Snapchat Wisdom of College Ministry Do's and Don'ts

Blog Header New 2017 July large logo40 transparency x 1140Snapchat Wisdom on College Ministry Do’s and Don’ts, Facebook, August 11, 14

Eric Turner

Guest Post by Podcast Seminary friend, Dr. Eric Turner

See Eric’s bio on his website
See Eric’s Original Post

No, this is not a post about how to use Snapchat (or any other social media) for growing a college ministry.
Let me explain.
I had this crazy idea recently to flood all of the college students I know on Snapchat with an informal research question. For those who do not know, I have served as a college/singles pastor at Lenexa Baptist Church in Kansas City and I am currently a New Testament faculty member at Hannibal-LaGrange University. My point is, I know a lot of college students and I am always looking for wisdom on how better to engage in effective ministry towards them.
For the record, the number of students may not be statistically significant, but at least it was enough to arrive at some interesting conclusions. So, if you are currently doing college ministry or are pondering how to begin a college ministry, you may find what I am about to share helpful, or at least, insightful. Now, here is the Snapchat question I asked,
“What is one Do and one Don’t of College Ministry?”
I received a variety of response. Allow me to list a few of them for you and then I will draw together some observations/principles for those of us who seek to faithfully minister to this unique generation. Here is a sampling of what they said…

  • Do not expect an immediate response when starting your college ministry.
  • Form friendships with college students with the intent of sharing the gospel.
  • Do not dumb down the gospel.
  • Know your audience.
  • Do not isolate your students from the larger body of believers.
  • Open up your life to your students.
  • Do life with them.
  • Keep your ministry “missional,” get it outside the four walls of the church.
  • Be careful in choosing your leadership.
  • Stay relevant.
  • Use challenging material that will make them dig deep.
  • Do not have too much structure; the ministry should have an organic feel.
  • Teach theology to college students.

  • From these and from my experience in college ministry, here are a few observations/principles that may help you get on the right track.

    1. The size of your college ministry is not as important as you think it is.
    Very little was said about students wanting to be part of a large college ministry. What was noteworthy is that students appear to value substance over sheer numbers. Unfortunately, in the past and from a pastor’s perspective, we have used numbers to gauge success. From the perspective of students, this conversation is not on their radar. Therefore, you would do well as a college minister to not base your worth on the size of your group. Churches, I exhort you, stop playing the numbers game with your leaders.
    2. College students do not want shallow teaching, they long for depth.
    Over and over again, from a majority of the students polled, I heard that depth of teaching was a major factor in whether they were attracted to or stayed connected to a college ministry. One student sent me this response,
    I once had a Bible study on campus with students through Romans. You would not believe how hungry they were for depth. They had been given Sunday School answers all their life. Students love being part of meaningful conversations. I had one student so shocked that the Jews rejected Jesus, she slammed her fists on the table and yelled, “We need to tell them!”
    In other words, put away the games you played in youth group and start digging deep into Jesus.
    3. Relationships are more important than structure in college ministry.
    Often, we begin with the opposite strategy. We are taught to develop the structure (what we do) and then, when we attract students, the focus shifts to building relationships (who we are). Almost every student responded with something about the importance of relationships. None of them were concerned at all with the format of the ministry. As a caveat, this is not to say that you have zero structure, throwing caution to the wind as you drink coffee with your students in a casual atmosphere. What I am noting is the priority you place on building relationships. In other words, focus more on who you are rather than what you do. As one student boldly declared, build a relationship with me before you lecture me.

    4. College students need engagement with the wider body of Christ, not isolation.

    Here is a secret worth its ministry weight in gold. College students want to serve in your church. Give them leadership opportunities, however, as one student rightly said, do not allow students to serve if they are living a life of unrepentant sin. Connect students with married couples, senior adults, and above all, find places for them to serve out of the gifts they possess. Just because they are college students does not mean that they share in less of a portion of the Holy Spirit.
    5. Patience is a must as you seek to disciple college students.
    One of the first “snaps” that I received back read, do not get discouraged when students seem to be living double lives, continue pouring into them. Another remarked, do not make decisions for your students when they come to you for advice. Help them make their own decisions. I have discovered that ministry to college students is often messy, but you know, so is ministry to any other age group. It takes a calm, wise, and patient leader to help guide students into Christ-likeness.
    6. You have to be willing to open your life before college students.
    I would note, if you are going to do effective, long-term ministry to college students, this principle is non-negotiable. They want to have fun with you as a leader, but they do not want you to act like a college student. They crave examples that they can follow and imitate. They want encouragement, but they value transparency the most. One student wisely said, be willing to just hang out with me – but remember, it doesn’t always have to be about coffee. Some of our deepest relationships have been and continue to be built as open our home and our lives (for better or for worse) to college students.
    7. Food, food, food…
    It may seem simplistic, but if you feed them, they will come. One of the replies was telling as it got right to the point; food – it is hard to hear over a grumbling stomach. Remember this well and get this next sentence embedded in your strategy. A home-cooked meal may be the lifeline that a college student is longing for, especially if they eat off of a meal plan in their campus cafeteria, but even more importantly, if they are struggling with homesickness and afraid to tell someone. For many, this is the first time they have been separated from family. Your family could become their family.
    Again, this post is a somewhat unscientific assessment on the best practices and common pitfalls of college ministry, the do’s and don’ts. But, I believe what is important to consider is that these principles are drawn from college students themselves. So, if you are doing college ministry or thinking of starting one, heed this practical wisdom. I truly believe that the generation that is in college right now is poised to do significant kingdom work. My prayer is that we see incredible gospel results as we faithfully minister to them.

    About Eric

    Adopted from the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home in St. Louis, Eric Turner is a Hannibal, Missouri native who recently joined the faculty at Hannibal-LaGrange University. Before accepting the position as Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek in 2014, Eric served as Interim Pastor at Liberty Baptist Church in Liberty, MO, Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Braymer, MO and College/Singles Pastor at Lenexa Baptist Church in Lenexa, KS.
    Dr. Turner currently holds a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies – New Testament Emphasis from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. His dissertation research focused on identifying and interpreting linguistic metaphor in Second Corinthians. The ultimate goal of the research was to show that a modern linguistic model for English metaphor can be applied to the Greek New Testament with profitable outcomes for the interpretation of historically difficult passages.
    Outside the classroom, Dr. Turner can be found running, playing guitar, riding motorcycles, or traveling. He has been married to his wife Stephanie for 23 years and together they have four children. He and his family are avid St. Louis Cardinals fans.

    Contact Dr. Eric Turner

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Galatians: Context (Part 1 of 6)

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Today I’m beginning a series on a book of the New Testament called Galatians.  Each book of the Bible is indispensable and important in its own way and Galatians is no exception.
In fact, Galatians is a very important book for both professing Christians (people who think of themselves as followers of Christ) and for those who are at a point in their lives that they want absolutely nothing to do with self-righteous people, organized religion or the institutional church.
That’s because, in this book, God gives Christians the facts on what the Christian life is really all about—and helps those who aren’t Christians see that a lot of what is sometimes called the Church and that masquerades as Christian Faith actually has nothing to do with Jesus or with biblical Christianity. So, if you’re a Christian, a spiritual seeker or something in between, this study is for you— and I’m glad you’re reading.
Today, before I really get into the text of the book called Galatians, I want to help you understand the historical background that led to the writing of the book.
WHY? Why spend time on that?  Because anytime you study ANY book of the Bible, you need to understand what led to and precipitated the writing of that book.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  God doesn’t just inspire Scripture for no reason.  There were goings on in the early days of Christianity—things that became of such a critical and serious nature that God Himself intervened and, through the agency and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, guided the Apostle Paul in the writing of this book.
The problem with that is that lots of people feel lost in the Bible, and studies like this often get a little confusing to people. For that reason, as I approach this study, I’m going to break it down into little, bite-sized pieces—and I’m going to explain it bit by bit, piece by piece and morsel by morsel, so nobody feels left in the dark.  And I’m going to try to take the complex and sometimes complicated story of the Bible and New Testament and put it in plain language that I hope you can understand.  And with that introduction, here we go!
The Old Testament Context
To understand Galatians, you must understand Judaism and the Old Testament. So that’s where I’m going to start, with a brief introduction of how the Bible and the book of Galatians fit together.
Judaism as an organized religion isn’t the first ‘organized’ religion in the history of the world, but the Judeo-Christian God (the God of the Bible) is the only God that Christians believe in and that is the one mentioned throughout the Bible. God is eternal and has always existed.  That God created humanity and all that is. God established boundaries and expectations for people, which they broke and violated. God expelled them from His presence because of their disrespect and rebellion—because their actions proved they weren’t interested in having an intimate relationship with Him. Even though God allowed people to rebel, like a loving parent, He still loved them and pursued them with forgiveness and cared for and provided for them.
Fast forward: At a certain time in history (around 1450 BC), God established a holy covenant with a man named Abraham.  Abraham had a child, Isaac.  Isaac had two sons, one of whom was named Jacob. So the God of the Bible became known as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Genesis 32:9).  Jacob was later renamed Israel after a supernatural experience he had with God. Jacob, now Israel, had twelve sons, each of which had large families that, over time, became clans, then tribes.  Generally speaking (and this is oversimplified and not exactly the way it occurred), the dozen sons of Jacob/Israel became the Twelve Tribes of Israel. God wanted to honor the agreement He had with the descendents of His follower, Abraham.  They had been enslaved over the centuries that followed by Egypt (Exodus 2:23-25). God then rescued them from Egypt and gave them a parcel of land (called the Holy Land) that He had promised to them hundreds of years earlier.
They later became a nation under God—known as the nation of Israel (comprised of the twelve tribes of Israel)—and they were governed by God’s Law—that is, the Old Covenant, and namely, the Ten Commandments.   And when they broke the Law, they had to make blood offerings to God (Leviticus 1-7) to show sorrow for their sins and make restitution to God for what they’d done. Later, the nation had a break up, and what remained were two smaller nations—one named the nation of Judah (which was comprised of the tribe of Judah, namely the Jewish people).   God then continued to interact with them, to have His Will done on earth through that Covenant people.
The New Testament Context
Ultimately the Jewish people, as a whole, failed to keep their end of the deal, leading to a New Covenant— meaning God established an additional covenant with a new group of people, in order for His Will to be done on earth.   The original people He made this covenant with (John 12) were the Jews—but were told to include all people, particularly Gentiles (Matthew 28). So while the Old Covenant was with the Jewish people as an ethnic group, the New Covenant still honored that covenant (Romans 9-11), but introduced all non-Jews, called Gentiles, into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
How does this work?  Well, instead of breaking the Law and making offerings of animals, Christians trust in Jesus Christ who made HIMSELF an offering for sin which is why He died on the cross. After Christ was murdered and then resurrected from the dead, the church sprang into existence.  That meant Christians would no longer make offerings and do all of the things written in the Old Testament (like be circumcised as a young child or man, make animal offerings, keep certain dietary or eating regulations, and so on).  All of those things became obsolete when Christ did His work (Hebrews 8:8-18).
In Jerusalem, at a Jewish holiday called Pentecost, a few weeks after the resurrection, the Christian movement as we know it today sprang into existence and Christian bodies/churches—groups of Christians meeting together (I’m not talking about churches as-in ‘buildings’) began to be established everywhere. Over time, those churches spread throughout the then-Roman Empire. They first began as Jewish followers of Jesus (in Jerusalem, Samaria and Jewish communities elsewhere), but in time churches were established among Gentiles too—just as Christ had told them to do.
The Pauline Context
The leader who helped Gentiles (non-Jews like many of us) become introduced to Jesus was a Jewish leader named the Apostle Paul.  The primary leader who helped Jewish people find Christ was the Apostle Peter as well as James, the half brother of Jesus.
But understand this—because this is part of the key to understanding the Book of Galatians— In some churches, there were both Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. Not only were they different ethnicities and nationalities, but were from totally different cultures, and the Jews were known to have a great sense of pride about their heritage as God’s people.  But now, as you know, God was including Gentiles in His plan—like He had ALWAYS wanted to, but the Jews failed to do.  Some Jews were jealous that God had included the Gentiles in His New Covenant—and were resistant to non-Jews coming to Jesus in the New Covenant (Acts 14:45-47).This ongoing struggle led to the situation in churches in the area of the world known as Galatia (basically current day Turkey).
In the New Testament, after the life and times of Jesus appears (in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), there is a short history of the early church (Act.s) and then the letters to the churches begin.  Those letters are called ‘epistles’ because an epistle was a type of letter writing technique at that time. Paul wrote many epistles—letters—to Christian believers, some Jewish believers and some Gentile believers. Here, in Galatians, we read of a church with both.  They were having problems understanding what the New Covenant really meant—and what God expected of people.  There was a sharp disagreement about that, and it was confusing people about the truth.
Today, people are also confused about the truth. Why?  Because Churches are often confused too.  In the next few weeks, we’ll discover the real truth about the Christian message—and it’ll help both Christians and seekers understand what the message of Jesus really was and is.

Go to Part 2 of this series