Welcome to another year of Coaching Tips. I love doing these. It gives me a chance to pass on some of the best thinking, resources and strategies that others are using in their ministries.
Last Spring I sent a tip on Social Graces. GP Foote, replied with some further insight and a suggestion. He recommended the book, “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…And Why it Matters”, a research project by David Kinnaman with the Barna Group. I was intrigued, so I got a copy and read it this summer. It is much more than intriguing. It is sobering.
A couple of weeks ago, Jason Weimer, in Pittsburgh, wrote to recommend the same book. He writes,
“Reading their findings and some of the ways they suggest responding to the data has really begun to shift the way our team will be approaching ministry this year. It underscores the fact that the culture is changing faster than we realize, and some of our ministry strategies and “traditions” need to shift with it, in order to gain relevancy and effectiveness. I’m still working through what that will look like, but I’m convinced that we need to re-think many of the ways we seek to reach students and address these very real perspectives. As these perspectives, which are brought on largely by the church itself, continue to gain traction, the Gospel will more and more fall on deaf ears. So we need to face them head on, own our mistakes and unChristian ways we’ve lived and ministered, and live in a more Christ-like way, presenting a new, truer perspective of Christ-followers. I’m convinced that this is a must-read for those of us in campus ministry.”
I agree. In fact, I am planning to have our Student LINC and Coaching Center teams read the book this fall and discuss it. According to the Barna research, there are six common perceptions that “Busters and Mosaics” (those in the 16-29 age group) have of Christians. They believe that we are hypocritical, judgmental, only have a “get people saved” mentality, anti-homosexual, sheltered, and too political. As Gabe Lyons, the one who commissioned the research writes,
“…I had little to go on except my gut-level sense that something was desperately wrong with the way Christianity was perceived in our nation…My sense was that if Christians could read the mind of outsiders, filtered through the objective lens of research, it would provide the motivation we needed to change how we see ourselves and our role in culture. And over time it could significantly alter how we live and interact with our friends, colleagues, and neighbors…I’ll never forget sitting in Starbucks, poring through the research results on my laptop. As I soaked it in, I glanced at the people around me and was overwhelmed with the thought that this is what they think of me…My next reaction, however, shocked me. I was overwhelmed with a sense of hope…Having access to what those around me really thought challenged me. I had finally been offered a unique glimpse into the perspective of those I’m called to love and embrace, and I was humbled, embarrassed, and provoked to make a difference.”
As I read the book, I was stirred in the same ways. My wife and I lead the Marriage Prep Class in our church. 22 of the 38 couples in our class are in this age group. Some of these thoughts have a direct bearing, not on changing our message, but on how we want to communicate that message in our class. Jason said that his Pittsburgh team is talking about how their “evangelism focus will be more relational than ever. We’re focusing on building godly community and inviting non-Christian friends into that community…I’m also more open to doing things we’ve not done in the past under the reasoning that our call is to reach students (like specific ministry opportunities to the homeless, being intentionally active in social justice issues, etc.), specifically with the understanding that activity in these areas, especially alongside non-believers, can be an incredibly powerful means of indirect evangelism, a barrier-breaker perhaps.” Think Good News/Good Deeds and Katrina Relief.
Most of you have been receiving these tips for at least a year. My hope during these moments each week is to help us all be more effective in reaching lost students, launching new ministries, distributing ownership to more students and coaching students and volunteers with a variety of methods. In essence, helping us all work smarter and more effectively. If you have a resource, a strategy or perspective that you think would benefit us all, let me know. And if you have thoughts on today’s tip, I would welcome a dialogue on what it will take for us as a ministry to become known as people who really do love others and seek the best for them.