Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day, West Point & Cuts in Baptist College Ministry

Today LT Kaleb Blankenship, US Army and recently returned from deployment, read scripture in our service. He did so as part of our honoring those who do and have served. Kaleb was there because he married an Arkansas State University girl he met while both were serving in Beach Reach Spring Break ministry. Kaleb was there as the president of the BSU/BCM at West Point. Kaleb was being mentored by Dwain Gregory who had retired from campus ministry and moved there. Since the funding for a full-time campus minister at West Point had been eliminated, Dwain had begun to serve on a part-time basis. As kaleb read scripture, I was struck by how fortunate we are to have men of his character and ability honoring the Lord and serving as a leader in our military. Then I was struck by the absurdity of the fact that Baptists can't "afford" to have a full-time person serve at some of our most influential campuses such as West Point. Some estimate that within the last two years Southern Baptists have cut 35 to 50 full time college ministers. This does not count the part time positions that have been deleted. A man in my Sunday School class who is aware of some of the cuts asked me why the cuts had been made. The simple answer is a change in the funding priorities of the North American Mission Board and in some state conventions it is due to decline in income and college ministry has not been a high enough priority. We are losing the 20 something generation to the church and college ministry is not a high priority? My Sunday School friend said, "Why isn't someone waving a flag about this?". I am waving the flag! Would you wave the flag whenever and wherever you can?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Sue's Birthday/Women in Campus Ministry"

Today is my wife/Sue's birthday. I have been struck by what a huge part she has been in whatever "success" or just good stuff that happened during our 32 years at Arkansas State University. When we came the secretary quit and she took it on temporarily until we could find the right person. I am not sure where in the 32 years we decided she was the right person. It took me a while to realize that students were watching us to see how marriage worked. As more students came from fractured families, the more this became true. When they were sick, they didn't want to talk to me; they came to see Sue. She would look into their eyes and tell them if they had fever and what they needed to do. A doctor friend of mine said only moms can tell if someone has fever by looking in their eyes. As our ministry began to grow, she didn't just coordinate the Lunch program with churches, she would cook for 200 to 300 students. At our retreats she would do a seminar on cooking and I don't know how many girls have told me that one of her recipes that she showed them how to fix is their "go-to" recipe. I am reminded of when our girls were at home that she would have supper at whatever weird time it worked for us to all eat together and me go back to the campus or cause I just finally got home! On her birthday today I just realize again how God blessed me with her AND how he blessed the BCM ministry at Arkansas State with her. And, it makes me want to say to all the Baptist powers that be....let's not lose the concept of husband and wife teams in college ministry. I know the arguments against it....some feel like it is just a trick to pay him more, etc. But, as families more and more break down, our putting great/ normal marriages in front of university students is more important than ever! Just some of my grateful thoughts on This birthday of Sue who has gotten way more credit than she wanted and way less than she deserved. As she says, one summer when we were dating, she came to see me where I was summer youth minister and she wound up cooking hamburgers for 50 youth for an event...God was trying to tell her something then. Glad she missed that warning!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Thoughts on Why Students Attend the First Time

One of my basics in reaching freshmen in a college ministry is that the summer is key. Good falls are made in the summer! I recently heard a college minister say he only ever had 3 or 4 freshmen tell him they liked his letter he had mailed out, so he quit doing summer mail outs to incoming freshmen. First, I think a "letter" is probably the poorest form of summer mailout, unless it is a personal letter. I believe personal notes/letters do make a connection. But, I believe cards, brochures, etc with pictures on them that tell a story make a huge difference. A picture communicates many different messages in just a glance. A few years back, the University of Nebraska in their attempt to communicate with potential incoming freshmen said they had determined it took 7 different mailings to communicate their message. Part of the truth here is that it is never one thing or one attempt. I completely agree that a personal, face to face invitation by a trusted acquaintance is the most likely to get a positive response. But, I believe that even that is affected by other contacts. They have seen publicity about them ministry or event. They received an attractive card/brochure about the ministry or event. Someone had already sent them a Facebook message. It will always be a combination of things. But, if our survey of 443 students is correct and I believe it is that 77% came because someone invited them, we must do a better and intentional job of teaching, training and encouraging our students to be "inviters.". Plus, at the first of the year, we must have events that are easy to invite students to attend. I conclude quoting Pete Wilson at the Collegiate Summit. He was invited as A freshmen by a cute girl to go to a BCM Welcome event and he said, "Never under-estimate the power of a free hot dog.".....and I would add promoted by a cute girl. God always has and always will use relationships.

Top 7 Reasons Students Attended a Campus Ministry the First Time

Students could list as many reasons as they wanted to. Here are the top 7 and the percentage of students that listed it: 1. Someone invited me 77%. 2. An appealing event 46.8%. 3. Food 34.9%. 4. Advertising 34.9%. 5. Social media 17.5%. 6. Mail 12.5%. 7. Website 10%. CONCLUSIONS: The obvious most effective thing is a personal invitation by someone they know and trust. Apart from that, I am convinced it is a combination of things....there is no magic bullet. It is a combination of mail Facebook, advertising and food that enters into their being aware and wanting to go.

"7 Things You Should know About Freshmen"

Dr. Tim Clydesdale, sociologist and author of "The First Year Out (Understanding American teens after high school)" Spoke at the National Collegiate Ministries Summit and gave me permission to share these observations of his about college freshmen. The observations are his, but some wording and summary is mine. 1. I'm really busy. Freshmen are overwhelmed managing their life and adjustment. 2. Money makes my world go round. 78% of freshmen say the #1 reason for attending college is to be "very well off financially." 3. College has made me smarter, but I don't remember much. 4. Deep thinking about myself and the world is a lot like eating broccoli. I know it is good for me, but I'm just not into that right now. 5. Still dare to reach me? -meet students where they are, -build from the scattered and incomplete biblical worldview and knowledge they possess, -respect students for the arbiters of knowledge they have become. 6. Some of us are different. Students tend to be Instrumentalists (college is just a vehicle to get me where I want to go) or Idealists. 7. The current I am in is strong...the current of American culture. Their identity/faith is in their personal lockbox which can only be opened by the owner.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Talking to College Students About Marriage"

A couple of years back I heard a college minister say he could not talk to students about getting married because he had never been married. That's sort of like saying you can't talk to students about drugs, alcohol use, or unhealthy sexual relationships because you have never been there.

Some Surveys today indicate that Christians divorce at the same rate as non-Christians. Others say that depends on how active a Christian is changes those figures. But,obviously, we need to do a better job of helping Christian students prepare for marriage. Roger Bear, one of the legends of campus based ministry, has done 91 student weddings! That may be close to a record. One of the things he does is meet 6 times with each couple he marries. That is way more than, "So, what do you want included in your ceremony?".

I don't know what all Roger covers, but here are some good areas to start with in working with a couple who has gotten engaged.

1. What are your life goals and how do those fit together?

2. How similar or different are your families? (Students often tend to assume that his/her family is just like mine. Bad assumption!) Someone has said, "Can you picture your two families sitting down together for Thanksgiving?".

3. Is there as much friendship as passion (things in common, etc).

4. Is there mutual respect (emotion, infatuation, attraction is not enough)? Lack of respect is a deal breaker!

5. What are each of you like as a result of being together? Do you like who it makes you?

6. How similar or different are your levels of commitment to the Lord and His church? (A couple may have similar beliefs but not a similar commitment level to those beliefs.)

7. Have you dated long enough to Know what each other is REALLy like?

I highly recommend the book "Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts" by Les and Leslie Parrott. I've literally given away dozens to students who get engaged. If nothing else, that is a blessing you can give to students....many who are reluctant to or don't do pre-marital counseling.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Why Did You Decide to Become Involved?"

This was the question asked of 400 plus BCM ministry students. They could give more than one option. Friendships 38.8% Sense of belonging. 33.4% Sense of Calling 25.7% Worship 21.8% Denominational affiliation 3.3%. God and and does use intentional relationships!

Monday, May 7, 2012

"Why Students Become Involved"

Several interesting figures came out of the survey done for the "Reaching Men" Idea Lab at the National Collegiate Ministries Summit. Why did you decide to become involved? 38.8% Friendships 33.4% Sense of Belonging 25.7% Sense of Calling 21.8% Worship What about denominational affiliation? 3.3% More interesting figures will be posted in the days to come.