Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Some Interesting Classroom Figures and How it Applies to Christian Discipleship

I, like all of you, have students in my office and in the cafeteria or Food Court crying figuratively or literally about a class they are failing or that their grade point may not be high enough to keep their scholarship.

The first question I ask is, "Do you go to class all the time?". Often the answer starts out, "Well....". My friend, Bruce McGowan of Texas College Ministry, says any answer that starts with well is not going to be a positive answer. That particularly applies to oral references.

But, in this case, the "Well" is usually followed by something like, "I don't go all the time.". This is a college euphemism for, "I don't go much at all.".

Dr. Joy Trauth is an Instructor in Biological Sciences at Arkansas State University. She shares these statistics from two classes she taught with 309 students who started out in the classes.

-60 students dropped the class before the end of the semester. The average number of absences for each student at the time he or she dropped was nine (9) for a class that met 3 times a week for fifteen weeks.

-Students who made A's (12.4%) and B's (20.5%) had an average of 2.4 absences.

-Students who earned a D (22.5%) or F (19.8%)had an average of 8.3 absences.

-Of those students that earned an A or B 14 had perfect attendance.

-Only 4 students who had a D or F had perfect attendance.

The past couple of weeks I have visited with some students in responsibility roles in our ministry about their "absences" at important leadership events. One of our tasks as College Ministers is to teach, ask for and hold students accountable to being present where they have committed to be. A lot of life is affected by whether or not we show up. You fail your students when you don't teach about "The Discipleship Characteristic of showing up".

An Excellent Article.....In Our Quest to Understand Guys

The new edition of Time Magazine dated December 2, 2013 has a long article entitled, "What Boys Want". The article is written by Rosalind Wiseman. Wiseman is the author of a new book, "Masterminds and Wingmen" published by Harmony Books.

Ms. Wiseman talks about the rising number of young men who commit suicide and spends most of the article discussing guys and relations with girls and the changes in how guy girl relationships work....the hook-up culture, etc.

It's worth your time to read.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Students and Second Spiritual Experiences

In my return to the college campus in my fifth season, one of the things I continue to hear and wrestle with is students' second spiritual experience.

When I ask students to share their spiritual story, many will say, "I became a Christian when I was 8 (or 9 or 10) and then when I was 17 or 18, I really got serious about it or really became a Christian or understood what it meant", etc. Some will describe it as a salvation experience and ask to be re-Baptized. Others will say, "I know it was real before....but...".

I have decided since I have heard this literally hundreds of times to let students label it whatever they want. I also don't begin to think I'm spiritually astute enough to tell them what it was or wasn't for them...salvation, rededication or what.

I call it "The Discipleship Decision". I believe young children can genuinely trust Jesus. I also know that young children can be stampeded down an aisle. They can go because they are supposed to or everyone else in their class is. It also makes sense to me that a young child who genuinely accepts Jesus as Savior does not have a clue about lifestyle discipleship, etc.

Psychologists say the two greatest times of change in a person's life are birth to one and high school graduation to Christmas. It makes a lot of sense to me that those that I know that are serious about their faith...many if not most...have made a "Discipleship Decision" about faith.

I think we must help students work this out, hear them with love and be careful to not tell the what it is. I would be very interested to know how other College Ministers work with this.

Monday, November 18, 2013

What Do You Think Questions

I did a blog recently about doing interactive Bible studies with students and one of my suggestions was to ask simply, "What do you think?". A friend commented that in his experience that leads to students just speaking opinions on scripture that do not take in the totality of scripture, etc.

I agree....but....I think that is where you use your kind, loving reasonable voice and say, "Yes, I know many have that view of this scripture, but I take a little different viewpoint and here's why.....". Then, I say, "What do you think?". It's a dialogue and not a put down.

In my experience that is almost always taken well and the students respect that their friend has been respected and that two Christians can reasonably look at and talk through the meaning of scripture. They don't have to think exactly alike.

What do you think?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What's THE #1 Thing for Freshmen in a Church?

Twenty One(21) College Freshmen serving as members of a campus based ministry Freshmen Leadership Team were asked to list of five choices the most important factor for them in choosing a church:
Special College Student Events
Personality of the College Minister
Music/Band at Church
Friendliness of Everyone
Preaching Style/Sermons of the Pastor

Here's what these freshmen said was most important to them:

Preaching Style/Sermons of the pastor - 9
Friendliness of Everyone - 6
Special College Student Events - 3
Music/Band at Church - 2
Personality of College Minister - 1

Obviously, this is not a large enough number to draw any hard conclusions from. But, again similar to the upperclassmen, they do not list music as a high priority. I must admit I am a little surprised by the lower priority given to the College Minister by both freshmen and upperclassmen. I would not expect it to be first, but did think it would be higher, especially among freshmen. I don't think this speaks to the unimportance of a Church College Minister, but it indicates more the importance of that person's organization skills rather than being a "personality".

Again, friendliness is important!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Do Students Pick a Particular Church? Part 3

Forty five (45) student leaders in a campus based ministry were asked to finish this sentence, "The one thing I most want from a church is...."

There were several different answers but there was one clear number one...they said it in different phrases, but it was clearly family, loving community. Belonging with and being involved with people that knew and cared for them was it.

Second was "a place to serve" as several phrased it.

Third was good sermons.

None...not one mentioned music. Again, I don't know if that is simply a given or if that tide has changed or we have way over-rated the music issue. I personally believe music and worship style is very important, but it is not the single driving force that some believe that it is.

Want it simple? Students want to go where they are known and loved.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Why Do Students Pick a Particular Church? Part 2

The second question asked of the 45 students who serve as leaders in a campus based ministry was,
"What is the ONE THING that is a TURN OFF to you at a church?".

There were answers like, "Sermons that don't pertain to our age" and "Not allowing students to help". But, the two most listed things were "Cliques or "Unfriendly" and "not welcoming".

Some speak of the perception that the College Minister has favorites or talk about "holy huddles". It's really pretty simple.....college students are people and they don't go where they don't feel welcome!

How well is the Welcome Mat out at your church? Perhaps students are very welcome, but somehow they are not being made to feel welcome. They say it's their #1 Turnoff to a church.

NEXT: The ONE thing I most want from a church

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why Do College Students Pick a Particular Church?

We asked 45 students who serve on Ministry Teams in a campus based ministry to "Number 1 through 5 the things that are Most important to you in a college church (1 being most important).

The choices were:
Special College Student Events
Personality of the College Minister
Music/Band at church
Friendliness of Everyone
Preaching style/Sermons of the Pastor

Here are the results by the number of students who listed that item as the number one most important:

Special College Students Events 1
Music/Band 2
Personality of the College Minister 8
Friendliness of Everyone 17
Preaching style/Sermons of the Pastor 17

Is music/worship not as important as it used to be or do students simply take that for granted in the choices they consider?

One gigantic point for me out of this very limited survey is, the value of the whole church being bought into the College Ministry. If "Friendliness of Everyone" is one of the top two most important, does the church encourage, train and cast vision for the College Ministry to the whole church? A friend in a large college church has talked to the congregation on Sundays prior to school starting about how they can help and what they can do to make students feel welcome.

Another factor that was not listed in the choices is, students want to go where other students go. That's the tough thing about getting a church College Ministry off the ground. Students invite students. No one wants to go where they feel like the lone duck. There is a momentum that comes from other students going. Some years ago I was driving a van of students going from church to church in a Progressive Dinner for Freshmen. Each church had done an excellent presentation. By the time we reached the final stop, the students on my van had already figured out where most students went. I honestly don't know how they did it. A huge factor must be getting a core group of students to buy into ownership of the ministry and reaching out to other students.

I'll leave to you to tell the pastor how and what to preach!

Next: "What's the ONE THING that's a turn off to you at a church?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Interactive Bible Study and Asking Questions

I speak weekly for our large group worship event and it is interactive. Students make comments and ask questions. No; it's not a huge crowd...its less than 200 on a normal night....but its not a small group either. I believe that one of the tasks of a College Minister is to help students learn to think for themselves. Also, as students decide for themselves what they believe, it is important that they be allowed to ask questions and taught to wrestle with scripture for themselves.

As a part of encouraging students to speak up, I ask questions. Some friends say they wrestle with coming up with deep questions to ask......I don't ask deep questions. I find with a deep or right or wrong question with a specific answer, students are reluctant to speak up for fear of looking foolish.

Asking Questions At Your Student Events:

1. Ask opinion questions...."What do you think"?

2. Ask experience questions....."Have you ever had an experience like this and how did you respond"?

3. Never ever ever, put down what a student says or make them feel dumb!

4. When possible praise comments that are made or questions that are asked.

5. if someone says something that you simply feel must be countered, say something like, "I see where you are coming from, but I would take a little different view". Always be kind.

6. Ask students to read scripture...just let them volunteer. Sometimes, you can ask students to read the same passage from different translations or paraphrases.

7. Sometimes, I've even had a giveaway for the first student to speak up.

Students hear lots of preaching...but, they don't often have a chance to hear other students comment on scripture and be challenged by what their fellow students say.

Ask questions and let your students speak....often, the best thing said will come from one of them.