What College Football Teaches Us About People (And Ministry Implications)

I love college football. The atmosphere, the hype, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat, it’s all incredible. My ESPN app and I have a fairly good relationship from August to January. It causes you to be happy when things are going well or a bear to be around when things don’t turn out how you had hoped they would. There are always surprises in the season and it usually never ends the way you thought it would. I love the student section of stadiums full of college students with their faces painted. I love the marching band playing the fight song as their team comes running out of the tunnel. I love it.

I also love the local church. It never gets old seeing people come to a saving faith only found in Jesus Christ. My heart is full when worshiping alongside passionate followers of Jesus. I rejoice seeing one minister to a family in need in the name of Jesus. It makes my day seeing someone give their life to Jesus and then publicly sharing their decision through believer’s baptism.

In both “arenas” I love seeing the next generation lead out.

Here is the all too often sad reality… people are way more passionate about things that won’t last or that don’t have any eternal significance. I believe we can learn a lot about people from observing the college football environment. Some of the same fans that are screaming for their team to go for it on 4th and 1… come in our doors Sunday morning for church. They lead small group bible studies, hold babies in the nursery, volunteer in student ministry, or serve as deacons. Therefore, this leads me to this conclusion: It’s not a lack of passion it’s a lack of priority.

Allow me to explain…

1. People are full of passion.

Ministry Implication: People are full of passion; we must capitalize on this. If people are passionate about their team scoring a touchdown, then they can be just as passionate about making the name of Jesus famous. What makes people passionate? I believe it’s the idea that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is 100% true and 100% bigger than anything we could ever do on our own. Jesus is that amazing. Jesus and His message are worth it.

2. People love community.

Ministry Implication: If people can gather around a common goal outside the walls of the church, then why can’t they do the same within the walls of the church. Then, as a community of believers, make a difference in the world. Scripture teaches us where two or more are gathered He, Jesus, will be there also. He will be there to lead, guide, and direct us. He is the focus every single time we gather. Whether its gathering to worship or gathering in small group bible study, people love community.

3. People will spend time, energy, and resources on what they love.

Ministry Implication: More times than not, the issue is not money or time, it’s priority. Here is what I have learned about people since I have been on staff at a church, people will always make the time for what means the most. I even see this within leadership. I asked a pastor one time what his response would be if I told him, “I don’t have time for ‘that’ right now.” He responded with, “That tells me ‘it’ is not important to you.” Whatever we are most passionate about, we will run the hardest after.

4. People have the potential to be committed to something long-term.

Ministry Implication: Someone once told me, “The only thing this generation is committed to is being uncommitted.” While I understand the thought here and there is a lot of truth in this statement, I don’t fully agree. I, again, think they are just selectively committed on what really matters the most to them. A true, born and bred, devoted college football follower stays committed to their team no matter what. They just don’t show up on Saturday, they talk about it during the week and usually with others.

The bottom line…

I love the passion in college football fans. Again, I’m one of them. I love the fact that they put their all into it. What bothers me is when the same people who are “Christ followers” are too tired to go to church the next day. They say they don’t have the time to serve a family in need. Whatever we are most passionate about, we will run the hardest after.

Acts 20:24 (HCSB), “But I count my life of no value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.”

Dear Christ Following College Student…

Dear Christ Following College Student,

I want you to know that as your brother in Christ I’m praying for you. The season of life you’re in right now is so crucial to the upcoming years of your life. It probably seems that every time you turn the corner there is another decision to be made. It probably also seems there is another temptation knocking at your door. Remember, as a Christ follower the Holy Spirit resides in you. Don’t lose sight of this, lean on this, and fully embrace this. He, being fully God, resides in you to bring about conviction, discernment, and encouragement. He loves you.

You may be thinking right now, “I’m not sure what to do. This all seems like so much at once.” Rest easy in Proverbs 2:6 which teaches that wisdom comes from the LORD. He gives us understanding.  A wise person once told me that sometimes it’s what you don’t do that makes the difference. Share your faith with that classmate that you know is lost. Be the vessel Christ created you to be.

As a college pastor I hear stories from lots of university students. Some of them make me laugh, some of them break my heart. In this season of life it’s so important that you find time to be in the Word every day. Maybe this is a struggle for you with everything else going on right now. In Scripture you find the God that created you and what He is like. You will find exactly who He is and how He dealt with situations and people. You will find how He resisted temptation. You will find stories of other Christ followers. Some that made great decisions and some that made poor decisions. So much clarity can come from these times in the Word. Please don’t replace intimate time with Jesus each and every day. When you are reading Scripture pray this simple prayer, “Speak LORD, your servant is listening.”

My desire is that you will earnestly pray through decisions and worship and serve with a local body of believers. You need to be a part of the local church now, more than ever. Christ instituted the church for a reason. Don’t only be a part of the local church, be the local church.

Remember, you’re not always going to “get it right” but keep on in your pursuit of holiness. Hebrews 13:5 teaches us that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. I end this letter to you with the words of Proverbs 3:5-6 (HCSB), “{5} Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; {6} think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.”

Your Brother in Christ.

7 Things I Would Say to a Christ-Following Student Entering College

University students all across the nation began their fall semesters within the last couple of weeks. For some of these students they did this for the very first time. They left emotional parents, high school, and life routines they have always known, to embark on the college journey. As a college minister, I have seven pieces of advice that I would share with a young man or young lady calling themselves a Christian as they are entering college.

1. Find a local church family to be in community with. Let me start off by saying I love campus ministries. They play a huge purpose-filled role in the life a college student. Some college students however, connect only with a campus ministry and never plug-in with a local church family. Find a church home away from home where you can serve, worship, and fellowship in. Make sure it’s a Bible-believing, doctrinal sound church, with a heart for missions.

2. Be sure you have a daily plan for reading God’s Word. As a university student, the word “busy” is an understatement. Students have class schedules, work schedules, weekends they go home and come back, practices and games for athletes, club meetings, and the list goes on and on. In the midst of all this, time spent in God’s Word can get lost. As Christ followers, our spiritual development hugely weighs on the time we spend in God’s Word. If we want to hear from God we must be in His Word.

3. Be good stewards of time and money. Most college students would say they struggle with not having enough time or money. In regards to time management it’ s huge for a college student to be on a system. Block out times in which you will study for each class you are in. Block out times in which you will read God’s Word. Block out times for R&R. Block out times for hanging out with friends. As far as money goes… yeah I didn’t have much in college either. But what little money I did have I didn’t spend very wisely. Both of these aspects (time management and money) are much easier said than done. I’m still working on them but the key is to be getting better at them each and every day.

4. Spend quality time with mentor figures. There is something to be said about spending time with people who have “been there and done that.” Personally, I still spend time with people who have been in ministry much longer than I have. In this time I ask questions, listen, learn, pray, and take in constructive criticism. There is huge value in this. College students…please have these people in your life.

5. Spend quality time praying through decisions. The college years are full of decisions; some of these decisions are life long decisions. “What should I major in?” “Who will I date?” “Will I go to grad school or take that full-time job opportunity?” “Where is God leading me?” All these questions I have heard from countless college students. Spend hours and hours on your knees when making decisions that will impact your future.

6. Choose your friends wisely. Initially, this statement may sound “elementary” or like something you would say to a middle school or high school student. However, this is huge for college students. As the old saying goes, “you are who you hang out with.” I have seen too many “God-fearing” students step on a college campus and get lost. I’m not referencing getting lost trying to find a class (which I have seen and is pretty funny) but lost in life and faith. College students… who are you allowing to influence your life?

7. LOVE and enjoy the college years. This really is a very exciting time in your life. Go to sporting events and paint up your face. Go on an international mission trip. Eat cold pizza from the night before (just kidding I would not suggest doing that!). Go to a restaurant with a group of friends that gives free dessert to college students. Enjoy yourself because this really is one of the most special times in your life. In the midst of the enjoyment, make wise decisions. Reflect Jesus in all you do, bring Him glory!

College Students and the Local Church

It has been finals week here for our local university. That means that several students are in “intense study” mode, “fill up the coffee mug a few more times” mode, and “pulling all nighters” mode. This became even more apparent to me when I recently visited a local coffee shop. It was full of college students that had their laptops, ear buds, smartphones, and textbooks. Every time I see college students, have a conversation with college students, or pray for college students I think about their place in the local church. It is such a critical time in life and I have a strong desire to see the local church reach out to this generation. The more I think about this, four statements keep running through my mind…

1. College students are real people. This statement may read a little strange. However, you would be amazed how many church members/attenders don’t recognize the college students in the church. Some see them as less significant due to them not being “faithful tithers.” Others see them as short-term members and turn their attention to people who will be at the church more “long-term.” Some have a heart to reach these college students. To these people I say thank you. College students are real people who need a vibrant local church to plug into.

2. College students have a story that comes with them. Every person represents a story; college students are no different. When they arrive on their campus a story comes with them. They bring joys, pains, scars, and victories from their life thus far. Following the same theme as my first statement the local church must do a better job of seeing this. I love sitting down with college students and figuring out where they have been and where they want to go. Jesus commanded us to “go and make disciples” in Matthew 28. The key in accomplishing this most effectively is found in one word- relationship.

3. College students want to be a part of the local church as a whole. It’s great to have a ministry just for college students in your local church. What’s even better is to plug college students into the life of the local church as a whole. College students want to serve. They want  to be greeters, operate cameras, help pass the offering plate, hold babies, work with middle school students, help serve at senior adult banquets, and so forth. Giving them the opportunity to do this says “we love you and want you here.”

4. College students need the local church to love on them. Ultimately this is the bottom line. College students need mature, Christ following adults who are growing in their own personal walk to come alongside them. They need these adults to model for them what it means to love Christ more than anything else. They need these adults to model what a biblical husband, wife, father, mother, business man/woman, looks like. They need families who are willing to open up their homes and allow them to study, do laundry, and eat. (Free pizza is always a winner!) Some of the coolest relationships I have seen in the local church is an older adult-college student mentorship. Write cards, send emails, take them to Wal-Mart… be the hands ands feet of Jesus to them. You won’t regret it and I can guarantee you it will be as much a blessing to you as it is to them.

The Gospel, Passion, and the College Campus

I had the privilege and opportunity to share the Word with some college students the other night. It really is one of the most fun things I do in ministry. College students are intriguing to me for several different reasons. One being their thought process about faith, life, and calling. Helping develop collegiate students in these crucial areas is absolutely fascinating to me and exciting.

As I was preparing to speak to these students on the subject of “The Gospel, Passion, and the College Campus” I really had two questions that were running through my head based on my texts from 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 and 1 Timothy 4:7-8. The two questions were…

1. What are you willing to sacrifice for the Gospel? Here is another way of saying it: whatever you are the most passionate about you will run the hardest after.

2. Skeptic/spiritually unsure collegiate student… are you even in the race? Faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior gets you in the race. For a collegiate student that claims to be a believer in Jesus Christ… are you taking steps forward in the race? In other words, you may be busy but are you accomplishing anything?  

When I first wrote these questions down they hit me like a ton of bricks. What would I be willing to give up for the Gospel? Do I even know what true sacrifice looks like? In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul talks about running in a race with the ultimate goal of winning. To do this we must discipline our body, time, resources in order to win. Discipline means sacrifice. Warren Wiersbe says in his commentary, “Discipline means giving up the good and the better for the best.” So what are you willing to give up for the Gospel?

The second question is a two folded question- one for skeptics of the Gospel and one for believers in the Gospel. For believers, I focused on what “training in godliness” looked like from 1 Timothy 4:7-8. The ESV translates 1 Timothy 4:7-8 this way: “{7} Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; {8} for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” This whole idea of “training in godliness” really resonates with me. I think many Christians may be busy doing “Christian things” but are we being productive, are we accomplishing anything?

I believe these two questions are imperative for today’s Christ professing collegiate student to ask. Am I even in the race? And, if I am in the race, am I taking steps forward in the race?

Six Imperatives for the Christ Following College Student

When a Christ follower enters the secular college campus there are so many philosophies, theories, and concepts they are bombarded with almost immediately. Sadly, most theories and philosophies in college don’t point to Jesus as Savior and Lord. So what advice would I give a Christ following freshmen entering the college campus? The following are six imperatives I would employ students to know, live out, and pursue…

1. Biblical Worldview: Following the TRUTH and being able to recognize false teaching. John 8:31-32

2. Biblical Identity: Who I am in Christ. Galatians 2:20

3. Authentic Community: Faithfully attending a local church in which you can connect, worship, mature, and fellowship. Acts 2:46-47

4. Serving Opportunities: The Christian life is meant to be lived out not just talked about. 1 Peter 4:10

5. Evangelistic Outreach: Sharing your faith story with others. Romans 10:1

6. Leadership Development: Learning and pursuing leadership principles for life, faith, and environment. Joshua 1:7

Ministering to College Students

When my wife and I moved to our new church in September of 2011, I also increased in my responsibilities. At our first church we mainly (because their will always be “other” responsibilities) worked with middle school and high school students. At our new church we work with middle school, high school, and college students. My technical title (just in case you are super anxious to know) is student and college pastor. I’m very excited to be in this role because I love young adults as well. I still love working with teenagers but again, am very excited to be working with young adults. I have quickly learned in my new role that there is a pretty significant difference in the way you reach teenagers and the way you reach young adults. For example, in student ministry you may attend school lunches, ballgames, plays, and so forth, in order to build relationships with students and parents. In college ministry, while you still want to be a presence on the local college campus for sure, I find myself doing more discipleship over a cup of coffee or something of this nature. Furthermore, if I went to a major university’s ballgame it may not have the same impact as me going to a local middle school football game. This is, in part, due to the number of people who will end up attending that type of event. Also, the type of conversations I have with college students usually is drastically different from the conversations I have with middle/high school students. In student ministry conversations can easily swing to… “I broke up with girlfriend because…” or “What are we going to do next Daniel…” or “Are we going to that…” With college students the conversations are more along the lines of “Daniel, I think I may be getting engaged this semester…” or “Daniel, this company wants to hire me…” Both types of conversations are okay to have, they are just drastically different within their own context. With all this being said, here are a few things (this is just part 1) I’m learning about reaching college students.

1. College students desire deeper, solid Biblical teaching. This is an obvious desire for any ministry within the local church but I’m learning more and more that college students are okay with the technical theology/philosophical terms. Most don’t shy away from that, they embrace it. Therefore, the manner in which I teach is different in college ministry. That is not to say that a high school student can’t handle deep thinking but rather my approach as a communicator is slightly different. The other night I was asked about the doctrine of predestination from a college student and this realization hit me… college students want to dig deeper. They want to wrestle with theological concepts and come up with why they believe what they believe. They want to be taught, in an exciting, relevant way, theology.

2. College students want to learn life leadership lessons. College students are preparing for how they are going to live and manage their adult life. It’s important to teach on subjects like financial responsibility, family life management, career paths, and so on. These are major life lessons that adults wrestle with. My hope in the college ministry that I oversee is that we are teaching college students how to make smart, biblical choices in these critical areas. Too many college students think that life is like a light switch… “When I become and adult, I will know how to be an adult.” May the church come along side them and teach them what God expects in a Godly husband, dad, wife, mom, and so forth. This isn’t just a light switch, we as the church, have to teach them these aspects of the Christian life.

3. College students love having fun while maturing as an adult. Part of what I love about being a student and college pastor are the fun moments. There is a difference in having fun and being immature. College students are not kids anymore. They need to know that leaders, society, and family expect more from them. However, the college years can be the greatest 4, 5, 6, 7 (haha) years of their life. The relationships you build with life long friends, for many they find their spouse while in college, the clubs and organizations they are apart of, and so on are really exciting times! This is exciting to not only watch but experience with them. So while we are teaching them what is means to be a mature Christ follower as an adult… have a blast while doing it!

There are probably many more things I could write about here but, this is just part one. I’m excited about working with both teenagers and college students and feel very blessed that I have the opportunity to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.