What Kind of Incoming Freshmen Would You Like to See in Your Ministry
I have been ministering to students and collegians for 24 years. For many of those years the great mystery to me was which student would keep their faith and morals when they went to college or entered the work force. After years of observation and a PhD dissertation I figured out a few helpful insights. Students whose faith was strong in high school and whose faith transferred into college and, later, marriage had one glaring similarity--they were all involved in faith-building ministry and missions in middle and high school. They learned early that there were hoops to jump through to be eligible to go on a mission trip or be involved in ministry in their local church. They rose to the occasion. They accepted the challenge. They are involved in teaching, leadership, running the AV system for worship, being in a worship team, working in the church office, putting together ministry for the youth group, etc. Many of them start by passing out bulletins or parking cars, but these are not faith building ministry opportunities. Faith building opportunities are those that cause a student's faith to be stretched, challenged, and questioned in the safe environment of a local church. These challenges and questions must be answered as they sense God coming to their aid. There must be a time when parents and youth leaders resist running to the rescue and let the adolescent wrestle with situations and questions. Wrestling through what to say while witnessing is a great example of when God gives the words to speak and scripture to say.
Let's make a mental and experiential leap--public high school students put together a 250 page yearbook, but the church won't let them produce the church bulletin. These same students build robots at school, yet students are not allowed to touch the sound board, video equipment, and computers in many churches. Eighteen year olds are put in charge of military equipment worth several million dollars if they join the military, yet the church shys away from giving them significant responsibilities. Somehow there is a disconnect. Middle and high school students can do so much more than the current opportunities in the local church.
So far I have only talked about doing ministry. Now let's discuss what they can learn and experience. In times past adolescents were expected to be more adult like and take on adult responsibilities and accountability. A great example is that Patrick Henry, in is early 20's, was the US Foreign Ambassador to Russia. His parents put him on a small ship and sent him all the way to Russia (without a cell phone). While in Russia young Henry negotiated and wrote policy between the US and Russia. I use this expample to say this, although the public education system has dumbed down their curriculum, why has the church? We cannot, we must not continue down this path.
So the question remains, "what kind of incoming college freshman should we be sending to colleges?" What must they have learned and experienced in middle school and high school so they have the best chance of showing up ready to minister? Please feel free to share your insights.