Ministry always changes because people always change. Some change is natural due to cultural influence while other change is simply a natural reaction to what was emphasized by previous generations. Either way you look at it, our focal points in our ministries are constantly evolving.
Or, at least they should be.
That said, here are two things I think we need to see LESS of in ministry to college-age people. I must warn you. At first glance, these may seem highly un-spiritual. Just hear me out, because I think less of these two things means much more in others.
- Less focus on spiritual discipline. I understand discipline is necessary for godliness, but we can also mistake discipline for godliness. If we are not careful, placing too much emphasis on spiritual disciplines inevitably causes us to over emphasize what we believe to be proper behavior for Christians rather than the faith, love, and hope Christians ought to be motivated by. The fact is spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, etc. are byproducts of faith and not producers of it. We must be very careful with this distinction and make sure we are not emphasizing behaviors vs. faith. Younger generations are extremely sensitive to being behavior managed. I discuss this extensively in my latest book, Losing Your Religion. But, here I would simply say the less focus on behavior management systems that try to get people to do things for God lends more room for us to emphasize the motivations of faith, love, and hope that free us to do things because of God.
- Less focus on gaining more information. Spiritual maturity is not defined by how much knowledge we possess. Memorizing Proverbs doesn’t make me wise. Learning more about God and what it means to follow Jesus through the scriptures is, of course, important and especially for those that know almost nothing about scripture. However, in my experience, our emphasis should be much more on seeking to embrace what we already know. So, to be clear, we are not negating knowledge, but instead, valuing it to such a degree that we actually emphasize embracing it practically.