Ministering To Students -- By: J. Thomas Grisso

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 04:0 (NA 1971)
Article: Ministering To Students
Author: J. Thomas Grisso

Ministering To Students

J. Thomas Grisso

If we broadly define a “minister” as one who is helpful or gives aid, then every campus has its share of ministers in the form of counsellors and concerned professors. They minister to students by counseling them concerning various academic, psychological, and social options facing students. The Christian minister to students is a specialist in the counseling field, hopefully fulfilling certain needs not usually met by other counselors on campus. A brief look at the process of change which students undergo may serve to point out these special needs.

The primary psychological work facing a college student is the transition from his child-self to the establishment of some workable adult identity. This process is characterized by a good deal of exploratory behavior, in which the student “tests out” the myriad of possible roles and values open to him. A certain degree of flux and temporary instability, then, is a necessary characteristic of the student who is attempting to discover—not who he is—but what roles values, and beliefs seem to “fit” him, and who he wishes to become.

Recent release from parental control makes the process both exhilirating and frightening, as with any situation in which long-established boundaries for our behavior are suddenly removed. While they relish this freedom to explore, most students recognize the need for something dependable during this process—some thread of consistency or stability to which they can hold while making the necessary explorations. The search for an adult identity cannot proceed too far without faith in some ultimate reason for exploration—some confidence that the whole search makes sense. The Christian minister, then, can offer the student such a reason, in the form of Christian faith.

I continually see students who are desperately looking for some meaning or purpose upon which to base their experiences. Their search for it is the object of much of their drug experimentation, their frequent interest in various Eastern and occult philosophies, and other sources which claim to hold ultimate answers to ultimate questions. Most students on most campuses, however, are resistant to Christianity as a possibility for satisfying

this need. This resistance comes from a number of sources, two of which may be worth mentioning.

First, for many students, religious belief has been a primary source of guilt, rather than assurance and comfort. As such, it has often been harmful to both their psychological and spiritual development. Guilt tends to create a perpetual sense of failure for many people; and in their new freedom, some students are likely to reject the rel...

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