Thinking Critically About “The Mindset List: 2016”

Every year Beloit University releases “The Mindset List,” which is intended to give a quick snapshot of the typical incoming Freshman.  This is meant to give the professors an idea about who their students are in order that they might be better equipped to effectively communicate with their students.  The parallel between Beloit’s intention to equip its professors and why this is a useful tool for us in ministry is so clear I don’t really feel the need to point it out any more than I just have…

Every year I see different blogs pointing to this list because it’s interesting, provokative, and very very helpful for us in the Church.  However, this year I took a few minutes out of curiosity to look at what “The Mindset List” said about me when I was an incoming Freshman – here’s what it said about me (and others who graduated college in 2002 – assuming you took four years to graduate):

  • They have no meaningful recollection of the Reagan era, and did not know he had ever been shot.
  • There has only been one Pope. They can only remember one other president.
  • They were 11 when the Soviet Union broke apart, and do not remember the Cold War.
  • They have never feared a nuclear war. “The Day After” is a pill to them—not a movie.
  • They are too young to remember the Space Shuttle Challenger blowing up.
  • They never had a polio shot, and likely, do not know what it is.
  • Atari pre-dates them, as do vinyl albums.
  • The expression “you sound like a broken record” means nothing to them.
  • They have never owned a record player.
  • They have likely never played Pac Man, and have never heard of “Pong.”
  • Star Wars looks very fake to them, and the special effects are pathetic.
  • They may never have heard of an 8-track, and chances are they’ve never heard or seen one.
  • The compact disc was introduced when they were one year old.
  • They have always had an answering machine.
  • Most have never seen a TV set with only 13 channels, nor have they seen a black & white TV.
  • They have never seen Larry Bird play, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a football player.
  • They never took a swim and thought about Jaws.
  • The Vietnam War is as ancient history to them as WWI and WWII or even the Civil War.
  • They don’t know who Mork was, or where he was from.
  • They never heard the terms “Where’s the Beef?”, “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” or “De plane, de plane!”

Let me tell you, every single one of the above wouldn’t be true for me when I was entering college, and I don’t think I’m too unique.  While I could understand why someone (probably someone multiple decades older than me!) could imagine these things were true of me, they just weren’t.

This brings me to my point today – Read through Beloit’s Mindset List: 2016 in order to get a general snapshot of who the incoming college students are… but please remember that this is only a very general snapshot and is NOT going to be an authoritative description of every student.  If the list that was supposed to “describe” me is any indication, we should assume that half the mindsets listed are accurate, and half aren’t.

However, even the parts of the Mindset List about which students could say “That’s not true!” do give insight into the students’ lives and background.  It’s important for us to remember that culture changes, and that means each generation has a different set of influences and experiences in their history that are worth considering.

As you look through The Mindset List: 2016 may you better understand the generation it’s meant to describe in order that you could better communicate the outstanding love of God through Jesus Christ to them.

Here are some of the “mindsets” I find most interesting from this year’s list:

  • If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube.
  • On TV and in films, the ditzy dumb blonde female generally has been replaced by a couple of Dumb and Dumber males.
  • Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.
  • Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends.
  • A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.
  • They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.
  • Along with online viewbooks, parents have always been able to check the crime stats for the colleges their kids have selected.
  • They have come to political consciousness during a time of increasing doubts about America’s future.
  • Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends.
  • Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book.
  • Mr. Burns has replaced J.R.Ewing as the most shot-at man on American television.
  • Thousands have always been gathering for “million-man” demonstrations in Washington, D.C.
  • Television and film dramas have always risked being pulled because the story line was too close to the headlines from which they were ”ripped.”
  • They watch television everywhere but on a television.
  • Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.
  • The Sistine Chapel ceiling has always been brighter and cleaner.

Although these are the students who have now left my youth ministry, let me ask for your input: How should this snapshot influence how I communicate biblical truth to the emerging generations of students?

Summer Review: 2012 Edition

Well, I mostly took the Summer off from blogging, but I’m back (I know, I know, you’re excitement level just went through the roof, right?).  Here are some ministry highlights from the Summer:

  1. Guatemala Missions Trip – This was such a great experience.  The team really became that… a team!  Casa Bernabe definitely kept us busy, and the students rose to the challenge.  When one person got tired, someone else took the shovel; when a prayer request was shared, someone else prayed and God answered every single prayer request in a very clear way; when a need arose, so did a student’s hand to volunteer to meet it.  I’m so proud of them!
  2. Vacation Bible Camp – This is always a highlight every year, and this year was no exception.  Not only did my kids have a blast (they still sing the songs and do the dances… even my 1 year old!), but the youth really stepped up and served.  It was such a blessing as a youth pastor to watch our students investing themselves in younger children.  Plus, I got to sing and dance and make a fool of myself!
  3. Grounded – We reformatted our mid-week Bible Study program to combine the guys and girls and to welcome Junior Highers and branded it as “Grounded.”  I was shocked by the student involvement and have been really encouraged by the students as we dug deeper into God’s Word in order to grow more rooted and “grounded” in Christ.  Grounded will be reformatted again for the school-year while taking the month of September off while everyone adjusts to school starting up again.
  4. Time with students – One of the things I love most about the Summer is how much easier it is to hang out with students.  Even though this Summer was a really busy one for my family and for the ministry (I was pretty much away every-other week for either a family vacation or ministry opportunity), I still had more time one-on-one with students than I usually get… that was awesome!

Here’s what I’m looking forward to about this School-year:

  1. Seeing students continue to grow more grounded in their faith in Christ Jesus.
  2. Working towards more student-involvement in various components of the ongoing ministry programs (like leading games and planning different aspects of youth group meetings).
  3. Emphasizing the importance of praying for one another more regularly in youth group.
  4. Being surprised by who emerges as student-leaders.  This is one of my favorite things every year, there’s always someone who surprises you (in a good way) throughout the year!

Sermon Summary: Wielding the sWord of God

In Ephesians 6:10-18 Paul exhorts the Ephesian believers to put on the full armor of God, keeping in mind that their enemy is not one made of flesh and blood and therefore their armor is not mere iron and steel.  Instead, our power comes through the God who created, saves, and judges.  Paul writes that the Christian’s sword is the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures.

Everything we do in the Church is grounded in the Bible because we believe it is the inspired and authoritative Word of God.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 explains that “all Scripture is God-breathed.”  It is not merely a book written by wise and insightful men, the very words (not just the big ideas or general concepts) in the original documents were simultaneously the words of men and the very words of God.  Because of that, they hold authority over us, because God has chosen to make known to us that which would otherwise remain hidden and unknown.  We must not stand on Scripture, but under it!

There are many today who try to discredit the Bible you hold in your hand.  Some claim it has been changed so much it would be nearly unrecognizable to its authors, while others assert that portions of the Bible weren’t even written until hundreds of years after the time of Jesus and the Apostles.  However, the field of Archaeology has time and time again unearthed ancient manuscripts that support and verify the Bible we have today.  Much more can be said here (here’s a great article, and more can easily be found through a quick Google search for “Christian apologetics, biblical archaeology”), but I want to encourage you: you CAN trust your Bible.

So the Bible is Inspired, Authoritative, and Reliable… but what’s it all about?  We miss the point if we reduce Scripture to a “rule book” or “instruction manual.”  Indeed, those are helpful metaphors in some ways, but they miss the big story of Scripture.  The Bible tells the story of Creation (where we came from, why God made us), the Fall into sin (what went wrong, what were the effects of sin), our Redemption through Christ (what did Christ accomplish through the cross, how do we receive salvation), and that one day all things will be fully Restored to how they ought to be (sin will be destroyed, death will be no more, and all the effects of sin will be erased so our relationship with God is perfectly intimate again).  The entire Old Testament is pointing forward Jesus, our coming Savior and Rescuer; everything in the New Testament is pointing back to Jesus to show what he accomplished and what that means for humanity.

So how can you wield the sWord of God?

  1. Read it – If you’re a Christian who doesn’t read your Bible, really ask yourself “Whynot?!”  It’s a spiritual discipline, and it can be difficult to do consistently, but do not let the enemy distract you into defeat so you lose your sword.
  2. Study it – You’re not the first person to ever read that verse, so don’t act like it!   Learn from each other.  Join a Small Group, attend Christian Education classes, read good Christian books (not just novels!).
  3. Memorize it – If Jesus memorized Scripture to overcome temptation, how much more should we!   We must not memorize Scripture primarily for evangelism and winning debates, but in order that we might endure the enemy’s many attacks.
  4. Obey it – As James 1:27 warns, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”  We do not want our lives to discredit the Gospel.
  5. Teach it – Are you so moved by God that you cannot help speak on his behalf?  The Gospel is a message to be proclaimed.  Dig into God’s Word in order that you are so stirred by the Holy Spirit that you cannot help speaking what God has revealed in Scripture to others when you’re given opportunity.

I believe we all want to hear from God.  God is still speaking, and He is speaking through Scripture.  Are you Listening?  Are you Obeying?  Are you Speaking to others what He has spoken to you?