search this site

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Get the eNews

* indicates required
Email Format
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    twitter updates
    find ben simpson on facebook

    Entries in College Ministry (5)


    When the Talk is a Bust

    As a youth and college worker, I teach lessons and preach sermons.

    Sometimes my talk is a bust.

    My students don't always say so. They are kind. Neither do my adult leaders, even when I ask for feedback.

    But I know. Deep down, I know.

    So what do I do?

    I dust myself off and prepare for the next talk.

    I don't quit.

    As a pastor, I remind myself that my acceptance before God is not depend on my performance, but has been secured by Christ's redemptive action on the cross. I remind myself that God is sovereign, and that the Holy Spirit provides us with the words we need. That's good medicine.

    It is that freedom that enables me to study harder, to think more carefully, and to attempt great things for God. Any success that I witness is a gift from God.

    If you're a youth or college worker, don't get discouraged. If you are a Bible teacher or a preacher and you  feel as though you are failing, don't quit.

    Dust yourself off. Kneel in prayer. Ask God for guidance. Trust in God's grace. Press on.

    Keep running the race.


    5 Reasons You Should Be at UBC Tomorrow

    Next week, every college or university in the Fort Worth area will kick off the fall semester. It's been incredibly exciting to see students arrive at TCU, which is directly across from our church campus. The neighborhood is gaining new life.

    I love the fall.

    University Baptist Church is located at 2720 Wabash Street. Our front doors face Cantey, just a stone's throw from Sherley Hall. Tomorrow, we'll welcome new and returning students to Fort Worth, and host a free lunch immediately following worship.

    Here's 5 reasons you should be at UBC tomorrow: 

    1. We love students! UBC is building a Christian community where students are transformed by the love of Christ. We'll know your name, your story, and do everything we can to help you feel part of our church family.
    2. You can check out our College Bible Study at 9:30 am in Room 200, or join us in worship at 10:30 in the Sanctuary. Ask a friendly church member for help in navigating our building, or find someone in a red shirt and ask for directions!
    3. You'll hear the plan for our common life in the coming year. There will be opportunities to learn, grow, lead, and follow Christ. You can plug in.
    4. You'll have one less meal to pay for in the fall semester. Lunch is free, home cooked, and delicous. We'll eat in Harris Hall, immediately after worship.
    5. We'll have over $1500 worth of door prizes to give away. Register for our drawing, and have a shot at gift cards to Starbucks, Dutch's, Panera, Corner Bakery, and more. We'll also give away shirts, school supplies, and other great stuff you can use.

    Join us tomorrow. Come and see. You can belong here. And you can make a difference.

    See you soon!


    There are lots of reasons to despair. Give us a reason to hope.

    Last Wednesday Joshua Luton at The Apprentice Institute wrote an inspiring meditation on youth and the future of Christianity. Read the entire piece, "The True Narrative About Young People in the Church."

    His central claim, "High school and college age members of the body of Christ don't want to leave, they want more."

    I happen to agree. There is more than enough negativity on offer. But God is good, and deeply loves the young people whom you know. One of the great discoveries I have made over the past fifteen years of working in ministry is that young people are searching for sound answers to life's great questions. They have genuine curiosity about the Bible and a deep desire to understand the spiritual life, and to live it richly as Christians. They want to be challenged and invited to use their gifts and talents as part of a community. And they want to love and serve others as a response to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

    We often underestimate our students.

    Instead of complaining, build relationships, reach out to young people, and walk alongside them. Witness to Christ. Answer the questions they are actually asking (you might want to ask). And be open about your journey of transformation and change as a disciple.

    What you'll find will be refreshing. Jesus Christ is still calling disciples from among youth and college students. And Jesus is still calling us to point the way to him, to lead, to invite, to teach, and, most importantly, to model our faith.


    Emerging Adulthood, Causes for Conern, and the Practice of Asking Questions

    Over the course of this past year, I've taken the time to get to know a number of new friends ages 13 to 25. If you've paid any attention to the headlines, there is a growing concern for those in this age bracket, not only in my denominational tradition, but in all of American Christianity (see the Religious Landscape Survey from Pew here). Though it is an oft repeated statement that the church of every age must reach the next generation, recent statistics suggest that fewer young people are taking the claims of Christianity seriously in America, evidenced partly by the decline of conversions and baptisms among millennials. The message of the gospel has been obscured or is being rejected.

    For over a year I have been on the front lines in a new context, doing my best to build relationships with youth and emerging adults. I have listened to their beliefs, questions, perceptions, and troubles, and attempted to create a forum, or public commons, where we can explore concerns together. It's difficult work, but deeply rewarding.

    The articles cited above present a refrain so common I have come to expect it: "Young adults are abandoning Christianity." And we need to be wary when we hear these warnings. The research isn't always sound (see this book, which I wish more pastors would read).

    Dramatic wailing leads to a good click-through rate for online publications, and is intended to inspire action when repeated in congregational life. But the most common responses I have encountered are mourning, grief, and anger. Disillusionment, disappointment, and sometimes fear. And any response born out of fear, and not love, will be lacking and lead to a multitude of errors.

    The problems have to be diagnosed, and diagnosed accurately, before an effective response can be deployed.

    And there's the rub: most of us don't know how to respond. We don't know the real and practical steps we can take to be good neighbors to youth and emerging adults. I would encourage humility, curiosity, and compassion. God is sovereign over all things, human beings are each created in the divine image, and the work of salvation is the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit drawing all people to the Son, to the glory of the Father. Our calling is to witness--a much richer vocation than we have assumed. Perhaps one of the greatest keys to effectively responding to youth and college students is a deep faith in God resulting in an abiding peace, and the willingness to be engaged.

    Causes for Concern

    While keeping tabs on denominational developments and trends in American religiosity, I have also been reading Christian Smith's work Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood (Oxford University Press, 2011). For anyone working in college and youth ministry, it's an indispensable sociological study of the prevailing beliefs, practices, and worldview of those entering adulthood. It is also sobering, for Smith and his team suggest that the prevailing beliefs of emerging adults are inherited and assumed due to the influence of the existing adult culture. Our unwillingness to face the problems of emerging adulthood is likely rooted in our denial that the problems of youth and emerging adults are, in fact, our own. "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

    Smith's research uncovers five primary areas of concern: 1) moral relativism stemming from radical individualism; 2) an addiction to consumerism and the inability to envision a need for restraint; 3) routine intoxication; 4) hurt and regret resulting from unhealthy sexual relationships; and 5) little or no vision for the common good, leading to civic and political disengagement. The first step in addressing these five concerns is admitting they are a very real part of young adult experience.

    Let me expand these five areas of concern. Youth and college students are asking questions about the foundations of morality. Generally speaking, I have found that they possess a set of values inherited from education in the public school system or picked up through cultural osmosis via the brine of popular music, movies, television, magazines, and social media. Emerging adults also possess economic power, either through their parents or via credit. Possessions are seen as symbols of status or totems of happiness.

    Youth and college students are also subject to numerous temptations related to drugs, alcohol, and sex, which is nothing new as a supposition, though Smith's research reveals trends that are alarming. And because of strong commitments to individualism and moral relativism, emerging adults lack a framework for navigating these temptations. They are ill-equipped. And lastly, while youth and college students have a desire to change the world, there is much work to do in helping young people move beyond their individual concerns to a commitment to the common good.

    In listening to students, I know that these concerns are very real. My congregation is a stone's throw from a university campus in my community. We are an outpost of the kingdom of God, strategically placed, and have a great opportunity to serve emerging adults. I take this very seriously, because I want our congregation to be a good neighbor to the youth in our city, but even more so to the university students pursuing their vocation in our immediate area.

    The Practice of Asking Questions

    In response, as a practice I ask questions. I listen. Some of my new friends know I like to talk. But my efforts will be in vain if I do not address the reality these students are facing.

    If you care about youth and college students, ask a lot of questions. Ask what people are struggling with. Ask about the objections your committed students are facing at school and in their social circles. What do people find compelling about Christianity, and what do they find problematic?

    Then, return to the Scripture and the riches of our tradition. Mine wisdom and bring it back. Refrain from judgmentalism and moralistic chatter. Restate the questions to your hearers, so everyone knows, precisely, what the problems are, and how we are attempting to address them. Then, solicit feedback. There may be better answers on offer, even in your own congregation. Students may be able to tell you how they are applying and thinking about the gospel. They may be able to testify how certain answers are effective in ways beyond your suggestions.

    When you hit on a helpful approach, share it generously with your students, and give credit to those who have found ways to overcome a challenge and live faithfully to Christ.


    UBC Practices :: Our Posture Toward the University

     Our congregation is called University Baptist Church.


    Like many congregations who have an established history, names reflect geography, or time of founding. One can assume Second Baptist in Houston, Texas wasn't the first Baptist congregation in that area. Arlington Heights United Methodist Church in Fort Worth is in a neighborhood of the same name.

    University Baptist Church is near a university: Texas Christian University.

    In many ways our relationship to the university, broadly speaking, has been important for our history and mission. It remains so today. TCU, our closest neighbor, has most fully shaped our understanding as a congregation in service to the university. But in the city of Fort Worth, we are also neighbored by TCCC, Texas Wesleyan University, the University of North Texas Health Science Center, the Art Institute of Fort Worth, as well as Brite Divinity School and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    As a congregation, we serve all people, which includes all students engaged in higher learning. If you are a college or university student, you are welcome to join our community. 

    Our nearest neighbor, TCU was founded in 1873 in Thorp Spring, Texas, later moved to Waco in 1895, and finally relocated to Fort Worth in 1910. TCU is a private institution, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The combined graduate and undergraduate student body is just under 10,000 students. TCU employs just over 2000 people, with 527 of those serving as full time faculty members. TCU offers 130 undergraduate degrees, 61 master's level programs, and 24 doctoral studies programs.

    Naturally, because TCU is our nearest neighbor, a number of our students are pursuing their degrees across the street. But our congregation is also connected to students at UNT Health Science and TCCC. We have also sent students forth to other cities. Students who grew up as part of UBC now attend Texas Tech, Baylor University, Texas A&M, and many other institutions. We remember these students, pray for them while they are engaged in their studies, and welcome them when they return to Fort Worth.

    As we minister to all students, here are a few things we value and practice:

    1. We pray for all institutions of higher learning in our area, including students, faculty, and staff. We believe the university is a vital institution for our culture, and it is our hope that God would guide, direct, and bless these institutions in their pursuit of knowledge and its right application.
    2. We welcome every student from every university, and invite them to follow Jesus Christ. We extend hospitality to students, equip them for ministry, and send them forth to live as citizens in God's kingdom.
    3. We make our lives available to students, acting as servants. Our congregation builds relationships with students and meets practical needs. Our student adoption program pairs families with willing students. These families extend love to students, invite them to dinner, offer to do laundry, shuttle students to the airport, and more. Some students connect with adult mentors, who can help them to develop and mature personally, spiritually, and professionally.
    4. We invite students to take part in the life of congregation. We invite students to serve as Sunday School teachers, to participate in worship, to sing in choir, to give financially, and to even join as members. University students are part of the body of Christ, and we seek to discover ways they can enrich our collective life. We also create space for college students to connect with other college students for fellowship, mission, learning, and service.
    5. We seek to make a compelling and intelligent presentation of the Christian life. We welcome questions and do our best to provide sound answers. We seek to live life fully in the kingdom, demonstrating love, grace, generosity, joy, teachability, service, welcome to the stranger, passion for the lost, advocacy for justice, help for the poor, and more. As we do so, we invite students to join us as we learn from Christ. We acknowledge that each student has a vocation, a calling, and their studies are preparing them for service to the world. We value students who work in every field--the sciences, the humanities, business, education, theology, media, or the arts.

    If you are a member of University Baptist Church, you can help us by living these values. Welcome students when they join us in worship. Ask for a name, field of study, and tell students how glad we are to see them.

    If you are a student, you are invited to join us. Help us to live our values. Come learn from Christ with us.

    Join us as we build a Christian community where students are transformed by the love of Christ. That's our mission.

    Join a community group. Build friendships. Walk with us as we seek to live the story of Scripture.

    Come to worship. Sing the songs with us. Listen for the word in Scripture. Pray.

    And go forth to be a blessing to all people--your teachers, those in your dorm, your friends.

    God so loved us that he sent forth his son, Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection is sufficient, and his way is best. Let us worship, honor, learn from him, and walk in his way.

    Further Reading 

    UBC Practices :: 5 Constants for Student Ministry