiate worship service possible in terms of quality or do you have students do it so they can learn how and have ownership?"

One of the influences in this has been the passion movement where thousands of students experience worship led by the best contemporary worship leaders of the day and the likes of Louie Giglio speaking.  Louie is arguably the top college speaker of the last several years.  Consequently, many collegiate worship events now resemble a "mini-passion".  One campus based ministry has rented the ballroom on their campus and brings in a nationally known speaker each week and different well known professional worship leaders.  Their obvious attempt is to attract a large number of students with the quality of their event.

For some church collegiate ministries, a primary concern in calling a college minister is that person's ability as a speaker to a large group and some even now are bringing on full time or part-time contemporary worship leaders for the purpose of leading their weekly college worship event.  While other collegiate ministries are having volunteer student led bands lead their large group events.  Some would say it is simply a question of economics...which can you afford?  You might argue that quality is always determined by the budget.  Yet, there really are two different philosophies at work here.

What impacts a student's life the most for the long term....is it a quality event or is it seeing fellow students or even him or herself leading worship?  The argument for student led goes to the idea of teaching students how to serve, preparing them to lead in their churches in the years to come.  Some students have even reacted somewhat negatively toward collegiate worship events that are "too glossy" or "showy".  But, if you have ever worked with an all student/volunteer band, you know how messy it can be.

I don't like a choice that is a choice between quality and training.  I don't believe we ever say it is ok to do collegiate events poorly, but I do come out big-time on the side of using students to train and prepare them for the future.  One question we must never lose in college ministry is, what is best for the long term in their lives?  We can't ever quit holding up the banner and challenge of quality and must model it in every thing we do, but somewhere there is a line between messy, real worship and just a really good concert or show....where that line is probably varies in different situations.

How many Louie Giglio speakers are there out there.....not many.  BUT, I have come to believe that we need gifted speakers in special events, but that someone who knows and loves students in their particular context may likely be even better than a Louie or Francis or whomever.  A few years ago we experiemented with bringing in a quality collegiate speaker that our students liked very much.  He would come once a month for a semester.  The idea was that it would attract more students for those "special worships".  Hopefully, then some of then would show up occasionally for the other 3 worships each month.  A funny thing happened; attendance started to go down on the weeks that the special speaker was there.  Was the regular speaker better?  No.  But, he knew the students and knew their concerns.  They knew him and that he cared for them. Worship is personal and when it becomes impersonal, it can loose something.

The choice is not as simple as quality vs. participation/ownership.  A friend of mine is fond of saying, "For every difficult question, there is an obvious and easy answer.....that is usually wrong!" 

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