College Ministry Questions

I’ve been reading up on ministry to college students (College Ministry from Scratch: Equipping Kids for Life after Youth Group, by Chuck Bomar) and want to share a little about what I have learned:

It is important to get to know the college-aged people in our ministry, spending time with them and getting to know them is important.

  1. What Commitments Do You Want to Shape Your Life? This question is good to ask for a number of reasons.
    1. First, it helps college-age people think through commitment. Some never commit, some over commit, while others commit without realizing the implications of that commitment. So asking this question gets the idea of commitment to the front of their minds and hopefully forces them to move from one stage to the next.
    2. Second, this question gets down to what they desire. College-age people are trying to figure out what they want. Many people are asking them what they’re going to do with their lives, but they don’t move toward that until they figure out what they want. In other words, this question will help them with a thought process they’re already in. It’s helping them figure out what they want to be committed to. Notice that I didn’t say what they are committed to. Once they figure out what they want to be committed to, we can help them differentiate those things with what they are committed to already. Most likely they’re currently doing things that undermine the very things they want in life. And it’s at this point of the conversation that discipleship really begins. Our desire is to get them to the point where they want their commitment to God to shape their lives. What we commit to today will shape our lives tomorrow. So the key is getting them to a point where they’re aligning their commitments with what they desire. It might take a dozen meetings to discuss this question fully, but it’s worth the time.
  2. How Do You Know You’re a Christian? This is a bit of a loaded question. We often ask questions like, “How did you become a Christian?” or even “When or how did you get saved?” but it’s different to ask a question worded this way.
    1. This is a great question to get people thinking theologically, and it can launch you into a very long, yet healthy and fun conversation. The goal of asking this is to help them gain a sense of confidence in their salvation.
    2. But beware: The opposite might happen first. And this is where it gets fun. Most of the time their response will have something to do with a time they remember praying. Challenge this. Ask them something like, “So, you know you’re a Christian because you prayed one time?” You’ll likely witness some intellectual gymnastics at this point. They might flounder around a bit, struggling to find an answer. But this is healthy. Although it might get a bit uncomfortable for them, we’re actually helping them toward being more confident in who they are in Christ. Eventually we can guide them toward:
      1. Seeing the fruits of the Spirit in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23),
      2. Seeing the transformation that’s taken place (Romans 12:2),
      3. Seeing their obedience to Christ (John 15:10), and
      4. Seeing the love they have for other believers (1 John 5:1). But letting them discover these things for themselves by asking them questions is a great and natural way of helping them get there.
  3. What’s the Difference Between a Faith and a Conscience? So many college-age people, especially those who’ve grown up in the church, have more of a religious conscience than they do a personal faith. This question can take some explaining on your part, so I’ll help you out here.
    1. The bottom-line difference is that we’re not saved through a conscience; we’re saved through our faith (Ephesians 2:8). Helping college-age people differentiate between these two things is very important. A conscience is gained by receiving information. What we’re taught shapes our conscience. So it’s possible to do certain things—or not do them—simply because we grew up being taught that way.
    2. College-age people are at the point where they’re reevaluating all of the assumptions they grew up with. They’re trying to figure out what they personally believe, versus just assuming something to be true because their parents believe that way. So, this question is just another way of helping them think through what they’re already processing. It gets to the core of what they believe, and it’s a natural way for us to join in on that journey.
  4. Who Are You? This question gets to the core issue of college-age people: Identity. Identity is not an issue; it’s the issue that college-age people are thinking through. This might seem like a simple question, but it’s not.
    1. It’s a great question because it forces people to think about who they believe they are, who they believe they’re perceived to be, and possibly even who they want to be.
    2. Perhaps most importantly, this question gives us clues as to how much their faith factors into their sense of themselves. For the most part it doesn’t. Most will initially respond with personality traits, career pursuits, or likes and dislikes.
    3. The final stage of natural identity formation in college-age people is the Theologian stage. I’m not saying they need to be seminary-trained; I’m simply suggesting that their sense of identity is seen in who they’ve been made into through Christ. The theologian would answer this question by saying something like, “I’m a child of God.” They not only verbalize this, but they seek to embrace it. Now, embracing our identity solely in Christ is an ongoing process for all of us—one that’s never fully embraced here on earth, unfortunately. But we want to help people get to the point where they desire to embrace this truth and are pursuing it. And we can make them aware of our continuing process in this area as well. It’s a fun conversation to have with someone, for sure. But most importantly, we can learn how we might assist them in discovering their spiritual identity before anything else.
  5. What Do Others Want from You? The biggest reason I ask this question is that it allows me to see the pressures they’re feeling from other people. The college-age years are filled with pressure, but every person experiences different challenges and handles them differently as well.
    1. This question might give us insight into their relationship with their parents, a boss, or even the pressure they put on themselves.
    2. It can lead the conversation in dozens of directions, but it helps them think through what’s weighing on them and gives us insight into how we might be able to encourage them. Ultimately, of course, we can guide this conversation toward what God wants from them. And helping them focus here, possibly negating all other pressures, is the place we want them to get to.
  6. What Do Others Want for You? This question is a great follow-up to the previous one. For instance if they feel pressure from their parents, then this question might help them see past the pressure and into their parents’ motivations. Most parents just want what’s best for their child. This can be a healthy thing for a college-age person to recognize and articulate. This can even help relieve some of the pressure they feel. Plus, it can provide a great opportunity for us to encourage them and potentially walk with them as they seek to articulate their feelings to their parents. We can let them know that our desire is to see them get where they want to be and that we want to help them get there. And along the way we can help them discover what God wants for them, too.
  7. What Makes You Unique? This question really helps self-awareness. It naturally causes college-age people to differentiate themselves from everyone else, which is a crucial step in identity formulation. This can obviously give us insights into strengths they have, but it could also lead into struggles they’re facing. They might feel disconnected, like nobody cares, or just completely different to the point that they have a hard time finding a sense of belonging anywhere. Again, this can provide a great opportunity for encouragement and help us discover a place where our voices can have an impact in their lives.

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