If you’re leading a college ministry – in any context – and you’re on Twitter….let me know! I want to follow you and hear about your ministry! My username is @chuckbomar
Well, okay, The Slow Fade: Why You Matter In The Story Of Twentysomethings is now available. This is a book written to and for adults who want to, or need to be encourage to, invest in college age people. I thought I would post a Q&A we did about the book to help give the best picture of our hearts for it. If you’d like to see the table of contents and/or purchase a copy the book, click here. I hope this is a help to you as you seek to build into and equip the faithful adults serving college age people in your ministry…or those you are still trying to have help you!
Q: In your book, The Slow Fade, you relay that statistics show somewhere between 65 and 80% of people who grow up in church will drop out of church when they become college-aged. How long has this been going on?
A: The trend of eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds disengaging from church and faith has been a growing problem for more than twenty years. While those who are college-aged are increasingly fading out of the picture, mainstream denominations and independent churches are slowly graying and declining in attendance. The sad news is that churches’ strategies to reach these twentysomethings have not significantly adjusted to respond to this issue. When you ask the average church what their plan is for college-aged people, you usually get confused looks. Frankly, twentysomethings are perceived by most leaders in churches as a transient demographic, people who don’t tithe and who need to solidify their faith on their own.
Q: What is happening in the lives of these young people as they begin the “slow fade?”
A: The one thing they have in common is they all are becoming disconnected from their communities of faith. At a time in their lives when their faith should be accelerating, it has begun to dim. At a stage when they’re developing a new network of friends, there is a relational gap. At the moment they are beginning to wrestle with what they thought was certain, they are missing voices they know they can trust. They are fading off the radar of those who were their Christian leaders during the very season when they are trying to solidify what they really believe. It is not intentional on anyone’s part. No one is deliberately orchestrating the fade. It is just out of sight, out of mind. And some of the most influential and promising leaders of faith for the next generation are being ignored and gradually fading from view.
Q: So what is the answer? Is it to simply to create more effective college ministry programs? Or a new breed of college ministries in churches across the country?
A: Not really. The issue is not to reinvent college ministry in the local church, or this book would have simply been written to church staffs or student pastors. Although there are some principles here that translate for the local church, our desire in writing this is to appeal to a different audience. If you are an adult who is interested in influencing the slow fade, we hope this book will mobilize you to build a relationship with someone who is college-aged. The real question is, who has the greatest potential to influence the faith of those who are in their late teens and twenties? Yes, we think it is the church, but more specifically Christian adults who are in the church who have a passion to invest in this age group.
The strategy is simple: Recruit a new breed of mentors to invest time in those who are college-aged.
Q: You write about the value of belonging. What is the importance of helping college-aged people feel connected, feel that they belong?
A: Honestly, most college-aged people don’t know where they belong–especially in the church. If I don’t know why I belong to something, or how I bring unity to some degree, there’s little reason to stick around. To know that we belong–ultimately to God–is arguably the end we were made for and the beginning of being made whole. Though acceptance is often an external (or felt) craving, belonging is the layer that lies beneath. Acceptance is fleeting and arbitrary, whereas belonging is grounded in something more permanent. Belonging stems from the knowledge that I am intrinsically connected to a place, or people, beyond myself. I can dress stylishly, speak eloquently, or excel at something enough to find acceptance. But my acceptance will always be based on something about me–and thus up for grabs when that something changes or falls short. What I need is to be loved based on simply being me.
Q: You make this concept of mentoring sound extremely important, but I’m sure some readers will feel intrigued by the idea but not qualified.
A: Most people we’ve talked to about investing their lives in college-aged adults don’t feel comfortable with the idea. When pressed for a reason, they generally feel the task of mentoring someone is too daunting, that they are underequipped for such an overwhelming responsibility. We believe that is because Christians haven’t defined the role of a mentor very well, or possibly because we never defined it, and someone drew his or her own unrealistic conclusions.
As mentors, we have to be careful that we don’t develop a messiah complex. We can’t start with the self-imposed duty to carry people to a point of completion, a point where we know they will be invincible because they were under our care. If we are honest, that isn’t true of us, so why would it be true of them? We know that we ourselves need the grace of God to become who we need to be, and the same is true of every college-aged person. Ultimately, they need God, not you. And fortunately, God is the one who bears the responsibility to carry someone to completion, not us. So let’s breathe a sigh of relief.
Regional Trainings Planned
We are planning on being in at least 6 states this year, and in 8 or 9 different cities. This year the training will be covering at least the following topics:
- The role of a college ministry in the structure of a church
- Helping college age people find belonging in a church (not just our ministry)
- Realistically defining and measuring success with college age people
- Overcoming obstacles faced with the separation of generations
- Connecting older adults as mentors – overcoming challenges, what to look for and keep in balance
- Necessary shifts in teaching and discipleship approaches
- Creating a culture that understands the importance of investing in college age people
- Practical ways for assimilating college age people into the fabric of your church
For details and registration info, click here. Registration is only open for the Portland, OR regional right now. But all the info, schedule, locations, etc. are posted and will remain the same (or at least extremely close).
I realize we’re pushing the envelope on this one a little bit with the days flying by. BUT we ARE planning to do a conference in the fall – probably in October. What’s the hang up on setting a date? Well, we are exploring the possibility of partnering with and having our conference at Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, where I was on staff for just short of 9 years. This would also be in partnership with Eternity Bible College. There are still some nuances to work out, which is the hang up on confirming this. What are the nuances? Well, to simplify, Cornerstone is an ever-changing environment and very fast paced. That to say, to put anything in cement 6-7 months out is a bit tough. So, hang in there…details are coming…I promise.
We live in a world of labels and categories. Everything has to fit into something. And perhaps among the widest of these categories is the one labeled, “Emergent.”
I’ve been told that I’m Emergent. Sometimes I’m asked, but recently a few people have just labeled me that. When this issue is brought to my attention I always respond with a question, “What is your definition of Emergent?” I had one person tell me that I’m Emergent because I used the word “journey” in a message. Another was concerned because I did an overview of a book of the Bible (Ecclesiastes) in a talk versus going verse by verse and phrase by phrase. I’ve had another person assume I’m Emergent because my churches website didn’t have the exact words, “Triune God” anywhere on it (as if I don’t believe in a “Triune” God simply because it’s not explicitly articulate on a website).
Do those things really define someone as “Emergent?” If so, I think that’s crazy.
I’ve yet to hear anyone ask me a theological question. No one has asked me what I think about a specific statement or view proposed in a book by someone that actually claims to be Emergent. I’ve yet to have anybody ask me my view of Scripture. And nobody has asked me my definition of “Emergent.” It just seems like anything outside of anybody’s personal realm of normality is to be labeled Emergent…?
My hunch is that if I were asked some of the questions above I would be more conservative than many of those asking the question. And my guess is if I asked for everyone to post their definition of what “Emergent” is we would have hundreds of different definitions. And I would assume if I asked what sort of things would “tip you off” on someone being Emergent, we would have a list thousands of ideas long.
That to say, I’d love for the label to disappear. Not because I’ve been labeled it by a few people, but because it’s not really a label or category anymore. It seems to have simply become anything different than we’re used to. But, if me at times being a little “unorthodox” in order to bring the unchanging gospel message to a lost world labels me Emergent, I guess I’ll take the label…even though I went to one of the most conservative seminaries our country has to offer…
The goal of ministry (at least mine) is to play a small part in the transformation process God has people in. But how do we bring about transformation. True transformation. Well, I don’t believe we do. I know, a little disheartening.
But God can and does (example: Phil. 1:6). And, I know that He happens to use our prayers…somehow, someway. So, I’ve been trying to lead more through praying for people.
This morning I led a time of prayer for the people in my church. We’ve been doing this all week. Each time we gather we’re focusing on different aspects and disciplines of prayer – listening, exaltation, adoration, etc. Today we began our time in silence, listening. Then we prayed through Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. It’s deep and pointed. So we went through the prayer, praying it specifically for each other – individually. It was a great time of focused and obviously biblically focused prayer.
Sometimes I like to do this to make sure I’m staying focused and praying through things that will actually bring about transformation.
Something I’ve done throughout the years is to find prayers like these and pray them for those in my ministry. If you’re struggling to see transformation, pray through this prayer for those you minister to. If you’re not seeing fruit, pray through this prayer for those who need it most. It’s simple. Take out your database and simply walk through the names, praying this prayer for them….specifically.
Oh, and if you want to encourage someone send them a text telling them you prayed that prayer for them. That’s always fun too.
This week leading up to Easter is often very hectic for church leaders. Many are planning all sorts of stuff. Most churches have Good Friday services as well as Easter services…preluded by a week of choir and band practices, play rehearsals, prayer times…on and on. Add onto that family gatherings, food prep, tensions with uncles and aunts, and potentially emotions due to this being the first Easter without a loved one.
This week, however, I’ve decided to make relaxed and prayerful in my church. We decided to encourage people to simply gather at the church building MWF at 6am and 9pm for prayer. These times are guided a bit, but just prayer. For one another. For our neighbors. For things happening in the church. TTH we are encouraging people to gather in their community groups for prayer – or, if they don’t gather, at least praying for those in their community group.
Rather than busying people with service prep, mass mailers, drama’s and special music presentations, we just called people to a week of prayer and fasting. I’m, of course, not saying the previous things are bad and I’m not suggesting the way we’re doing it is better or more right. I’m just saying we are trying to focus. For me, at least, busyness with “church stuff” and prep for a weekend service easily takes my focus off of what this week is really all about. Maybe it’s just me. I’m sure there are those that can stay focused in midst of busyness, but in our church we want to minimize task during this week so that we might be able to maximize a prayerful focus.
In fact, we’re not even having a Good Friday “service.” Our prayer time Friday morning at 6 am and evening at 9pm will cover that. And our Easter service will be simple. A few songs and a message about redemption and reconciliation because of Christ conquering death. So, people have been asking me if this week is crazy busy. Nope, it’s not at all. People have asked if I have time to meet this week to talk through something. Yep, I sure do…
A few weeks ago I was in Pittsburgh, PA speaking at the Jubilee Conference. If you haven’t heard about it, you should learn more about it. It’s put on by the Coalition of Christian Outreach, or better known as the CCO. They are a regional ministry working with college age people in extremely unique and effective ways. They are doing things right, in so many ways. About a year ago I had the pleasure of sitting down for dinner with Scott Calgero who basically puts on the Jubilee Conference every year. I heard what CCO does, how they go about it, and I was impressed.
Anyway, on my way back to the airport from the conference I happened to ride with another speaker, Leroy Barber. He’s a gentle yet funny man with a great vision for a ministry in urban cities. The ministry is called, “Mission Year.” I’m writing about them because they have a one year opportunity for 18-29 year olds to dive into justice work in an urban city. A huge vision with practical outcomes. You can learn about the program here. If you know of a recent high school grad who is not ready to attend a college, a college age student looking to take a year off (and get credit), or a recent college grad who can’t seem to land a job, let them know about this opportunity…it could be time well spent! They’ll spend a year living in a neighborhood, partnering with local churches, and doing justice/community work in a concentrated area. Good stuff, if you ask me…
Every church and organization has a mission statement. And, for the most part, every ministry leader has a mission statement for their specific ministry – especially in the church. Mission statements are important because they articulate (hopefully) what we’re about, what we stand for and what we’re seeking to accomplish. These are good.
But there is something I want to point out that causes confusion. Or, at least, can. And that is church-based ministries that have a different mission statement than the church they are a part of. I see this all the time. The junior high ministry has a mission. The high school ministry will have a different one. And the church yet another one. Now, the truth is when you boil mission statements down, most churches are basically saying the same thing…just worded differently. But different mission statements in the same church?
Are we really seeking an entirely different mission? Or, are we simply seeking to move people in an age-stage toward embracing the same mission? If we’re a part of a church, I hope it’s the latter. Sure, the vision of implementing and applying that mission should be unique for age stage ministries, but it’s not a different mission! Well, at least it shouldn’t be.
Here are 3 encouragements:
- Make sure you agree with the mission statement of the organization you serve under. If you feel like you need to change the mission statement, you probably shouldn’t be there anyway.
- Understand that college age people long to belong in the church as a whole, not just a ministry. Having the same mission statement as the church (and helping the students we work with embrace that mission) is a very simply way we can help them feel a part of the bigger picture.
- College ministry is an assimilation ministry where we bridge people from relational connection in the student life of our churches into relational connections in the adult life of our churches. We need all the continuity we can get in order to be effective in this. And this continuity begins with the mission statement.
Jeff Atherstone is a friend of mine from seminary. We also worked together for a few years at Cornerstone – he was the pastor of student ministries in one of our church plants. Cool and very sharp guy.
A few years ago he left the ministry at Cornerstone and went out to Uganda to be a part of training leaders there. Church leaders. Pastors. There is a video here that has some very interesting statistics that honestly kind of surprised me. But in this video Jeff articulated a vision for what they are doing. He sees the big picture and is trying to get people behind it. He has been challenged by some questions by pastors of churches in Uganda:
Do I feed the orphans in the church or my own children?
Do I pay for the widow’s hospital bills or do I take my own wife to the hospital?
How can I find something to teach when I have never been taught?
Deep and penetrating questions. I wanted to post this video for three main reasons:
- There are so many ministries world-wide that nobody has a clue about. Are you exposing your college students to new ones? If not, please consider doing so. They can and will get behind these types of things.
- I believe in what Jeff is doing. He’s meeting a need that is not being met. He became aware of the need, and is seeking to meet it. Are you finding unique needs and helping those in your ministry meet unmet needs? Maybe even use this video as an illustration of seeking needs where you are…or, just watch it and be exposed to someone doing something for the furthering of the gospel.
- I appreciate Jeff’s heart for protecting the gospel message. Sometimes we focus more on protecting or building a program. The truth is we ought to only be concerned about protecting and furthering the gospel message.
Anyway, watch and enjoy this short 2 minute video….it’s very well done.
I’ve known Francis Chan for over 11 years now and worked with him for 9 of those. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a believer, friend, leader, husband, and father. And there’s something coming out that you ought to be aware of!
Flannel, the company that produced the NOOMA videos (with Rob Bell), are working with Francis on a series of video’s. These are a part of a series called, “Basic.” They are of the highest quality – in content, creativity, and film. There is currently a 7 part series coming out – over a period of time – and these will be available with small group curriculum/questions beginning this summer. The curriculum piece is written by another friend of mine, Mark Beuving. You’ve probably never heard of him, but he’s a great guy and incredibly gifted. I hired him to work with me at Cornerstone in our college ministry and now he’s on staff with Eternity Bible College. Anyway, you should check out these videos! You can watch a promo by clicking here. Enjoy…