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:
A consumer mentality is an unhealthy focus on self. And if there’s one thing that will hinder people who are different (especially from different generations) from having a relationship and serving each other, it’s a consumer mentality. Unfortunately small groups can feed this unhealthy focus. We don’t usually think about this, but it’s true. People go to small groups for what they can get out of it—for their lives. They go to get something. The motivation for going is self-focused. In our culture this is acceptable and applauded.
People talk about needing to be fed, and if they don’t feel like they’re getting what they need, they leave. This consumer mentality can be a huge hindrance to developing mature believers who remain a part of our churches. In reality, the gospel message at its very core is anti-consumer. Christ is extremely clear about the fact that those who follow him have to deny themselves. This is anything but a consumer mentality. Now, I’m fully aware that there are lots of other things that feed a consumer mentality—just about everything in our culture does, but we have to recognize and battle this in our small groups. We can do this by watching two very simple things.
- First, make sure your leaders genuinely serve others and provide great models for people to follow. Remember, college-age people don’t necessarily need another study as much as they need to watch and follow the example of others. This is what assists them in turning information into wisdom. Having leaders who live out what they know is much more effective than having arrogant and self-centered brainiacs. Harsh, but true.
- Second, focus on service in your small groups. Walk through passages that emphasize serving the needy and helpless and then serve in a variety of ways together. Plug into what other groups in your church are already doing and join them in their service work. This not only helps fight the consumer mentality with service, but it also encourages connections with others in the church. Let college-age people come up with ideas for how to serve people in your church and city. And then actually do them.