Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Benson Hines Interview: The State of College Ministry in America, Part 2

Read Part 1 of the Benson Hines Interview here.

CPYU: What do you think are some of the implications for your research on how youth workers can prepare students for college?

BH: First, it continues to be very clear that this transition - between high school and college - is NOT going well (as a general rule). That seems to be widely experienced, but it also seems to be widely recognized by college ministers. Even within churches (where there theoretically isn't a "break" between organizations as students move from high school to college), students aren't making that transition well.

One thing I think college ministers feel is that they have very little chance - if any - to help that transition happen well if students aren't already prepared to seek out their ministry. Obviously, college ministries need to provide a welcoming, helpful, and relevant place for new college students to "land." But plenty of those kinds of ministries exist, and many Christian students still aren't connecting to them. Meanwhile, at other campuses, very few ministries might exist at all. If students aren't intentional and skilled in seeking the Lord and finding community, then within a few weeks they might already be affected negatively.

Whether there are many great college ministries, few great college ministries, or no college ministries at their campuses, students have to be prepared to take responsibility for taking God personally and also finding the connections, community, and discipleship they need. So I would encourage youth workers to do everything they can to teach students what they need AND what God requires in these areas, and to give practical training in how to do these things.

College ministers can help provide wisdom for that process, just as the relay runner receiving the baton has suggestions for the handoff. Both sides of the transition need to help each other figure this out. As I say in the book, this important area is definitely worthy of an "all hands on deck" approach, because the situation seems pretty crummy right now.

CPYU: What are you hopes for the book? Have you gotten much feedback?

BH: The number one audience I had in mind for this book actually wasn't college ministers, which may be surprising. The first audience I had in mind was those outside college ministry who might need to better understand its value AND how it can be approached best. As I continue to see a growing desire to impact college students, I wanted to provide an "opening inquiry" about how we might do that with wisdom.

My biggest hope - for the trip, for this book, for the research I've continued to do - is to help develop the work of college ministry. And the biggest way to jump-start developing our work, I believe, will be to raise the value of college ministry in the minds of pastors, parents, and other Christian leaders.

However, I have hoped all along that this book would also be useful and encouraging for college ministers, and so far it seems to be! While the book has only been "public" for about 2 weeks, I have already gotten really positive reactions. A seminary professor plans to use Reaching the Campus Tribes as a text for his college ministry course, college ministers hope to train their student leaders with it, one girl said she hoped to use it in ministry fundraising, and many ministers have felt this book captures ideas they've been discovering for themselves... I've been floored by this response, and I'm so excited if the book actually does impact ministers and the "tribes" they work within.

CPYU: What’s next for you?

BH: That remains to be seen! I know my call is to help develop the field of college ministry, so I continue to watch - not only to see what's needed overall, but also to see what part God would have me play NEXT.

Right now, I continue to explore college ministry as I have opportunity, and I've had a few opportunities to speak to various groups. Presently, I'm actually on a new, 6-week trip to speak a couple of times and - in between - research college ministry in the Northeast. Hooray!

Since this is, after all, a book blog, I will also say that I hope to write more about what I learned and experienced on the big road trip. Certainly, I want to share the specific wisdom I gained from college ministers all over the country. Hopefully I can write a book detailing those things for my fellow college ministers, and I continue to share everything I can on my daily blog.

But I would also love to write something about the adventures of taking a yearlong road trip in hopes of changing the world! Obviously, an experience like this can provide plenty of writing fodder - like visiting 172 church services, seeing Christianity lived out all over the country... and little things like watching The Office in Scranton or accidentally ending up in Canada.

But we'll see what God wants to do. I'm honestly not naturally an "adventurer," but that's where God has me right now. Ultimately, I want to be helpful to our field, and I'm open to whatever I need to do to accomplish that!

Click here to download the book Reaching the Campus Tribes

Follow Benson's Exploring Campus Ministry Blog

Other Bookshelf Author Interviews:
Tim Clydesdale, The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens After High School
David Lovelace, Scattershot
William Mattison, Introducing Moral Theology
J. Mark Bertrand, Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World
Amy Black, Beyond Left and Right: Helping Christians Make Sense of American Politics
Matthew Bonzo, Wendell Berry and the Cultivation of Life
David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant
Kary Oberbrunner, The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap Between Christ and Culture
David Naugle, Reordered Love, Reordered Lives
Mary Poplin, Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service
Mindy Meier, Sex and Dating
David Dark, The Sacredness of Questioning Everything

No comments: