Thinking Out Loud

July 24, 2017

The Office of a College Campus Minister

Regular readers here will remember Jeff Snow from the three-part series about how divorce affects teens, which we actually ran twice. If you missed it, click this link and scroll down to Part One. Jeff is currently serving bi-vocationally doing campus ministry as part of Mission Canada, an initiative of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (what the Assemblies of God churches are known as here.) The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) shares a campus with Durham College, so Jeff interacts with people studying at both levels, not to mention that this campus is more culturally diverse than anything our American readers might imagine.

He shared the following in a recent newsletter and as we do have readers here involved in student ministry, I thought it was worth presenting.

I get the feeling I like to work when there is food around.

I’m sitting in my favorite corner of the local Subway restaurant on a sunny but cool day working on this letter and it makes me think back to last semester, my first full semester of ministry through Mission Canada at UOIT/Durham College, and consider my favorite place to work on campus.

The cafeteria.

Last year, as I shared my ministry plans with a colleague, one of the first questions he asked me was would I have an office on campus? I just smiled. I knew I would have an office, but not in the way he was thinking.

My office is the cafeteria.

In my years of high school ministry, we would at times hear stories about youth pastors who had developed such a well-respected ministry at a high school that they were given office space. This does speak highly of the respect given to a youth pastor, but an office is something I’ve never aspired to for a couple of reasons.

One is that on a secular campus it puts a bulls-eye on your back for those to aim at who don’t want a Christian presence on campus. One principal told me years ago, “You fly under the radar. We like that.”

Secondly, being in an office means you are but one more person that a student has to go TO in order to get help and support. It takes more time and patience, but the payoff is greater if we are able to travel in the young person’s world, become accepted in their universe, and, by being on their turf, be more accessible when they need help and support. The goal is to try and be where the young people are.

Like in the cafeteria.

Over the past semester, the two places I spent most of my time on campus was at Campus Church, the Friday night student-led campus ministry, and in the cafeteria. Usually I will make an appointment to meet one student for lunch, with a plan to stay in the cafeteria the whole afternoon. I bring a laptop to do some work and look studious during downtime, but more often than not there isn’t any downtime, as students that I’ve gotten to know through the Campus Church ministry will stop by, pull out their lunch, and start chatting.

The conversations usually start off light, and sometimes stay that way. But most of the time the conversations move to deeper issues. Relationships, school pressure, dorm life, church life, world issues, the future, ministry opportunities, prayer for family and friends. All have been topics for discussion. I have found myself being a pastoral presence on campus for a number of these students. Many of them have home churches and pastors, but my presence on campus gives them accessibility to a listening ear and support right there on their turf. And they don’t have to go to an office and make an appointment. They can find the support they need.

Right there in the cafeteria.

My desire as I look forward to the coming semester is to find ways to connect with students who aren’t necessarily Christians, connect with students who are not yet part of Campus Church. That is where an office could come in handy for the few who might seek out spiritual support. It would be a formal way of identifying where to find support rather than talking to some dude in the cafeteria. But until the school reinstates the chaplaincy, my best bet for meeting students is through my office in the cafeteria. Whether it is meeting pre-Christians through their Christian friends or through other means, I’m looking forward to opportunities to meet pre-Christian students on their turf and help them see how the Gospel connects with where they are in life.


If you’re interested in learning more about Jeff’s work or providing financial support, click this link.

May 27, 2012

Arousal Addiction: Video Games, Porn and Men

A Stanford University professor has a guest article at CNN this weekend which is worth a look: The Demise of Guys: How video games and porn are ruining a generation, which is also the title of a general market book on the same subject. The two addictions are compared and contrasted, but the one thing they have in common is arousal:

Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.

The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.

The article affirms what others are saying about brain chemistry:

Young men — who play video games and use porn the most — are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.

Read the entire piece.

Also check out the author’s 2011 TEDTalk on “The Demise of Guys.”

As I’ve mentioned before here, this situation has major implications for the church: Men just aren’t stepping up when things need doing; they aren’t volunteering. Either gripped by the sinfulness of their online addictions, or unable to find free time for the same reason, the mission of the church is slowly being ceded to women, a demographic which is also seeing a rise in online addictions of a different type. 

We need to have a conversation in each of our churches about this. This needs to be discussed. It needs to be confronted.

March 19, 2012

Campus Alpha Now in 7-Week Format

Two weeks ago I was given a copy of an updated edition of the campus version of the Alpha Course, the popular evangelism and discipleship course which originated with Holy Trinity Church in Brompton, a district west of the London city centre.

Most people associate the course with Nicky Gumbel, although he didn’t start the course, but greatly popularized it after arriving on staff at the church in 1990. Since then, Alpha has been spun off in a variety of revisions, translated into a variety of languages, and customized to suit a variety of denominations. There is a prison version of Alpha, and it’s one of the few Christian resources for which study guides are available in Braille.

In the youth edition of Alpha, talks are always given live, no DVDs are used. But in the student/young adult/campus version the talks I saw feature a younger presenter, Jamie Haith.

Haith presents the course standing next to a video monitor in a manner not unfamiliar to fans of Andy Stanley. There are also some animated sections which are rather brilliantly synced with the live commentary.

But like its parent curriculum, Campus Alpha is again a lecture format. A university or college student who is open to investigating the Christian faith — the stated purpose of Alpha after all — is going to listen attentively to these lectures as do the students in the live audience.

Is that the best way to communicate with postmoderns? I’ve already expressed in this blog a bias toward an alternative, the mini-movie format H20 course, referring to it as “Alpha meets NOOMA.” While that course’s distribution has been passed like a hot potato from Standard Publishing to Thomas Nelson, it’s best days may be yet ahead, as the new Not a Fan DVD curriculum has greatly enhanced the profile of host Kyle Idleman. It’s so hard for so many of us to break away from the sermon paradigm; to move beyond propositional preaching.

But with Alpha, many times it’s the already-converted who take the course — sometimes several times — to deepen their understanding of basic core doctrines. So many times Campus Alpha is delivering to an audience already on side.

While some will argue that college and career ministry is neither middle school nor high school ministry, I keep thinking that in dealing with the broader spectrum of “youth,” some of the references (i.e.:to owning, or wanting to own a wristwatch), or quoting classical theologians maxims in Latin are just not the best strategies in connecting; again, especially with a postmodern environment. The audience listens politely, but doesn’t necessarily react to the attempts at humor.

Still, if Haith is simply following Nicky Gumbel’s script, he does it perfectly. His apparent passion for the subject matter makes him more than just what the Brits would call a ‘presenter.’

This is material that we all need to review from time to time. In the U.S., acceptance of the Alpha Course has been geographically spotty. If you haven’t heard of it, suggest to your church leadership they consider hosting either an adult version of Alpha or, if you live in a ‘college town,’ the revised 7-week Campus Alpha.

This is absolutely solid material, but don’t expect a lecture format to connect with every university or college student.


NOTE:  The 7-week course is in fact now being used in non-campus settings because of its length being shorter than the 10-week version hosted by Nicky Gumbel; however when referring to the length of both, it’s important to mention the retreat weekend courses comprise additional lectures, in this case three more, bringing the total to ten.

Also, in the revised format I was given to review, I’m told that more revisions took place with the support materials than in what is seen on-screen.

Finally, the entire package is being distributed pre-loaded on a flash drive, not with physical DVD discs.

June 22, 2011

Wednesday Link List

To link or not to link, that is the question…

  • This is a real masterpiece, and if I could, I would steal the whole thing and post it here.  Perry Noble has written a list of ten things he desires for each and every person who calls NewSpring Church home.  Follow the link to the first one, watch any related video, and then click the arrows for each of the other nine.  Sample: ” #6 – I want every owner of NewSpring Church to know how to lead someone to Christ and feel the calling/responsibility to do so.”
  • TBN refused to air an episode of Jack Van Impe‘s weekly rant because it slammed Robert Schuller and Rick Warren, so Van Impe has decided to take his ball and his bat and go home, and has pulled his programs from the TBN schedule. “Although I understand, and actually agree with, your position that you ‘will not allow anyone to tell me what I can and cannot preach,’ I trust you understand that TBN takes the same position with its broadcast air time as well,” TBN President Paul Crouch wrote in a letter to Van Impe. More on this here tomorrow from a different perspective…
  • Here’s a great article for this time of year published a month ago at Leadership Journal, for people involved in ministry to young people who are leaving the local (church) area to go on to college.  Love what this Texas pastor says, “Our job doesn’t end at graduation, we call that ‘Day One.’  Each graduate leaving for college receives a $10 Starbucks gift card with the following instructions: go find a spiritual mentor on campus to take out for coffee.”
  • “Something good is going to happen to you.”  Remember that phrase?  I found this tucked away in a remote corner of the net, and even though it’s a full year old, someone here might like to have a look.  Randy R. Potts is now in his mid-thirties, he’s the grandson of Oral and Evelyn Roberts and he’s gay and estranged from the church.  If you’ve got 8-10 minutes take a look at life from his perspective.
  • The whole Xtra Normal text-to-animation method of making a point is awesome.  My son made one for a school presentation that he did, and here’s one I found on How to Be Really Terrible at Interpreting the Bible, aka “How To Show”  part two.
  • Two Perry Noble posts in one link list?  This is a must for singles; some of you may want to cut/paste and send this out as a FWD.  Check out Ten Reasons I Should Not Be Dating Him/Her.
  • On the one hand, I can’t believe Pete Wilson posted this video of a mother/daughter discussion on heaven and hell and religion in general; on the other hand, it’s probably more true to life than we realize.
  • On the weekend’s U.S. Open golf tournament, NBC-TV ran a video of a somewhat edited U.S. Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase “under God” edited out.  Twice.  What were thinking?  Apparently they are ready to admit they weren’t. Meanwhile the Supreme Court has decided not to hear another appeal to delete the clause from the pledge.
  • Canadian Anglicans in four churches that split from the apostate Anglican Church of Canada have decided to give up the fight to keep their buildings.  They will revert to the denomination which in fact is one of the largest holders of real estate in the country.  Legally legit I suppose, but morally wrong.
  • And speaking of Canadians, here’s a cold and snowy edition of one of the classic “religious” Peanuts comic strip — featuring Linus, of course — which actually isn’t the first time we’ve included Peanuts here in a Wednesday Link List.

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