D6 - College/Young Adults Ministry
All in all D6 was a good experience. I learned a lot, got introduced to some new people, and came away with convictions about my faith and ministry that I needed. There was, however, a gaping hole in the conference. (enter my caveat: My group left before the conference was over because we had a 9 hour drive to make, so I'm referring to the first 1.5 days, we missed the last 2 sessions.) Not once was college/young adult ministry mentioned. That's right, not a single mention. I was blown away by this. D6 is all about family ministry so children's ministry and youth ministry were talked about, there was a ton on marriage and parenting, but nothing on college ministry. Now you might be thinking, 'well college kids aren't really a part of family ministry, they're adults now and they should be on their own.'
I could not disagree more. College students are falling away from Christianity with record success now, which means a few things:
1. we aren't doing our jobs well enough in children's and youth ministry. By this I mean we are not introducing them to Jesus, just to church. This has to change.
2. we aren't doing our jobs well enough as parents. We aren't staying married and we aren't living lives consistent with what we say we believe.
3. soon there won't be that many Christian parents to have family ministry. We cannot bank on all those students who walk away from God in college to find their way back once they have kids. Thats a stupid, stupid gamble.
If we want to do family ministry, which I'm all for, college ministry MUST be a part of it. An 18 year old, while legally an adult, is not ready for adult life, especially in today's culture of advanced adolescence. If we want to reverse the trend among college students in this country churches must commit to ministering to them. Why do you think InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, the Navigators, and other college para-church ministries exist? Because the Church has dropped the ball in a massive way!!
It's like when you turn 18 the church says, 'we'll you're 18 now, ummmm, not quite sure what to do with you. How about you run off to school and we'll see you when you're cranking those babies out!"
In response to this, some churches have begun having 'next gen' services, which while valiant, is not the answer, at least not a sustainable one. Essentially what a 'next gen' service is saying is, 'we want you to be in church, but we don't want you to be in our church, so we'll create this super hip service just for you guys, and us 'old people' won't bother you.'
Do we ever think that it might be beneficial if the 'old people' were involved in the lives of college students? Heaven forbid we actually mentor and disciple these students!
So what does a college ministry look like?
I think it is a small group driven ministry. College kids thrive on relationship. They are meeting new people everyday and with those people come new ideas, theories, world views, etc. They need a place to talk through and digest all of the stuff they are taking in. Not to mention all of the responsibilities they are learning to deal with. I am convinced that strong relationships with other Christian students and with adult mentors can save a student from walking away from God.
I don't think we need a flashy church service, I don't think we need gimmicks or games. I think we need people who are willing to invest in these young adults, to show them what it looks like to follow Jesus as a young adult, how to navigate the tricky waters of college, and to give these students a place where they belong...the Church.