College Ministry... The New Youth Ministry?

Gee, I stole the wind out of my sails with that title. Oh well, there you have it—my question. I'll restate it: "Is college ministry the new youth ministry?" Or better, Should we approach college ministry today as a slightly modified extension of the youth ministry of yesterday? There are obvious, significant differences. The big one is that college students no longer (for the most part) live at home. And that's a very big one, because the implications are astounding.

The implications are exaggerated, however, by what has stayed the same—or rather what has changed. Consider this quote from a review of a new book (a copy of which I am likely to pick up sooner than later, though perhaps it is redundant in view of other books on my shelf) by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp, I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus.
There is little doubt that adolescence has lengthened in recent years—as scholars like Jeffrey Arnett and Christian Smith will confirm. Thus, today's 22-year-old is the developmental equivalent of a 17-year-old in 1980 (see "Getting a Life," Books & Culture, Nov./Dec. 2007). The authors' a priori assumption that today's college students must be dealt with differently than college students a few decades ago is right on.

So what exactly are the implications? Think about it. The overall maturity level of young men and women (boys and girls?) is significantly lower today than it was only a couple decades ago. At the exact same time, the time of their entrance into a radically new environment (i.e. their newfound independence) is remaining the same. So you have less mature individuals entering contexts designed for more mature individuals. I won't (here) make an evaluation of this, for better or for worse. You can probably draw the logical conclusions on your own rather easily (Two words for you: Spring Break). What I am interested in is in what ways this impacts college ministry, as well as youth ministry, in light of the fact that today's "youth" are tomorrow's college students.


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