Friday, September 27, 2013

Things I Saw and Heard on Campus This Week

An International student came into our Center and asked if he and some friends could use our chapel and drums for their band to practice for an event this weekend. I told him I would be glad for them to practice there, but that the drums belonged to one of our students and I could not loan them. I told him he would be there later and he could come back and speak to the owner. He came back and visited with the student who owned the drums. I asked my student about the conversation, he laughed and said, "They not only wanted to borrow my drums to practice, but they asked if I could teach their drummer how to drum".

The Chi Alpha ministry on campus had a tent set up in front of the Student Center advertising "Giant Sushi Roll". They were using it as a way to contact and connect with International students. Great Idea!

The funniest thing I saw this week was the student who was sitting at a table in the Student Center where organizations can have a table to promote events or distribute information. He was playing guitar and singing. On the table he had his guitar case open the way street musicians do to receive money. There was a sign on the open guitar case that said, "Donate to (Name) Campus Ministry". I have never seen that before. Two thoughts went through my head....does he get any or much money...and does the Campus Minister of that ministry know he is doing this?

A student told me that he was uncomfortable going to a Christian campus event he had attended regularly for the last couple of years because they were appealing now primarily to Greeks and athletes. Others shared they also did not feel comfortable there any longer. There is a mystery here. The Crusade Director at Ole Miss has a huge weekly event involving 400 to 500 Greeks. He told a friend when they tried to make it for non Greeks as well it dwindled to about 60. They had to go back to all Greek. What does this mean and how should we respond?

A student told me he wished his college church would connect him to an older family. He only knows other students.

What did you hear and see on campus this week?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Should Freshmen Be in Collegiate Ministry Leadership Roles?

The simple answer in my mind is "No". But, I know life and ministry is anything but simple.

Sometimes, you don't have good choices and you do what has to be done. Maybe you are just staring a ministry and freshmen are what you are your leaders. Overall though in an established ministry, I think we do harm when we put freshmen in heavy responsibility roles. My thinking on that was partly shaped years ago when we had a traveling singing group. We did auditions the second week of school...everyone had to try out again. A freshmen girl who was a sensational singer tried out. She was better than the upperclass girl who sang the same part and had been in the group the previous year and been super faithful. The audition team picked the freshman girl. Within a month the freshman girl dropped out of the group and soon was out of the ministry. The upperclass girl's involvement was never the same.

Here's my thoughts. Faithfulness is more important than talent....really! I've also learned that some ministries just offer the same thing each year and consequently that's why some upperclassmen disappear. There ought to be some roles that you have to work up to and earn the right to serve. At one point, we would place sharp sophomores in leadership roles in our Freshmen ministry. Eventually, we decided that was a mistake. They didn't have the maturity to handle it. And, many of them would say after that year that they did not want to serve anywhere else. They had done the "Glamour Role". We decided that was a role you had to prove your faithfulness to be in....not just bright with a great personality.

There should be freshmen specific opportunities. They can be short term and students are likely to be successful. My number one problem with putting freshmen in high responsibility roles is the increased likelihood of failure due to immaturity, etc that may cause them to back away entirely. Freshmen need to be set up for success.

In fairness, I need to say we have lost a few freshmen because someone else would place them in a key role immediately. But, never let faithful upperclassmen feel you do not value their faithfulness!

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Cooperation between College Ministries is a touchy subject. I was leading a seminar at a national conference and a lady asked why there was not more cooperation between church and campus based college ministries. I paused before I answered and she said, "I have noticed there is always a pause when I ask that question". I thought of a friend who said, "It's tough to keep cooperating when you feel like you get stabbed in the back when you do".

Part of the answer is different people and ministries have different definitions of what cooperation is. For some, cooperation means not having an event at the exact same time as yours. My first definition of cooperation came in my first paid church job. I was the "Summer Youth Director" at my church after my freshman year in college. We were the "mega church" in the area because we had over 300 total attendance each Sunday. The pastor told me that I was to make it a priority to take our youth to the monthly area youth rallies. He said we could probably do something better on our own, but that for most of the small churches, that was one of the few or the only youth events they had. I was to not only take our youth, but I was to do what I could to make it better....not just for us, but for all those involved.

A complicating factor in cooperation is many College Ministers are judged on their attendance...not their cooperation. I believe that cooperation works best when we remember that no ministry is the perfect one for every student. I also believe that students benefit from involvement in both a church based ministry and a campus based ministry when their time allows.

A tough question to answer and live by is, "Am I doing what is best for students and my campus as a whole?"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Students' "Ownership" of the Ministry

I have long believed that students owning the ministry as their own greatly strengthens the ministry. By owning, I mean they feel it is theirs and what they do matters. Students often "like" a ministry and attend it's functions and meetings, but they feel no responsibility or ownership of it.

In my fifth season on campus I have been reminded of this again and the huge value of their ownership. I am serving in as "Acting Director/Campus Minister" where I previously served. The Campus Minister who succeeded me resigned in August to take another position and the full time Assistant also resigned. Both left on great terms and there was no behind the scenes story.

I was concerned that some of the student leaders might walk away or just give a half hearted effort. This has not been the case. In fact, I would say it has energized them. They are keeping commitments and even more they are initiating things. Sometimes I have thought something was not done the way I think it ought to be done. Sometimes it was done as visually appealing as I might prefer.

But, when I have been tempted to correct or say, "Here's a better way", I have realized that it worked well, served the purpose AND it was done at their inititative. Most of the time I have swallowed my suggestions or coaching in order to not in any way dampen their sense of ownership!

I have experienced student's "extreme ownership" like this one other time. Several years ago my wife, Sue, was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. She was going thru chemo. We made many trips to Little Rock to the Cancer Center and I went to each chemo treatment with her. We were building a new BCM Center at the time and that was consuming much of mymtime as well. I had a super Associate in Tim Stewart who was covering lots of bases.....and, the students owned the ministry and good things happened.

Ownership can be given by giving your students choices or options about direction and activities of the ministry. Beware of being over critical when they do it, but it's not the way you would do it. Think first that they did it and thank them. The coaching may come later when you sit down to evaluate or plan the next event.

Remember, nothing short of a special movement of God beats student ownership. Remember, there is a difference in "opinions" about how to do something and a right way and a wrong way. Don't let your opinions drown their ownership!

Friday, September 6, 2013

College Ministry and "Coolness"

In my "Fifth Season" back on the college campus, I have been overwhelmed by how positively I have been received by students.

I see other College Ministers from other ministries and churches out in their gym shorts, etc....but, that's not me. It doesn't fit my personality and it doesn't fit my age. I'm reminded that if you have to work at being "Cool" aren't.

It seems there are two factors working in my favor. Lifeway did a study a few years back that said one of the four markers in reaching young adults was that they wanted to learn from and be mentored by older adults.....I think Lifeway got that one right.

Second, I have long believed the "It Factor" in College Ministry is respect. Respect can be earned at any age. If you don't look good in gym shorts, it doesn't mean you have to get out of College Ministry. Respect is earned by being who you say you are, caring about and encouraging others advantage we old guys have....

.....I think college students/young adults have been disappointed by so many public figures and supposed role models they respond positively to a "mature adult" who is still living with integrity and trying to honor the Lord with his/her life. Ain't wearing gym shorts on campus!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Faith on Campus Fall Forum

Guy Chmieleski, Campus Minister at Belmont in Nashville, is hosting the "Faith on Campus Fall Forum" for those who minister to college students. The featured speaker is Dr. Tim Elmore. I love Tim Elmore since getting to him many years ago when he served as John Maxwell's College Minister. Tim has written some of the best stuff on leadership for college students and a book for College Ministers that I had the privilege of writing the foreword for when it was released at the National Collegiate Ministries Summit. Recently, Tim has written great stuff on values that is being used in public schools and super stuff on understanding this generation of college students.

The conference is October 23-24 in Nashville and the cost is $139. For more information, contact Guy at

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The BCM Director Position at Arkansas State

I have been privileged to return as "Acting Director/Campus Minister" at Arkansas State where I retired two years ago. Chad Logan who has served in this position for the last two years and done a super job has resigned to serve with a church in the Atlanta area.

Some have asked about the position. David James, Arkansas Collegiate Ministry Team Leader, will select the person to fill this position. David is accepting resumes and recommendations for the position. No one has been selected for the position and there is no pre-determined selection.

I genuinely believe this is one of the best campus-based ministry positions in Baptist life. There is a large, practical and modern BCM Center in the middle of the campus. The program has an excellent budget and strong alumni support that helps to provide additional staff positions. The University administration is very friendly and cooperative with the ministry. There is a strong on-going program with a strong tradition. The current weekly schedule includes Freshmen Night and International Conversation partners on Monday night, a large Lunch program on Wednesdays with a speaker, and large group worship on Thursday nights.

Recommendations and resumes may be sent to David at Anything sent to me, I will simply forward to David.