Monday, June 27, 2016

The 50 Darkest College Campuses?

It was my privilege to meet last week with about forty men and women who serve in various aspects of College Ministry for Southern Baptists. We all serve on different work teams to advance College Ministry.

I liked every thing that came out of all our meetings. But, the idea that most captivated me is one team's plan to identify "the 50 darkest campuses in North America". By darkest they mean those where there is NO Christian witness and there is no nearby evangelical church with any ministry to the campus. A factor in determining these fifty will be other words, how many students are there.

When these fifty campuses are identified, then it is the plan and goal to encourage and help Ministries of whatever shape or plan to establish there. Wow! What a goal....what an undertaking. There has been talk recently of trying to encourage College Church Plants on the 50 largest campuses in America. As you might guess, there are names on that list you will recognize...some of America's best known Universities. But, many of them already have multiple ministries there. True, there are always more students that can be reached. But, I am captivated by the idea of going where no one has gone! By the way, if you google the 50 Largest College Campuses, number two is Liberty University (due to their large Internet enrollment).

What can all of us do?

1. Pray
2. Spread the word that we need help identifying these campuses. Do you have a nomination? Can you contact a friend who might?
3. Plan now to possibly adopt one of these 50 Darkest Campuses. You could send a team there for Spring Break. You could send a monetary gift to others who might go.
4. God might begin to place it on your heart to go to one of these campuses.

But, right now we just need help knowing who they are. If you have a thought or nomination, you can send it to me and I will pass it on. #50orbust!


Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Seven Dumbest Mistakes I've Made in College Ministry

Some years ago I did a little book entitled "The 10 Dumbest Mistakes College Ministers Make". In it, I tried to address common mistakes. One friend even said he thought he could pick a chapter that was written about him. Another suggested that each chapter of that book could have begun with a picture of a Campus Minister who was a perpetrator. But, the best comment was the one who said, "Finally Arliss is writing about something he knows about....dumb mistakes!".

Recently I began to think what are the dumbest mistakes I have made in College this point. It is quite humbling to look back and try to list your failures and mistakes. Confession is good for the soul. But, I am sharing mine so that maybe you won't make the same ones. Here goes....

1. I hired an Associate based on a resume but sensed there was no personal chemistry.

It has long been my belief that we should always try to hire the best. A resume came to me that was a dream resume. This person looked like the All American of College Ministry. This person's list of references was a Who's Who of College Ministry. After running references, I invited the person for an interview. We did not click chemistry wise. But, I felt it would be wrong on my part to not hire this All-Star of College Ministry. I felt I needed to put my personal preferences aside and do what was best for the ministry. I did and it was an epic failure. I learned that someone can be supremely talented and qualified to do a job and not be the right person for a particular position. It not only did not was painful.

2. I hired someone because everyone knows that, "Anybody is better than nobody.".

That is a false statement. I hired an Assistant one time who was not up to the standards of the previous ones who had served in our Assistant roles. But, this person was the only one who was available and desperately wanted the job. Here is why "Anybody is better than nobody." is false. When there is nobody, you know you must do it or it won't be done. When there is somebody there, you are assuming that what had to be done was done. It takes more time to clean up someone else's mess than it often does to do it yourself.....with far less ramifications.

3. Not giving student leaders from a previous philosophy the opportunity to step away.

Many years ago I went to a position where the previous leader had a different philosophy than mine. I inherited
the Student Leadership Team the previous leader had selected. It was the most emotionally painful year
of my life....including my year in Vietnam. I realized after that painful year that I should have laid out my vision and my philosophy and said now anyone can walk away with no hard feelings. But, if you stay, this is where we are pointed. I feel I did a disservice to them, not just to the ministry and my own ground off teeth.

4. Using guys who were not prepared to lead Freshmen Discipleship groups.

I have long believed we need to reverse the trend of guys not being willing to serve. I have worked at developing guys. In selecting students to lead our freshmen groups, I wanted to put up both guys and girls who were great Christian role models for freshmen. We had plenty of strong girls, but we were short on strong guys. So, I put some guys there who were not prepared to be there. It was a mistake. Develop guys but don't put them in a role just because they are a guy.

5. Not taking all my vacation days.

After a period of years I began to accumulate a lot of vacation days, but I never felt I could be gone all those days. It was a combination of dates I felt I had to be on campus and just the never ending things that need doing. I cheated my wife, my girls, and myself.

6. Going with talent over proven commitment.

I've written previously about selecting a Freshmen girl to our singing group who was an incredibly talented singer over an upperclass girl. The upperclass girl had served the year before and had done well in every way. She wanted to return, but we went with the incredible talent. Within a month, the freshman girl had walked away and so had the upperclass girl. Talent never trumps character and commitment!

7. Talking students into taking leadership roles.

I learned that that when you talk them into it, you will have to continue talking them into it and.....they often quit and walk away at the worst possible time. Again, I learned "Anybody is NOT better than nobody.".

I am sure this list just begins to crack the surface of my dumbest mistakes and I may need to do a whole series on it. But, I may even try to list some things I did right. What were your dumbest mistakes and have you learned from them?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Do All Your Students Look and Think Alike?

I am on record many times in saying we should reach a wide variety of students. I've written about having pretty people in your ministry, but not being just a ministry for pretty people. In all of the political talk of the season and the discussions of the most recent gun violence, I continue to be struck by our lack of constructive conversations by people who disagree....and even more....the lack of common respect for one another.

I suffer from the terminal belief that Christian College Ministry is the cure for ALL the World's ills.

So, does your ministry have a wide variety of people connected to it? Do they represent some different understandings? Some years ago in working with our Freshmen Leadership Team, there started a negative discussion from some toward the political party one of the girls whose uncle was a prominent legislator in our state. I made a clear Point that we could disagree, but we would not do put-downs of each other related to political differences. Both groups heard me and stayed connected to our ministry.

Many years ago a girl in our ministry, who later that year became Miss Arkansas, was being put down by her roommate for not sharing identical views about one aspect of Christian doctrine. My student was made to feel she was a loser. I would say you likely are not "a loser" if you win the Miss Congeniality award in the Miss America Pageant.

Differences matter. But, respect matters too.

Someone said, "I'm too old to just listen to and read people I agree with all the time.". Are you working at creating a culture that students that come to your ministry are not all just alike? We all tend to attract folks similar to ourselves and best relate to those similar to ourselves. So, reaching and connecting with others has to be intentional. That is the struggle we see in the New Testament where Paul is advancing the idea that the Gospel is not just for the Jews.

Our ministries must reach a variety of students and we must teach them to deal with each other with respect. Then, who knows, some of them may become political leaders who will not only share Christ with others....but...they will treat even those with whom they disagree with crazy!

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

It's the Wedding Season......Thoughts on Weddings

If you do College Ministry, you relate to weddings. A College Minister friend of mine did not do weddings, but he attempted to go to all the weddings that involved his students. He often went to two a day and was known to have made three in one day. A lady College Minister friend of mine said she was often asked to be a bridesmaid which involved buying a dress "that you will be able to wear other times". I have done about 50 weddings which would not even compare to guys like Roger Bear at Indiana State. I think he is in the triple digits. I did one each of the past two weekends of former students who had been in our ministry. A couple of years ago I told Sue, "This is my last student wedding.". At the reception two former students asked me to do their wedding.

One fascinating thing for me to see is how weddings have changed and evolved through the years.

Receptions are more elaborate than they have ever been. Many years ago when we got married, you served cake, punch, nuts and mints at a reception in the church basement. Now many receptions involve a meal and a band (or at least a DJ)at a different location. My favorite was at the Zoo.

The pictures and the reception have become the main event. In many cases I don't think this is intentional, but it is a reality. A recent wedding I did had a professional Event Planner/Coordinator. She does all kinds and sorts...not just those from a strong Christian background like I do. I asked her what trends she saw. She said, "The bride wants the ceremony to be no longer than 15 minutes, so they can get to the reception and the alcohol.". She told of one wedding where the groom was so drunk he did not know which one was the bride.

I often ask the photographers what's the funniest thing they have seen. I have considered writing a book just telling funny stories from weddings and funerals. My dad who was a photographer once did a wedding where the groom fainted three different times. The first two times they sat him down on the front row. The third time they took him outside for fresh air and then brought him back to finish. I adopted the rule if anyone soon as they can stand back up, I will pronounce them husband and wife!

Most funny stories revolve around young children. One told of the Ring Bearer throwing the cushion he was carrying across the room and running out a side door. I always tell couples it is fine to have young children, just enjoy whatever they do.

After I attended a student wedding where everyone including the minister danced down the aisle, I started asking, "What type of wedding do you have in mind?". Me dancing down an aisle would not be a service of celebration!

One friend tells of doing a wedding where a dog came down the aisle with the rings attached to his collar.

A pastor friend told of a bride beginning to spit up as he was speaking. I asked what he did. He said, "I said let us pray and determined I would pray till she was done.". He said at the end of the ceremony he considered asking if the groom would like to "give the bride a little peck on the cheek".

One groom realized his pants were unzipped as soon as he step up beside me and leaned over and said, "Will you say a prayer so I can zip my pants up?".

One young woman I had known many years ago called and asked if I would do her wedding, but not read scripture or mention Jesus' name as that would be offensive to her groom. But, she wanted to have a church wedding. I didn't do that ceremony. That ceremony would have taken about thirty seconds for me.

Recently, the sound man at a wedding told me that his church keeps raising the price to have a wedding trying to get out of the wedding business. I understand that due to all that goes with getting the church then set up after
a Saturday wedding for Sunday morning. But, I don't want weddings to go away from being Christian and spiritual events. I would even lean the other way. What can we do to help a couple who wants to get married at our church begin a Christian marriage? Can we require pre-marital counseling? I think at the least we must take seriously our responsibility in working with couples multiple times prior to performing their ceremony. I have made a few exceptions to that rule, but not many. I ask couples to read SAVING YOUR MARRIAGE BEFORE IT STARTS by Les and Leslie Parrott. Fortunately, the couples I work with want a specifically spiritual ceremony.

Instead of saying how can we get out of the wedding business, maybe as Christians and churches we need to start saying, "Let's get back into the wedding business in a serious way!".

Some day maybe I will write about all the conversations I've had with Aunt Ethel at the Rehearsal Dinner.