Beloit College Mindset List , Class of 2019

Every year Beloit College releases their mindset list to give us a window on the world in which incoming freshman have grown up.  This list is always a fun and enlightening read.

When I speak to churches about campus ministry, I say that working with college students does require us to speak a new language in some way.  It is not quite the same as traveling to a foreign country and literally learning a new language.  But we are shaped by our culture and times and there are assumptions and experiences people in my generation have had that are totally different then the generation ahead of or behind mine.  For example, with every year the terror attacks of September 11 become a more distant memory.  Everyone alive then can remember where they were at when they heard, but soon it will be an item for history books.

Here are some highlights from the list (or read the whole thing):

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3. They have never licked a postage stamp.

4. Email has become the new “formal” communication, while texts and tweets remain enclaves for the casual.

5. Four foul-mouthed kids have always been playing in South Park.

7. They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.

9. The announcement of someone being the “first woman” to hold a position has only impressed their parents.

10. Charlton Heston is recognized for waving a rifle over his head as much as for waving his staff over the Red Sea.

11. Color photos have always adorned the front page of The New York Times.

13. “No means no” has always been morphing, slowly, into “only yes means yes.”

14. Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don’t know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.

16. Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the Internet to begging them to get off it.

18. They have avidly joined Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.

 

22. Phish Food has always been available from Ben and Jerry.

24. When they were born, cell phone usage was so expensive that families only used their large phones, usually in cars, for emergencies.

25. The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.

26. The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.

27. Teachers have always had to insist that term papers employ sources in addition to those found online.

35. At least Mom and Dad had their new Nintendo 64 to help them get through long nights sitting up with the baby.

36. First Responders have always been heroes.

37. Sir Paul and Sir Elton have always been knights of the same musical roundtable.

38. CNN has always been available en Español.

39. Heaven’s Gate has always been more a trip to Comet Hale-Bopp and less a film flop.

40. Splenda has always been a sweet option in the U.S.

43. Humans have always had implanted radio frequency ID chips—slightly larger than a grain of rice.

44. TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks.

46. The proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.

47. They had no idea how fortunate they were to enjoy the final four years of Federal budget surpluses.

48. Amoco gas stations have steadily vanished from the American highway.

49. Vote-by-mail has always been the official way to vote in Oregon.

50. …and there has always been a Beloit College Mindset List

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Another Day, Another Study Shows Shrinking Affiliation to Christianity

I’ve seen a bunch of news stories on a new Pew Research Center study that shows a decline in the percentage of Americans who identify as Christians as well as growth, especially among those born since 1980, of those who identify as non-religious.  This group includes atheists, agnostics and those who may believe in God but do not identify with any institution.

I want to comment, share a witty story from campus or something, but I am coming up blank.  So I’ll just share some links and you can read for yourself:

The Rise of Young Americans Who Don’t Believe in God

A remarkable 25 percent of Americans born after 1980, the group often known as Millennials, are not religious…It’s not clear that Millennials will become more religious as they age, either.

America’s Changing Religions Landscape

But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.

Self-Defeating Religion

The number who self-identify with historic denominations and movements has declined, and the number of “unaffiliated” has gone up. That category is not primarily agnostics and atheists, but people who say they are “nothing in particular.”

Why I Don’t Give a Straight Answer to Every Question

“Yeah, but Dave, what do you believe is the right answer?”

One evening during our recent Spring Break trip I was sitting at dinner with two member of our team.   The student who asked this question is Heather.  Heather has been a member of CSF for over three years.  In that time I have gotten to know her well and I am impressed with her spiritual maturity and thirst to grow in her faith.  We have had many conversations, from debates over politics to arguing differences in our theological beliefs.

The discussion on this night moved from topic to topic – the college dating scene, gay marriage, the nature of hell and what it means, at its core, to be a Christian.  When Heather asked me what I thought about some of these topics, I would offer a couple different answers, honestly pointing out where sincere Christians differ.  If she shared a point, even one I agreed with, I would offer the opposing view, just to make her think.  After a while she got frustrated, wanting me to just tell her the answer!

But I have come to believe that simply telling people the answer, or at least what I think the true answer is, may not be all that helpful.  It is worth more to give a variety of viewpoints, to ask questions and keep the discussion going in order for the student to figure out what she thinks the answer is on her own.

That said, there are some subjects where I am much more willing to offer a clear-cut and definitive answer.  If someone asks me how to be saved or who Jesus is, I will answer and be more committed to my answer.  But on most other topics, on the sort of secondary issues that Christians disagree on, I may share what I think but I am more likely to work to get the student I am talking with to think things through.

The goal of campus ministry is to help students become more like Jesus, to grow and mature in their faith.  While I make no claims to be an expert, I have learned that this sort of change happens, and sticks for the long-term, when students begin to discover truth and Jesus and answers for themselves.  So maybe I am simply back at the old adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish.

My prayer in this is that Heather, and students like her, would continue to take the steps to grow in their faith.

 

Beloit College Mindset List Class of 2018

Every year I enjoy the Beloit College Mindset List.  

Of course, every year it makes me feel older and older.  The first one on the list notes that this year’s freshmen were in kindergarten when the planes hit the World Trade Center 13 years ago.  Wow.

Here are some highlights from this year’s list.

1. During their initial weeks of kindergarten, they were upset by endlessly repeated images of planes blasting into the World Trade Center.

4. When they see wire-rimmed glasses, they think Harry Potter, not John Lennon.

5. “Press pound” on the phone is now translated as “hit hashtag.”

6. Celebrity “selfies” are far cooler than autographs.

7. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has always been the only news program that really “gets it right.”

14. FOX News and MSNBC have always been duking it out for the hearts and minds of American viewers.

17. Courts have always been overturning bans on same-sex marriages.

18. Joe Camel has never introduced one of them to smoking.

20. Citizens have always had a constitutional right to a “dignified and humane death.”

21. Nicotine has always been recognized as an addictive drug requiring FDA oversight.

23. Hello Dolly…cloning has always been a fact, not science fiction.

24. Women have always been dribbling, and occasionally dunking, in the WNBA.

28. Parents have always been able to rely on a ratings system to judge violence on TV.

33. There has always been a national database of sex offenders.

35. Yet another blessing of digital technology: They have never had to hide their dirty magazines under the bed.

37. Bill Gates has always been the richest man in the U.S.

38. Attending schools outside their neighborhoods, they gather with friends on Skype, not in their local park.

39. While the number of Americans living with HIV has always been going up, American deaths from AIDS have always been going down.

40. They have no memory of George Stephanopoulos as a senior White House advisor.

43. Two-term presidents are routine, but none of them ever won in a landslide.

45. One route to pregnancy has always been through frozen eggs.

46. They have probably never used Netscape as their web browser.

47. Everybody has always Loved Raymond.

48. “Salon” has always been an online magazine.

52. U.S. soldiers have always been vaccinated against anthrax.

53. “Good feedback” means getting 30 likes on your last Facebook post in a single afternoon.

54. Their collection of U.S. quarters has always celebrated the individual states.

55. Since Toys R Us created a toy registry for kids, visits to Santa are just a formality.

 

King of the Campus by Stephen Lutz

Steve Lutz does ministry with college students at Penn State University and in his previous book, College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture, gave others who work in campus ministry a lot to ponder and put into practice. His second book, King of the Campus,  is targeted not to his fellow pastors but instead to Christian students on secular university and college campuses. The book is divided into three parts. Part one looks at university life from a Christian perspective. This is the “foundation” part where Steve sets the tone by emphasizing God as the “king of the campus” (hence the title). Part two builds on part one, showing students how they are agents of this God, working to extend God’s kingdom on campus. Finally, part three goes the next step by looking at specific arenas on campus (classroom, church, parties) and how God’s kingship relates to them. 

I guess the best thing I can say about this book is that I am making my student leadership team read it this summer. It will provide us with lots to talk about as we brainstorm for the coming year on campus. I have long looked for a good book to hand out to my students that is not shallow – they’re in college and there is enough shallow Christianity out there already. I have also searched for a book to give them that focuses on their place on campus – there are many books about general ministry but life on campus is unique and needs its own treatment. Finally, I wanted something that was broad – I’ve found many books that focus on the life of the mind, developing a Christian worldview, but there is more to life in college than that. I believe Steve has done campus ministry a great service with this book!

Are Christians Anti-Science? (You Lost Me 8)

In You Lost Me, David Kinnaman states that “Millions of young Christians perceive Christianity to be in opposition to modern science.”  The rest of this chapter goes on to analyze the data that says many young adults walk away from faith, or become disillusioned with faith, because it appears to be opposed to modern science.

One of my personal regrets when I think back to my own college days is that I did not take more science courses.  Along with that, I did not study as vigorously in the courses I did take as I should have.  I took the required nine credits in science and moved on to what I really wanted to study, things like history and religion.  Over the years I’ve found myself fascinated by aspects of science and on a regular basis I’ll read books (or watch videos like this)  in an attempt to learn more about everything from the theory of evolution to string theory.

I wish I had taken more science courses in college because I recall being rather arrogant.  My belief was that since I was a Christian and had the Bible, I knew how God had created and I knew evolution was not it.  I could laugh at those who thought humanity had evolved from monkeys (I don’t think I realized at the time that the theory is that we have evolved from a common ancestor we share with monkeys, so monkeys are our cousins according to the theory).

In the years since then I think I’ve learned humility.  It has been an important lesson to learn.

Now I work in campus ministry, leading a community of Christian students on campus.  What strikes me as interesting is that when I meet students who are Christians and science majors, they tend to think the theory of evolution holds strong explanatory power.  These students continue to have Christian faith, but they also cannot refuse to believe what the evidence appears to show.  On the other hand, it is often students who major in something else, those who have little knowledge of the science, (like me when I was in college) who reject evolution.  I have not taken a study on this, it is just my perception of the students over the years.

My advice to any sort of student I meet, regardless of their major,  is to encourage them to study.  God has blessed you with a brain, you’ve been commanded to love God with your mind, so apply all your intellectual faculties to the subject and learn as much as you can.  If you pursue a degree in science, become the best scientist you can be.

My advice to Christians who have been taught that evolution is an enemy of faith is humility.  Just because we have Christ does not make us experts on everything.  I usually refer them to the words of Augustine, writing 1000 years before the theory of evolution came along, are extremely helpful:

 “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous things for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show a vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but the people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books and matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learned from experience in the light of reason” (Augustine Genesis 19:39)

I think the best thing we can do for young people is help them avoid the two extremes, both of which say the same thing.  Some on the Christian side and some on the atheist side say that you cannot believe in evolution and be a Christian.  Such blanket statements, especially when made by Christians, are just wrong.  Instead we ought to encourage students to study and learn and help them integrate their faith with science, whether they believe in evolution or not.  More than that, my goal is for students to become disciples of Jesus which has a lot more to do with how you treat other people then how precisely you think God created the world.

Whatever individuals think about science and faith,  I think this quote from Kinnaman makes a vital point:

the very fact that science invites participation lends its authority more weight than areas of inquiry that don’t. Dialogue, creative problem solving, living with questions and with ambiguity, group brainstorming, the opportunity to contribute—these are highly valued by the next generation. To the extent that we in the Christian community insist that young adults should just accept our “right” answers, we perpetuate a needless schism between science and faith.” (Kinnaman, David (2011-04-01). You Lost Me (Kindle Locations 2223-2226). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.)

Science invites participation.  I was listening to a podcast (I forget which one) and the statement was made that scientists do not sit around talking about what they know, they sit around talking about what they do not know yet.  Science is a field that pushes young scientists to make their mark by discovery.

Faith, at least from the perception of young people, is more about authority: believe this book, believe this sermon and don’t ask questions.  The challenge, I think, is to help people see that Christian faith is not just about submitting to archaic rules and notions of the universe.  Instead, it is about entering into a beautiful and exciting relationship, one filled with mystery and discovery, with the Creator of the universe.

Young Adults Who Wander from Faith (You Lost Me 3)

I want a pair of Google glasses.

A pair of glasses that are basically a computer in your field of vision.  How cool would they be?

I actually got into an argument with some of my students a few months back.  They seemed more skeptical then me about the possibility or usefulness of something like this.  It is almost like they do not appreciate how quickly technology is changing and developing!

I am 32 years old.  I remember the first time I went on the internet: in the tech ed classroom in high school, back in 1997.  Somehow I made it through college without owning any sort of computer!  I used computer labs on campus.  I did not get a cell phone until 2003.

Freshman college students are 18 now which means they were maybe 2 or 3 when I first went on the internet.  They do not remember a time without the internet.  Not only do they all have cell-phones, they have phones that can go on the internet anytime and anywhere.

I don’t think they appreciate how amazing that is!  Though I am sure my parents might say I do not appreciate how amazing things are that they did not have that I take for granted.

David Kinnaman writes:

In this chapter I argue that the next generation is so different because our culture is discontinuously different. That is, the cultural setting in which young people have come of age is significantly changed from what was experienced during the formative years of previous generations. In fact I believe a reasonable argument can be made that no generation of Christians has lived through a set of cultural changes so profound and lightning fast. Other generations of Christ-followers have endured much greater persecution. Others have had to sacrifice more to flourish or even survive. But I doubt many previous generations have lived through as compounded and complicated a set of cultural changes as have today’s Christians in the West.

Kinnaman, David (2011-04-01). You Lost Me (Kindle Locations 538-543). Baker Book Group. Kindle Edition.

This change is not limited to technology, but that is a primary area.  Kinnaman tells a humorous story about how a friend of his recalls going to see Star Wars numerous times in theaters because, in the 1970s, he was not sure if he’d ever see it again.  There were no DVDs (or VCRs) yet.  To see it outside of a theater, you’d have to wait till it was shown on television.  What we have today is unlimited access to almost anything.

Whenever my wife asks me a question about something, from how to fix a broken appliance to where to find a recipe, I respond, “did you ask Google?”   Access to the internet, unlimited access to all the information we want or need, changes everything.

How does this access to information via rapidly and ever-changing technology change how we talk about faith?

Kinnaman talks a little about how this can be an opportunity for the church.  One thing that jumped out at me was that young people do not just want to be passively soaking in whatever a preacher says, they want to engage and participate.  Perhaps one reason some walk away from the faith is that the church services they attend are very passive: all the action is on stage and done for an audience, kind of like a movie or concert.

Though, you could argue church was never meant to be a passive experience for most in attendance.  So maybe technology will drive us back to the original idea of a community in which all have, as Paul says, “When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation” (1 Corinthians 14:26).

What can be done to allow more interaction and participation in our faith communities?

The Campus (Ministry) Tsunami

David Brooks writes in his piece, The Campus Tsunami, “What happened to the newspaper and magazine business is about to happen to higher education: a rescrambling around the Web.”

Brooks mentions many of the doubts people have about the usefulness of online learning: decreased academic standards, celebrity professors putting everyone else out of a job, contact being lost as students sit in front of a computer more and more.  Yet there are positives: online learning gives more people access to the best professors, online learning could increase influence of American universities worldwide and research shows online learning is about as effective as classroom.

Brooks goes on to say:

The most important and paradoxical fact shaping the future of online learning is this: A brain is not a computer. We are not blank hard drives waiting to be filled with data. People learn from people they love and remember the things that arouse emotion. If you think about how learning actually happens, you can discern many different processes. There is absorbing information. There is reflecting upon information as you reread it and think about it. There is scrambling information as you test it in discussion or try to mesh it with contradictory information. Finally there is synthesis, as you try to organize what you have learned into an argument or a paper.

Online education mostly helps students with Step 1. As Richard A. DeMillo of Georgia Tech has argued, it turns transmitting knowledge into a commodity that is cheap and globally available. But it also compels colleges to focus on the rest of the learning process, which is where the real value lies. In an online world, colleges have to think hard about how they are going to take communication, which comes over the Web, and turn it into learning, which is a complex social and emotional process.

In other words, the colleges that adapt the best will be the most successful in the new atmosphere.

With the changes happening on campus it is clear that the atmosphere of college ministry is changing too.  Steve Lutz talks at length about this in his fantastic book, College Ministry in a Post-Christian Culture.

One theme of his book is that campus ministries are competing over a shrinking group of students.  A large number of students who naturally seek out involvement in campus ministry are already Christians.  These students who are already Christians are the ones most campus ministries are geared towards.  As Lutz says, “Many of the groups are growing by becoming more efficient at attracting students from the increasingly smaller pockets of Christendom” (Kindle Location 455-456)

Lutz’ call is for campus ministry to become missional.  He describes this in various places, saying things such as:

As God’s gospel-transformed and sent people, we orient everything we do to God’s mission, which is to reconcile and restore God’s fallen creation to himself through his son Jesus Christ. This is what we mean by “missional.” This reclaiming of our identity changes everything”  Kindle Location 466-468)

Campuses are changing.  Those of us who work in campus ministry have a big job to adapt so as to best reach out to the students coming to campus this fall and beyond.

For the Kids – Penn State Dance Marathon!

Abbey - our moraler - me

Ten years ago this weekend I danced in the Penn State dance marathon with Abbey (Sacrkrison) Caldwell.  THON is an event that Penn State students have been doing for decades to raise money to fight childhood cancer.  The fundraising each year culminates in the actual dance marathon when, for one entire weekend, forty-eight hours, the dancers stay up – no sleeping and no sitting.

THON is the best thing Penn State students do.  You could argue it is the best thing any group of college students anywhere do since it is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.  Ten years later, I am still proud to have been a part of it.  Especially this year, in light of the Sandusky case, THON can do a lot to repair Penn State’s image nationwide.

To learn more about THON, check out this article: THON is about more than the numbers.

THON is the kind of thing Christians on campus ought to be involved in.  I believe that Christians are called to do good in the world in the name of Jesus Christ.  THON, with the goal to find a cure for cancer, is a good thing.  Like any good thing, perhaps some do it for wrong motives.  I doubt many do it in the name of Jesus Christ.  This does not mean Christians should stop taking part.  If we stopped taking part in everything that some did with wrong motives, we would do nothing.

I hope kids suffering with cancer are encouraged this weekend.

I hope lots of money is raised and progress towards a cure for cancer continues.

I hope THON this weekend takes steps in repairing the image of Penn State.

I hope Christians continue to be involved in THON and anywhere else that good is done.

Hope is a good word.  

For the kids!