"In 2013, Americans rated six professions more trustworthy than clergy: nurses, pharmacists, grade school teachers, medical doctors, military officers, and police officers," according to an article by Kate Tracy for Christianity Today, citing a Gallup poll.

Slightly less than half of Americans rate clergy highly on honesty and ethics, an all-time low. (The poll first asked about the clergy in 1977.) Worse, only one-third of millennials - 18 to 34 years old, which includes most college students - trust clergy members.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity for campus pastors. We can't changed what previously happened that led to this decline in trust, but we can seek to change this perception - if only among those we are privileged to serve - by reflecting Jesus Christ with honest and ethical behavior.

"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any
participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility
count others more significant than yourselves.4 Let each of you look not only to
his own interests, but also to the interests of others.5 Have this mind among
yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of
God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7 but made himself
nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.8 And
being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point
of death, even death on a cross

"
 
 
Picture
"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

(Luke 2:11-12)
 

 
 
"Millennials appear to be more interested in living lives defined by meaning than by what some would call happiness."

This statement, which is consistent with other reserarch I've read regarding persons born after 1980, comes from a Nov. 30 New York Times opinion entitled Millennial Searchers by Emily Esfahani Smith, an editor at The New Criterion and Defining Ideas, a Hoover Institution journal, and Jennifer L. Aaker, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

While Smith and Aaker acknowledge that "meaning" is subjective, a new study done by Aaker and others reveals that "having a sense of meaning is not the same as feeling happy."

"Those who reported having a meaningful life saw themselves as more other-oriented — by being, more specifically, a 'giver.' People who said that doing things for others was important to them reported having more meaning in their lives."

"This was in stark contrast to those who reported having a happy life. Happiness was associated with being more self-oriented — by being a 'taker.' People felt happy, in a superficial sense, when they got what they wanted, and not necessarily when they put others first."

Christian churches who seek to reach today's college students will be wise to emphasize what is meaningful, which necessarily includes the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but may start with what students already recognize as having meaning, such as service on behalf of others (which will open doors to share the Gospel).

I would welcome the opportunity to help your church serve college students.  Email me at gfairow@cu-portland.edu to learn more.
 
 
I was privileged to write an article for Lutheran Hour Ministries entitled Reaching 'Disengaged' Young Adults, found on pages 14-16, of the new issue of The Lutheran LAYMAN.  You can find it here.
 
 
When I help church leaders start a new campus ministry or transform an existing one, I always urge them to meet the college's key leaders and ask how the ministry might help.

A professor at Concordia University, Portland, where I'm privileged to serve as campus pastor, went across the street to Faubion Elementary School in 2007 to ask its new principal, "What do you need?"

Go here to read about the "blessed union" that has developed during the past six years.  Yes, it has taken a lot of work, but it began with one key person asking another key person a simple but very important question.

Email me at gfairow@cu-portland.edu to learn more about how your ministry can connect with a nearby college or university.
 
 
A student at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif. was ordered to remove her cross necklace "because it might offend other students," according to an article by Todd Starnes of Fox News.

A university spokesperson has acknowledged that the supervisor who directed the student to remove the cross was "completely wrong," and that the university president "was 'angered' by the incident" and is trying to contact the student to apologize.

I'm grateful that the university's president seems to be responding appropriately, but I'm also aware that similar incidents take place far too often at far too many colleges and universities (and elsewhere in our society).

While the student in the article did file a "religious accommodation request," most incidents go unreported, often due to fear.

Campus ministries can help by working together to expose these incidents to leaders at the college/university they serve in order to resolve the conflict and prevent such incidents from happening again.

 
 
Students at four colleges "announced on Wednesday that they had filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Education over the institutions' alleged mishandling of sexual-misconduct cases," according to an article by The Chronicle for Higher Education. Students at two other colleges recently submitted similar complaints, the article says.

I don't know any details about these complaints other than what's reported in this article. I do know that sexual assault is a major problem on college campuses, as it is elsewhere in our society.

The university I serve as campus pastor, a Christian university, has a Sexual Safety Advocacy Program (SSAP). The SSAP coordinator tells me that one in four women and one in seven men are assaulted while in college.

What can you do to help students (and others) who have been sexually assaulted? The SSAP coordinator says:
 ·  Believe what the victim/survivor says to you
 ·  Do not judge or place blame (e.g. don't say "you shouldn't have been wearing that" or "you asked for it, you were drunk")
 ·  Let the victim/survivor make the decisions and find ways to empower them - empowerment is key

Also, contact your local college's sexual assault advocacy program coordinator, your area's rape crisis center or sexual assault task force, or another qualified person or entity to learn more about what you and your church can do to help.
 
 
"In a forthcoming paper in the International Journal for the Psychyology of Religion titled 'Atheists Become Emotionally Aroused When Daring God to Do Terrible Things,' researchers asked subjects to make...horrible statements," according to an article in The Chronicle for Higher Education. "Some statements were offensive (puppy kicking), some were malevolent (parents drowning), and some dared God to do awful stuff to the subjects, their friends, or their families."

"The atheists found asking God to harm them or others to be just as upsetting as religious folks did."

"Those findings don’t prove that atheists believe in God, though the study does seem to suggest that the idea of God is extremely powerful, even in a relatively secular society like Finland," where the study took place.

Churches near colleges/universities have many opportunities to tell students, faculty and staff about the everlasting God who is mighty to save.  Contact me at gfairow@cu-portland.edu to learn more.
 
 
"Secular groups on college campuses are proliferating," said Katherine Don in a Feb. 7 article in Religious Dispatches magazine.

"The Ohio-based Secular Student Alliance, which a USA Today writer once called a 'Godless  Campus Crusade for Christ,' incorporated as a nonprofit in 2001," Don said.  "Today there are 394 SSA student groups on campuses across the country."

"The Secular Student Alliance is essentially a support network for the autonomous atheist, agnostic, and humanist student groups that choose to be its affiliates," said Don. "The rapid growth of the SSA is analogue to the general growth of the American secular movement. Atheist groups were once fringe organizations that didn’t get along. That began to change around 2007, on the heels of bestselling books from atheist authors like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Suddenly, the movement had leaders, a sense of direction and a common purpose."

If your Christian church is near a college or university, this article helps emphasize that you have a crucial campus ministry opportunity.  Transforming Campus Ministries can help you.  Contact me at gfairow@cu-portland.edu to learn more.
 
 
"For more than four decades, researchers at the University of California at Los  Angeles have surveyed the nation's incoming freshmen to learn more about their  backgrounds, views, and expectations," says The Chronicle of Higher Education.

An interactive graphic is available here "to see how their attitudes and self-images have changed since the 1960s."