A week or so ago, I managed to squeeze in an early morning session at Massey University, with TSCF (Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship) led by Nigel Pollock, National Director, (personal blog).

It was a session for those working with 18 – 24 year olds in campus or local church environments. Nigel’s passion for faith engaging culture is evident, the thrust of his presentation being around identifying cultural/global trends and identifying the following issues for students and challenges for student ministry.

I’ve taken a bunch of notes (incomplete – as I had to leave about 5 mins before the end) but you get the idea. I agreed with a number of his points, wasn’t convinced on others and really appreciated the snapshot opportunity provided by having such a variety of ethnic, on & off-campus ministers and chaplains together.

Interact please, I’m interested to see what response you have to this stuff – especially considering the ease of being able to fall into cliche responses. I’ll post my thoughts next.

We are in a significant time of change in western culture
– connection between the world more obvious
– a time of generational watershed as babyboomers come to the end of their responsibilities.
– British Army slogan has changed over the last century from “Your Country Needs You!” to “You Need The British Army”.
– Self-fulfillment has become more important than service
– Even ministry roles is self-actualisation to one extent
– the idea of ministry being to glorify God is secondary to the utilitarian value of ministry (what fits my gifts and passions).


1. Globalization
– we’ve been driven by a global economic market.*
For the first time, this economic drive is being questioned in light of current situation.

Student Choices for Education – philosophy/histories (Ed. – General Humanities) courses are in decline as students are encouraged to study for job choice, however this isn’t actually making them better off. Educated workforce for the sake of education doesn’t benefit, the goal of tertiary education has always been learning to think.

Student Debt
– Govt policy (NZ) is user pays education. Debt is becoming an increasing issue, creating a negative cycle with cultural expectation that education is a requirement for job placement. Also creates a consumer mentality around education systems and providers.

Student Work – Majority of campus students are working 10+ hrs per week (NZ) to support the education process (ED. Not separate to the debt cycle, debt + working = head above water). The traditional university life where students engaged with sport, culture, community is changing to reflect the time available. Student experiences change generation to generation.

Graduate Work Experience – Work has become a means to an end throughout student career, paid employment is to support the ‘important stuff’. Exposes the dualism present, most do not operate in a culture where work is connected to purpose.**

CHALLENGE building students who are more than consumers and still ‘givers’ from a debt position.

2. Cultural Complexity
– changes to marriage and family templates, norms and expectations affect fabric of traditional culture and societal structures.
– internet connects and resources groups differently to traditional geographic dependant strategy.
– I am my own brand***
– multi ethnic diversity on campus and expanding in the wider populus****

– Connected but not relating
– Gospel unity and membership – questions of individualism and community dualism
– what does multicultural mean?

What does indigenous mission look like? The traditional model meant foreigners would ‘train’ locals to reach locals. But in an immigrant culture, what is the most appropriate model. (ED. How does Affinity impact connection points, esp. with internet based study methods?) How much of yourself do you bring to true Multiculturalism? ie: do you wear the burka or not? What does it mean for an immigrant student to become part of a multiethnic community that creates separation from the family culture? The mosaic world we live is creates enormous questions over identity.*****

– more people groups on campus
– the truth of the gospel can’t be compromised
– the culture gap between the church and society grows wider
– impact of global culture (driven by West Coast US) on indigenous peoples regardless
– STUDENTS ARE FORMING IDENTITY BASED ON GLOBAL/NATIONAL/TRIBAL instinct when engaging at university, rather than trad. forms.(ED. – tribal being based in affinity or proximity to experience)

(NB. doesn’t seem surprising that the emergence of this affinity driven identity task would appear in 18 – 25s as a ‘final stage’ of development. Seems that the Global and tribal influence on individual culture will continue to increase rather than national/ethnic boundaries.)

3. Media
– moved from being viewers, to programmers, to cyborgs
– for Gen Y, mobile phones actually form part of their identity/ or identity is in tech.
STUDENT ISSUE – Connectedness (need for it – but is it genuine?)
– Norms society>individual>family>vacuum
STUDENT ISSUE – permissiveness and despair, ie: the complexity of social ethics
– Reality is changeable, the abundance of photo-retouching when image is everything, but no image is left unaltered
STUDENT ISSUE – Self-image and awareness of reality, expectations on self and others

– Models of ministry that use network rather than hierarchy based systems (ED. Address normative identity formation and affinity more effectively, allow more flexibility)
– engaged creativity (ED. importance of contributing to the wider ‘media’)
– adoptive relationships

4. Family
– fragmentation of Gen X – move towards childfriendly protectionism within society and family structures
STUDENT ISSUE – results in removing the opportunity and requirement of leadership and initiative from the emerging generation
– complicated & extended family relationships
STUDENT ISSUE – Hurt (ED. Identity plays a part here too.)

– Using the “Believe/Behave/Belong” model in unison rather than focusing on one element is a big challenge but important.****** Preparing future parents is also key.


– debate on nature
– God vs. Science was the defining argument of the 19th century but the question has shifted
– what does it mean to be human? Humanity – what makes us special. Decline in the humanities means that there are even fewer Christian academics studying in this field, traditionally the focus has been

in science.
– traditionally Academic Ideas influence Popular Ideas, which in turn influence further study & ongoing Academic Ideas.
– churches historically have avoided academic pursuit and have had an anti-intellectal approach to young people, but as the age of critical choices is declining from 20’s, to teens, to tweens – people are moving backwards looking for understanding and framework.

Right – so, digest, ponder, respond. I’m going to post my thoughts tomorrow – along with a review of this book…Inside the Mind Of Youth Pastors.