Last Tuesday night before Christian Campus House’s weekly “8:01” gathering, a young man who I’ve been chatting with since he arrived on campus came rushing in wearing a T-shirt, and with two more draped over his shoulders. “What are those?” I asked him. “The one I’m wearing is my fraternity shirt; the one on my right shoulder is from Habitat for Humanity, and the other one is my Christian Campus House shirt,” he said. “College is so great! I’ve got cool stuff to do every night of the week!”
It is absolutely true that wonderful opportunities abound at Missouri State University, and it is true that students should check out a variety of organizations and activities that interest them. But is joining a different organization for every day of the week a good academic or personal development strategy? Not necessarily.
Yes, your student needs your encouragement. It is true that your student needs to feel assured of your love. There is no doubt that your student will need more money from time to time, but your student needs something even more.
In his new and excellent book Marching Off the Map, Tim Elmore notes that this is the first generation of young people who have no need of their parents for information. They are adept at Googling anything. But knowing information and knowing what to do with information are two entirely different things. As Elmore writes, “What they need from us is interpretation. Their knowledge has no context. Adults must help them make sense of all they know’ to help them interpret experiences, relationships, work and faith via a wise, balanced lens…Teach them how to think.”
Your student is going to learn a lot in her/his classes about math, English, speech, science and various topics in the humanities. But often their only insight into how to interact with others and the world around them is Facebook, which mainly offers options like “like/dislike” or “friend/unfriend”, to the loss of any sense of nuance. Indeed, Elmore and others have noted that students rely on social media heavily as their personal “feedback mechanism”, evaluating their lives by the responses their peers share regarding their choices in life—that is to say peers who have no more broader insight or context than your student. Your student needs you to help her/him think through what he/she is learning in class; how to respond to all the diverse people with whom she/he is interacting; and how to make the wisest use of her/his finite weekly time.
Maybe your student has not joined up with a different daily organization, but he/she would benefit by you chatting (not lecturing!) with them about…
Distinguishing between the urgent and the important. Just because others are passionate about something and want your student to share that enthusiasm, that level of excitement has nothing to do with the overall significance of investing time and energy in that cause. Help your student evaluate the longer term impact(s) of this interest rather than just looking at the immediate social benefits.
Evaluating the best over that which is merely good. I am not aware of an “assassination league” or “larceny crew” recruiting members on our campus. Every option your student will encounter can offer all sorts of personal and societal benefits in exchange for their engagement. But sometimes in one’s effort to do as much good as possible, one misses out on the best. Chat with your student about the “big rocks” in her/his life—the things which he/she is most dedicated to building up in their life, and help her/him sort through how lesser good things can (or can’t) fit in.
Recognizing that “busy” does not equal “fulfilled”. If we do not choose our own priorities, others will create them for us. Help your student see that what he/she REALLY believes, she/he will DO, and not just intend. But the constant invitations on campus, if all accepted, can create a college life that is ever active, but never satisfying. You can help your student distinguish between “core content” and “filler”.
You have been one of the most significant factors in your student’s development so far, and she/he still needs you to help sort through all those messages and all those offers. Help them turn knowledge into wisdom.
If you are on campus for Family Weekend, please take the time to participate in our family worship time, sponsored by the Campus Ministers Association, in the Plaster Student Union on Sunday morning. You can check the MSU events calendar for more details. We’ll have some upbeat music and an inspiring speaker. We’d love to meet you!
Submitted by David Embree. David is the director of Christian Campus House, a non-denominational student ministry at MSU, and serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Religious Studies. He is also presently the president of the Campus Ministers Association.