More than any other type of life and faith in culture, there is no doubt in my mind that college ministry is consistently the most rapidly changing population of believers. I am only 11 years removed from my freshman year in college; looking back over the past decade, my undergraduate experience is nothing like that of the students currently finishing their freshman year.
Though many can look back on a decade once removed and see some extreme generational differences, the postmodern explosion through technology, polarized political cultures, a growing movement of gay rights and a default worldview that inherently questions the validity of everything has irrevocably shifted the trajectory of the role of campus and college ministers.
Ten years from now, the new normal will be a multifaceted set of experiences overwhelmingly based on a series of uncertainties that must connect you with the students' on their turf and filtration system, not yours.
The exciting part, however, is that after another decade of questions surrounding student's interpersonal-, sexual-, political-, and cultural-exploration, I see the forthcoming landing point between minister and student centralized around one of the most overlooked principles of Jesus: credibility over credentials.
Credibility over credentials is what I believe will be the future of college ministry—one that focuses heavily on the relational sustainability of the campus/college minister and the student through an incarnational medium of engagement. For a number of years, the engagement between the minster and the student has been more along the relational lines of a psychologist-client, teacher-student, wise sage-naïve searcher. For campus/college ministers to stay relevant and continue to have any ability to speak into their students' lives, that old paradigm must change.
I have been given the opportunity to lecture around the country at a variety of Christian colleges and secular research universities, and the most prevalent theme I continue to see, especially during the past few years, is that students are weary of the current hierarchy and chain of command. Too often they see members of any administrative leadership as "the man" trying to censor or hold down their generation's ideas of love, life, faith and creativity. How much more so will this be in another 10 years?
Therefore, the way forward must be incarnational in its very core. The exploration of incarnational work and life will revolutionize the minister's ability to connect deeply with the students on the most sincere and sacred levels. Go to the students. Be with the students. Stay with the students. This isn't a 9-5 job anymore. In fact, it never should have been in the first place. Noted youth ministry leader and blogger Adam McLane
suggests that impact is directly proportionate to the amount of time you don't spend in your office.