I’ve been asked to contribute a few suggestions for resources that can be used to equip those who do campus ministry so that we might do the job well, insightfully, profoundly. I love that simple verse in 1 Chronicles 12:32 that names the reputation of the “sons of Issachar” who “understood the times and knew what God’s people should do.” Reading widely can help us become Issacharian, helping us understand our context and how best to serve.
We should all have handy basic books on leadership, mentoring, and disciple-making. Most of us use books as tools in equipping young believers, and in our bookstore we’ve seen campus workers order The Gospel Centered Life workbook and leaders guide (New Life Press) for its intense, grace-filled, teacherly focus, Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden (IVP) for its 24 wide-ranging Bible lessons, and feisty titles like Crazy Love, Not a Fan, Radical, Don’t Waste Your Life, or Alan Hirsch’s Untamed and Faith of Leap all which invite young adults to colorful, whole-life discipleship.
Older classics like The Fight by John White (IVP) which has succinct chapters on a handful of basic aspects of Christian living (how to pray, how to resist sin, how to talk about faith, how to discern God’s will) are still great. Not long ago, a group of campus workers (Paul Tokunaga and others) collaborated on a reader called Faith on the Edge: Daring to Follow Jesus (IVP) which is a great tool to have, as it has very short chapters on dozens of basic concerns—from learning to worship well to learning to share the gospel, from racial reconciliation to learning to relate to parents, from caring about vocation and majors to being involved with the poor, and so much more.
THE STORY OF GOD
We all hope to help students take seriously the joy and fruit of good Bible study, and most campus ministers teach solid, inductive, Bible-study methods. Some routinely use books like How to Read the Bible for All That It’s Worth by Gordon Fee & Doug Stuart (Zondervan) or any other number of tools about how to study the Bible. Happily, more are realizing that students also need (besides the under-the-microscope exegetical methods) a telescopic, big-picture view. Many publishers are releasing books about the unfolding Biblical narrative, the big-picture Story, the creation-to-new creation overview. I recommend The True Story of the Whole World by Craig Bartholomew & Michael Goheen (Faith Alive) for a very readable, nicely-applicable book that shows how this broad narrative of God’s redemptive work not only helps us properly understand any given passage (as we place it within the history of redemption) but that it also shapes our very worldview as we become actors in this Kingdom story.
Similarly, but with a bit of edgy boheme, The Story of God the Story of Us: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible by Sean Gladding (IVP) is tremendous. This creatively- written, narrative approach is really fun, even to read out-loud together, as some of it is actually written as if we are listening in to the ancient people of God telling their stories around a Middle Eastern campfire. Also, there is a contemporary video curriculum by the same name featuring Gladding and his urban ministry tribe which is fantastic to watch and discuss together.
Inspiring students to see themselves as committed disciples and inviting them to know and indwell the Biblical story, is foundational. There are tons of good books and studies on nearly anything else — sexuality, conflict resolution, being discerning about popular culture, spirituality, and we would be delighted to recommend resources for your own particular needs.
But there is more. I propose that serious campus workers must also know well their context. We must know a bit about the nature of the university, how students are called to take up their vocations as young Christian scholars, and what it means to be faithful relating Christ’s Lordship—in Him all the treasures of wisdom reside, after all, and in Him all things hold together—across all of college life including student’s classrooms, labs, papers they write and academic projects. What does it look like to “take every thought captive” for Christ while learning business, psychology, education, engineering? What does it mean to “think Christianly” in the arts, nursing or information sciences?
Why College Matters to God: A Students Introduction to The Christian College Experience Rick Ostrander (Abilene University Press) I realize this is aimed at an undergraduate at a Christian college. Still, Ostrander studied under George Marsden whose magisterial The Soul of the American University (Oxford University Press) should be on your shelf; this is a quickie distillation of that important social history of religion in the university and will give you a nice intro to the nature of higher education.
The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness: A Guide for Students Donald Opitz & Derek Melleby (Brazos Press) Hands down, this is my favorite book to challenge students to be Christian in their college years. Hardly anything is more important for sustainable discipleship over the long haul of students lives, then a robust commitment to God-shaped thinking about their careers. Sadly, it is considered “outrageous” both by pious Christians who don’t relate faith to work and by secularized professors who may think faith is irrelevant to learning and should be kept out of their classrooms. This is fun, has lots of upbeat stories, and helps students think about the Biblical narrative, a Christian worldview, the Christian mind, and seeing their classroom work soli deo gloria. Please. Use. This.
Engaging God’s World: A Christian VIsion of Faith, Learning and Living Cornelius Plantinga (Eerdmans) If his Calvinist worldview isn’t your own, no worries. Read this anyway, as it is elegant, wise, and fruitful in helping us understand the longings and yearnings for an integrated Christian experience when students are finding their place in God’s world. Lovely, rich, thoughtful and true—you should have these concerns at the tip of your tongue, daily, and reading this beautiful meditation on college learning will help you be a better college minister.
AND FINALLY, THIS
Many of us doing this important work are intuitive and relational. We fly by the seat of our pants and (with no disrespect to youth ministry professionals) tend to view young adults as just more sophisticated teens. We do ministry on campus mostly like we learned it in youth group. Yet, adolescent development is perplexing, the collegiate “critical years” are complicated, and the nature of young adult faith is multi-dimensional.
I know of no better book that would serve as a hefty foundation for knowing what we’re doing, working within this unique space, with these people made in God’s image than Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation by Richard Dunn & Jana Sundene (IVP.) This provocative stage of life is not well understood and there are few books like this. Enjoyable, informative, a bit disruptive, often lyrical, this call to take emerging adulthood seriously, and to forge relationships of conviction and compassion, is priceless for anyone who cares about young adult ministry.