Yelling Into A Stethoscope

Who invented college? It has to be one of the worst ideas of all time! Unless you’re trying to brainwash a generation, or mass-produce a sub-excellent model human, it has almost no merits. It’s not the best way to learn, it’s not the best way to mature, and it sure ain’t the best way for someone to take life in the real world for a test drive. I never went to anything resembling a genuine college, so these past six months have been my initiation into the world of higher learning, albeit the Chinese version. And that’s pretty much the sum total of my opinion. I’m a huge fan of college students – not such a big fan of the farms they live on. 

As in the previously-mentioned exclusion, college is a perfect way to brainwash a generation. “Let’s pack all of this town’s 18-year-old’s on a train and ship them off to a faraway city so they can get started learning to be the people they’re supposed to be.” It’s like Pinnochio going off to Pleasure Island to learn how to be a real boy. Student life pretty much consists of drinking, playing computer games, fornicating, and…. oh, yeah – classes. Perfect way to kick off independent life – independently. 

I’ve pretty much learned that college ministry is like youth ministry with no parents involved. Like high school students, but without any restraints or rules. They do what they want, when they want, how they want, with who they want. An interesting set of dynamics. As you can imagine, the situations to be dealt with are pretty colorful.  

My wife got a call today from a girl in our study who has major problems with another girl in her dorm. Bad enough that this other girl just got her boyfriend to make some threats against her. Threats that, when presented to the faculty, were pretty much ignored because the accused has a family history at the school. A couple weeks ago, one of the most faithful girls from our Bible study was attacked by some guy on her way home one night. No parents, no brothers, no advisors, no protection. But it’s all in the name of a good education! I’ve just recently been told that suicide among students is a real problem here. More on that someday… 

Most of these students are on their own for the first time, and aside from being completely terrified, they are tempted far beyond anything they’ve ever experienced. So it’s a pretty important society-mandated life crossroads that we find our ministry taking place in. With a presence in this city’s universities, we stand in a gap towards which thousands of this country’s young people are funneled every year. With the culturally amplified distractions advocating the wide, we have to make some noise for the narrow.  

Some thoughts, then, about college ministry. Chinese college ministry, anyhow…

1. They’re young, but they have a choice. So some of the dynamics from youth ministry are the same, but with a quadruple portion of free will.

2. The stakes are high. A high percentage of students (exact statistic pending perfect honesty) don’t find out that they don’t know what their life is all about until they get to college. A great time to meet Jesus. Also a great time to throw life away.

3. Even the disconnected are pretty connected. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that married, career people trim their social circle smaller and smaller. The average student on the other hand, is forced into way more social situations. They all know someone. Exciting possibilities for the movement of the Gospel.

4. They have a pretty consistent set of problems. They’re probably not the most troubled demographic in the world, but most of them struggle with the same junk. Lack of purpose, abundance of lust, bad relationships, wasting time.

5. Our time is short. Most of them are from far away, and that’s where they’re going when their time here is done. If we’re lucky enough to meet someone when they’re a freshman, we’ve got four years, not counting three and a half months of vacations.

6. Their calendar’s pretty empty. One of the most surprising things to me. They’ve got a lot going on, but there’s plenty of day left when it’s all done. And boredom is about as big of an enemy as they’ve got.

7. They’re tuned in. I wouldn’t say “searching,” but they’re definitely aware that life is pretty much a drag. So they’re open to ideas. When I teach, I have this weird feeling that the words are really sinking in. That paint is hitting the canvas. Pretty amazing sensation. Every once in a while, a student will mention something that I taught, and I’m just blown away that they even remember it. It’s not that my speaking is amplified, it’s that their listening is more sensitive.

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