Monday, January 24

Trends on College Campuses


Below are some items share in the January edition of the Ivy Jungle Network Campus Ministry Update. This is a great resource. You can can subscribe by going to their website. Thank you, Evan Hunter, for putting it all together!


Students Don't Learn Much:  A new book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses(University of Chicago Press), raises an alarm that students show remarkably little learning in their first two years of college, and some virtually no difference in their critical thinking, analytic reasoning and other higher skills over the course of their college career.  According to the study, 45% of students did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning during their first two  years of college.  36% remained at the same level after four years.  Those who did learn, showed, on average, only modest gains after four years.  The authors blame the lack of rigor for the poor performance by students. Students who do learn report high expectations from courses (i.e. 40 or more pages of reading per week and more than 20 pages of writing over the course of the semester). The data shows most students study only 12-14 hours a week, and much of that time is in groups. Students spend 50% less time studying than their counterparts two decades ago. Students in fraternities and sororities show smaller gains in learning, while other extracurriculars (clubs, volunteer opportunities, etc.) show little impact on learning. The authors do not see federal mandates as the solution but challenge the culture of higher education which has moved away from academic rigor. (Inside Higher Ed January 18, 2011)


Addicted (almost) to Self Esteem: A new report shows that college students crave boosts to their self esteem more than any other pleasurable activity such as favorite foods, drinking, sex, seeing friends or a paycheck. The study shows that ego boosts – such as receiving a good grade or a compliment – trumped all other rewards in the minds of college students. The study also measured the difference between liking a pleasurable activity and "wanting" it. In addicts, "wanting" something actually surpasses the addict's level of "liking" it.  In this study, the results showed that college students "liked" all of the pleasurable activities mentioned more than they "wanted" them. However, self-esteem boosts were the activity "wanted' more than any other and whose margins moved closest to addictive patterns. Brad Bushman, lead author of the study, says college students aren't addicted to self-esteem, but they are closer to being addicted to self-esteem than any other pleasurable activity. Their concern lies not in the desire for high self esteem, but the extent to which students might go to obtain their ego boost. (Research News Ohio State University January 11, 2011)


Megathemes of 2010:  In December, Barna published its "megathemes" for the church in 2010. These are not written for college students in particular, but Christian students seem to mirror the broader church in many of these areas.


1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.

2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.

3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.

4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.

5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.

6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.


Each of these is not new to campus ministry – and offer unique challenges in how we spur students on to live lives worthy of the Gospel.  ( December 13, 2010)


Any thoughts on these?

Thursday, January 6

Words That Give Direction


My last post talked about four words that summed up my 2010. Part of it dealt with blessings I experienced during the year. Though the purpose  was never to give an all-inclusive list of blessings, I should have been more careful. As soon as I posted it, I thought of those whom I should have mentioned. I mentioned my wife and daughters, but I should have included all of my family. My mom, my brother and his family, Gina’s family, my cousins and extended family – I can’t think of a finer group of people. When I hear about the drama that so many families endure, I appreciate all the more the blessing they are from God. He has also given me great friends who encourage and sharpen me – from old high school friends to those here in Arkansas to friends scattered around the country and the world.


A couple of years ago, I read a blog post by Chris Brogan. He wrote about a different way of setting direction for the new year. He wrote about thinking in terms of "words" that set the direction for the year rather than specific resolutions about what you are or are not going to do.


His ideas resonated with me. Over the past few years, I have been thinking more in term of a compass than a clock. A compass makes sure you are heading in the right direction (or at least in the direction you want to go). A clock measures where you are right now, without regard to the direction you are heading. The older I get, the more value I see in the compass. In fact, I have a few compasses sitting on desks and tables at home and in my office. In my mind, Brogan’s "words" idea is like a compass - setting the direction for the year.


So here are three words to help shape my 2011:


Purpose: I want to live my life purposefully and not just drift along. This applies to every part of my life. It includes living spiritually and physically disciplined so that every part of my life brings glory to God. It includes being purposeful in my relationships – with my wife, family, staff, students, and looking for ways to be a blessing to those with whom I interact. It includes being purposeful with my time and resources.


People: I want to live in such a way that relationships - and not programs, projects, or tasks – are my priority. I want to make room for more conversation and less administration. I want my life to be less about me and more about those whom God puts around me. I want to be more sensitive to the needs of others and not just my own.


Prayer: I want prayer to be a hallmark of my life. Prayer has always been something that is easier for me to talk about than to practice. I want to be more disciplined in it. I want it to be the atmosphere in which I walk.


I will have some more specific goals to fill these out. After all, I am a goal-setter by nature. But these are the major directions I would like my life to take during the next year, the themes I want to see developed.


What about you? If you were to choose words or themes to set the direction for your 2011, what would they be?

Tuesday, January 4

Before Moving Ahead, Take Time to Reflect

This is the time of year when people set New Year Resolutions. I have always been a "goal-setter", so making resolutions is almost a default mode for me. I will have some resolutions for 2011. But before I look ahead, I like to look back at the year just finished and see what themes may have developed. Looking back on 2010, these themes seem to sum up my year:

Blessing – It was a year of being blessed beyond what I deserve. That starts, of course, with God’s grace for a sinner like me. More and more I’m aware of my dependence on Him. It includes my family – from my beautiful, gracious, and patient wife to my wonderful daughters (and the men they married). It includes my ministry: Seeing God work in the lives of students from around the world and sharing that experience with a great staff, some incredible students, and prayer and financial partners - people and churches who share our vision of reaching students and influencing the world. It also includes what I do with track and field: From getting to head events in 2010 where World and American records were set to being selected for a couple of prestigious honors by USA Track and Field. On top of all of that, the response of friends and family to my birthday water project was overwhelming. Almost 70 people gave $5052 to help provide clean drinking water in a developing nation. In 2010, my cup definitely overflowed.

Responsibility – 2010 presented me with growing areas of opportunity and responsibility. I’m serving in leadership with local, state, and national organizations of various kinds. I’m excited about the purposes and potential these opportunities present, but they are responsibilities with which I have been entrusted and that I take seriously.

Communication – One of the big themes in my spiritual life this year was learning to listen more carefully to and walk more purposefully with the Holy Spirit. I have to be careful not to be so intent on my task of leading that I fail to listen and look to see where God is leading. But I also found that I didn’t do as good of a job as I should have in communicating in some of my areas of responsibility. There were times when I wasn’t on the same page as those working with me because I didn’t do a good enough job of casting vision and clarifying purpose.

Harried – Because of the blessings, opportunities, and responsibilities I have sometimes felt harried and scattered. As a result, I have often let urgent needs crowd out the important values of my life and ministry. I haven’t always been able to do things to the best of my ability because I have been trying to do too many things.

Those are the themes I see as I look back on my 2010. What about you? Looking back, what do you see as recurring themes of your past year? What things did God try to communicate to you?