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0:00:36 – Speaker 1
Hi guys, it’s Mandy. Kim is not here today. Man, she’s sick and her voice sounds awful, so y’all pray for her. Pray for her to feel better. We are joined today by a very, very special guest. His name is Jim Musser. Jim and I met at a conference a couple years ago in Florida. We were speaking at this conference and I had like an hour before I was going to get to the airport And there was one session that I wanted to go to and it was his, because it was all about college prep and he was a college minister with years of experience. And I was doing in the middle of doing all this research with my kid and I’m like I need this guy’s information. So I walked in and I was like a sponge. Jim, welcome to the show. I want you to kind of tell us about yourself and your ministry, like what you’ve been up to.
0:01:34 – Speaker 3
Well, thank you, mandy, it’s good to be with you and started in 1983, which ages me quite a bit. I grew up in a church, going home, but not a Christian home. When I went to college I was basically, as a freshman, just wanting to do what most college students do went to the parties, and I just didn’t. I didn’t like drinking, but I wanted to do the party scene because I wanted to make friends. I just didn’t like it And so I started to kind of look for different things. I had a freshman residential assistant or RA.
I met a number of Christians in my dorm and they began inviting me to campus ministry events. Long story short, within about three months God had just prepared my heart and I was at a Bible study and taking communion And I just saw the love among these students And I told Jesus. I said, lord, if this is what you were about, then this is what I want to be about. And so I invited Jesus into my life and began to follow him, and so I was a student leader in a campus ministry at Ball State University in Muncie, indiana, where I went to school, got a degree in social work, went on to seminary. It’s now called a manual Christian seminary at Milligan College, which is in Johnson City, tennessee, i was hired by a campus minister at the University of Kansas, spent 21 years there And then I felt like it was God’s timing that I leave there, and the ministry invited me to come at Appalachian State University in Boone, north Carolina, up in the Appalachian Mountains, and have been here ever since and just recently became campus minister.
Emeritus basically means I’m old and that I’m basically stepping out of the on-campus ministry and doing more fundraising for the year. And then I’m also starting a new ministry called Upstream Ministries which is really where my book comes in to do consulting work with churches, with parents groups, about raising their kids spiritually. That’s kind of where I am Married to my wife Mariana. We’ve been married since 2005 and she’s from South Africa.
0:04:19 – Speaker 1
I feel like our listeners can just soak in your wisdom today. I mean, there’s so much here. There’s so many things that you said sharing your story that I loved One was. you said you grew up in a church, going home, but not a Christian home. Tell me what you mean by that. What would be your distinction there? because I think that is amazing how you said that.
0:04:40 – Speaker 3
Well, the distinction is that in our culture it’s getting less and less now, but when I grew up in the 50s and 60s it was very culturally appropriate to go to church. Most decent people would be a part of a church. My parents belong to a Methodist church, but at home there was no Bible reading, there was no praying. In reality, my parents didn’t have a good marriage. They argued a lot, my mom gossiped a lot and nobody talked about Jesus. Nobody talked about loving one another really, and so I didn’t have much exposure to the Christian faith other than what I got in confirmation and through the Methodist church, and that It was just kind of a list of things, and you just did them because that’s what age you were.
So when I left for college, i think my heart was open. I was really searching, but I didn’t know that Jesus was the answer. I was just looking for something. I think I thought a girlfriend was an answer, probably. So that’s. The distinction is that you have the appearance of being Christian, you know good people, moral people, you go to church, but in reality you don’t know really what it means to follow Jesus and have him as your ward.
0:06:05 – Speaker 1
I think a lot of people fall into that category. I hate to say it, but I do that. We have the label, but we’re not really walking the talk behind closed doors or pouring and discipling into our kids the way Jesus has called us to. We’re just checking off check boxes, go to church, send them to youth group, that kind of thing, and stay墊son, faith and peace. Just absolutely adore the fact that you were saved in campus ministry and then God called you to it, because how like God right, yeah, how like God to use you in the space where you have been just changed and impacted and Your eyes were opened. I want to talk really about your book because it’s just released January 18th 2022 on the market.
Finally, right a labor of love, i know.
0:06:58 – Speaker 3
Yeah, it is.
0:07:00 – Speaker 1
I want you to tell me about the structure of your book, because I just I love how you Laid it out in the story that you told in it. So if you could just give a summary For our listeners.
0:07:12 – Speaker 3
Well, the title is letters from downstream. That’s the main tile that comes from. When you look at a river, you can tell the quality of the water upstream by what you see downstream. And so as a river flows, it picks up a lot of different things some good things, some often a lot of bad things, contaminants of all kinds. And so in my book I tell a story about a EPA cleanup project out in the in the west. Something goes terribly wrong and just Leaks all this contaminant into the river and the and the people Wake up and the river is like a putrid green. What I say is okay, they knew something was wrong upstream because of what they saw downstream.
That’s what I am trying to say to my audience Is that you may think that things are great in the church and your kids are going, you know, going on into adulthood, and they’re great because they’ve been. You know, we were, we’re Christians, we raised them as Christians. They were in all you know the church programs and it’s great. But I have a very unique view, being what I call downstream at the University campus, and I’ve been there for 38 years and I’ve seen a consistent Reality that when Christian kids show up or Christians identify as Christians show up as freshmen, that they aren’t really very mature, if they’re Christian at all. They, most of them, don’t have any idea what it means to follow Jesus.
They have a very Scant knowledge of the scriptures. Some of them don’t even particularly now with Bible apps that they don’t even know how to find books of the scriptures Other than typing in on their phone the name of the book. They wouldn’t know what order they came in or anything. Kids aren’t comfortable with praying out loud. We get that a lot. They don’t have an omissional vision for ministry. So so I’m trying to let churches know and Parents know things aren’t good upstream because of what I see downstream, and we need to change the upstream Waters that are flowing, and so that’s how the book is laid out, and it’s laid out in with the letters. The first four chapters deal with the problems of the water upstream, the spiritual waters, and then the remaining book, the remaining rate chapters, deal with Finding the solutions, how to clean up the spiritual waters in our churches, in our homes.
0:10:04 – Speaker 1
And I love that, because you have such a unique perspective. You know, i envision me dropping my kid off at college in a couple months, right in the fall this year, and You get a perspective of her and her faith walk that I may not see, because you see her in a new environment with no real circle of friends yet Influences right, and you see the decision she’s making Versus what I see. and I’m just thinking well, we’ve been in church our whole life and we pray at home and we read the Bible at home, but you know what is her faith really look like in the real world? and you get to see that Right.
As I read through your bit, jim, one of the things that I kept thinking in my mind was this is kind of a difficult book to read, and I say that because this is hard to hear. It’s hard to hear that our kids are struggling with their faith once they get to college, because it feels like we’re not doing the right things, which we’re not. We need to tweak some things right. But it’s a challenging book to read because one of the things we say at nextTalk and one of the chapters in my book is you have to look in the mirror. You have to see what you’re doing wrong as a parent and fix it.
But one of the things that you pointed out in your book is you’re saying this is all the things that I’m seeing. These kids are struggling, even if they come from a great Christian family. I’m seeing them struggle at college. And then you’re drawing on your personal experience and you’re sharing that in your book, but then you bring in a statistic And to me it just was. that finished the picture for me, because you brought in the research and the science to match what your perception was. Can you share that stat with us?
0:11:59 – Speaker 3
Well, a man called Jay Warner Wallace who has a website called Cold Case Christianity, and I was looking on that website during researching the book And he goes into great detail on all the research that he’s looked at And it’s very broad. But really the conclusion is that young people’s faith is not nearly as good as we think it is, and some studies said as many as 80% leave the faith while they’re in college. Now, it may be temporary, but it’s that they basically walk away for a time And still many don’t come back. And that’s my thing too, because it’s what my observations are that these students don’t really have a very solid faith to come in, and often what we, i think, as parents, are afraid of and churches talk about this a lot, all that you know, some of the evils of the university and how they’re going to be led astray and all that. But I look at it deeper because I went to a secular university and I found Jesus, and Jesus is there, he’s everywhere. The problem is is that many of these young people are not prepared spiritually for the challenges of the university and thus the challenges of the world, and you can’t protect them forever, and if you think of the New Testament there are all kinds of idolatries going on, sexual perversions, and the church thrived in the midst of that. And so you know, i’m looking at, okay, what’s going on here And what I see is really that the church made a decision decades ago to grow, and the way they would grow was to create programs that would benefit and attract families.
And so you’ve got children’s ministries and youth ministries And they put the emphasis on that. And so what happens and I think it’s unintentional, but the parents see that and they think great, you know, and I love these programs and I want my kids to be involved in them The problem is that the biblical responsibility of raising kids spiritually is the parents’ responsibility, it’s not the local church. The local church, in my opinion, and I think biblically backed up by it, is to disciple the adults so that they know how to disciple their kids. And what we’ve done is skipped that step And we just go in and we, you know, we try to, you know, raise the, teach the kids through the programs.
But, like my upbringing, i was watching my parents, that’s who I was watching. The church taught me a lot of things, you know, correct doctrine and all of this stuff, but it really didn’t matter much because my parents didn’t reflect it. That’s who I was watching and basing my beliefs, my behavior on, and so in my book, that’s what I’m really emphasizing to both the church and the parents, like, okay, the parents need to be equipped to do this, they need to be of the spiritual maturity to be able to do it, and the church needs to come alongside of them to do it. And I think we’ve just got it wrong.
0:15:36 – Speaker 1
Well, i definitely think there’s room for improvement, and I also think we fall into this pit sometimes that it’s an either or situation, like it’s either the parents’ responsibility or the church’s And instead of a team effort, you know parents discipling kids, churches coming alongside and discipling parents and kids, and you know working as a team instead of I think you make a really good point. I think sometimes, as parents, we get so busy in our careers or whatever, and the church is offering all these fun, great things, and so it’s like we just drop them off and then we don’t try and live it at home or supplement or lead. In that way, we take our hands off the wheel. And it reminds me of, like app monitoring devices. That’s what we do with that too. We get social media and we pay $9.99 a month And then we’re like okay, i don’t need to talk to them about anything they’re seeing on online And that’s a tool.
Yes, take them to youth group. Yes, use the app monitoring service. But we have to do our job too. We can’t check out here, because we’re doing all the other things as well, and I think your book does a really good job of that, of saying local church. How can we change a little bit? And parents, how can you change a little bit to make sure that these kids walk on to these college campuses or just into the world, wherever they’re going next, prepared for it?
0:17:04 – Speaker 3
Right. Deuteronomy 6, 6 and 7, and also in Deuteronomy 11, talks about talking to your kids about the Lord, and not talking at them, but talking. I think talking with them as the assumption, and I think that’s the thing to witness to your children what your faith is, by talking with them about it and living it out. I think that is that those two things are the most crucial in raising kids spiritually. They need to hear your faith and they need to see your faith. Parents just get too busy and they forget that and they get caught up in all kinds of things. And I point out in the book that you know we all have the same amount of time and that involves and it’s finite and that involves choices, and so we have to begin making choices of what is best spiritually for our kids, rather than just going with the culture and whatever they think. You know the culture thinks is important.
0:18:15 – Speaker 1
Well, and Deuteronomy 6 is one of our favorite verses around here.
I mean, it’s the verse I read when I realized that’s the solution God was giving me to keeping kids safe online, you know, was it wasn’t about controlling them, bubble wrapping them, setting a whole bunch of rules. I mean all of that stuff. Yes, they need guidelines, for sure. You know, god was saying to me yeah, do the guidelines, yeah, delay the phone, but the key here, mandy, is that you have to get in there and talk about all the things happening in the culture, get them ready for it And I loved what you said like they need to see us trying to figure out the culture and how to live and work in the world by faith, and as they see us struggle with that, i mean it’s a struggle, let’s be honest. It is a struggle to do that. As they see us struggle with that and we’re talking it out. We’re building character there that we don’t even realize, And I think that’s what we miss a lot, because we’re just saying rules and controlling and all that, and that doesn’t work. That’s not working.
0:19:17 – Speaker 3
That is very true.
0:19:19 – Speaker 1
I want to switch gears here for just a second One of the practical examples you gave. So for our listeners here that are like, oh my gosh, there’s probably a lot of things that I can change. I mean, i know, since I have attended your session and read your book, i’m asking myself the tough questions. This is hard work And I’m making sure, you know, are my kids really grounded when they walk out of my home and into this world? Are they ready to face what’s out there One of the things you gave such great practical tips in your session. Can you give us just a couple that we can prepare them for, in their faith, when they leave our home?
0:19:56 – Speaker 3
Well, i think and this is what this is the purpose of that session My book is really talking about let’s start from the beginning and, you know, raise them in the way that will really produce a solid foundation for them. But you know, like you said, when you read the book you realize, oh, i’ve fallen short in a lot of ways, and God’s grace is in that And there’s still a lot of things you can do to prepare them. One of the things that parents often get caught up in and you know scholarships and housing and all those things and they relegate to the end of the line, if it’s even thought about at all is the spiritual resources at the schools that they’re looking at. And so I really advise, both like youth pastors, but also parents, to really begin to engage early on and get them exposed to Christians already at college, like visiting campus ministries or having campus ministry groups come into the youth group, so that kids can see that there are Christians on campus. A lot of times their views of college life are formed by movies and TV shows that they see, which are totally not necessarily reality and definitely don’t show a godly side of things, and so that’s one thing is exposing them.
But finding what when you’re narrowing down the colleges that your child may be interested in? find out what the spiritual resources are and investigate those. Get your child involved in that. We talked about that. They need to have ownership of this because so many times and I share a story in the book one of my early days at University of Kansas we were in the union presenting our ministry along with other ministries and groups. And this woman I see her from across the way, literally grabbing her daughter by the arm and dragging her over the table and saying my daughter is interested in your ministry. And I could see on her face she was mortified and she had no interest in the faith. But a lot of times that’s what parents do. They wait till the last minute, like summer orientation, and then they’re scrambling trying to find out information And then they overwhelm their kids with brochures and flyers and business cards And the kids are already overwhelmed enough and they likely won’t even look at it. And I refer to that as kind of the Hail Mary Pass. It may work, possibly, but a better strategy is to have a plan. I would really encourage parents to engage their kids in what’s available spiritually on campus and get them involved, have them.
Do searches on the on any university website. They have a clubs and organizations. You can find campus ministries on there. You can find sometimes you can find churches, depending on the university And then, when you’re visiting, arrange for them to meet with some campus ministers. And most campus ministers are wise enough to know that they should bring along students, which is what I did numerous times.
If I would get calls hey, if we’re interested in the ministry, can you meet with us? And I would bring a student or two along, because the prospective student is not really interested in meeting me. They’re interested in making friends And so that’s one of the keys. If they can get connected before they even get to campus with students Christian students who are already there, that will go a long way to getting them off on the right foot in college. Because that’s the number one. You know a lot of parents think well, the number one thing is, you know, getting your degree and everything. But the number one thing when, when young 18-year-olds or 19-year-olds start in college, they want to find friends, and that first week or first couple of weeks, that is crucial. And if they find friends that are Christian and following Jesus, that is going to make it so much better. But if they fall in with their roommate or you know hall mates and they’re not believers, then it’s a tough battle because they make their friendships there And that’s what they’re thinking of.
0:24:33 – Speaker 1
Well, and I really loved how you reiterated in the session that you know, even emailing campus ministers to kind of meet when you’re doing a campus visit, let your kid do that legwork, let your kid email And again, let them have stake in it. And so that helped me so much. You know, because I’m over here. Like, okay, whenever we look at college visits and we narrow down to like your top three or your top five, the next step then is what are nearby churches that you may be interested in? What are campus ministries that you may be interested in? I found a great website and it is called everystudentcentorg. Type in a college campus name and they’ll give you churches, campus ministries, all of that. The other thing is in your session and I loved how you pointed out that you know they’re there, they want to make friends. You shared when you got to college how your roommate was there and he asked you to go And so you just went because you didn’t have any other friends and you wanted friends And it was parties and drinking and all the things.
And what I loved about it is how you laid it out. You said had I already been to campus visits and visited some local campus ministries and new students from that, then I would have had options. And so that first week when I would have gotten there, i would have maybe have said you know, i’m not going to go to that party, i’ve already got plans with so-and-so over here. But because you didn’t have that option, you just went with the flow and that got you into a bad circle of friends.
Am I paraphrasing that right, because that impacted me.
0:26:18 – Speaker 3
0:26:18 – Speaker 1
I remember when I got off the plane we went and ate Mexican food here in Texas. I was telling my kids, over Chips and Queso, this story and I was summarizing it for them about how you have to make sure you have people who you know are good, solid Christians at your campus before you step foot there, that we have to do some networking to get those connections made.
0:26:41 – Speaker 3
Yeah, and it’s really fairly simple and straightforward. It’s just not done very much to just realize that, yes, finding scholarships and the academic quality of the school and residence halls, all of that’s important, but if your kid is going to walk away from the faith, is all that worth it? And I don’t think it is, and so it makes such a difference. I’ve just seen it over and over again And I’ll share a story I shared in the book As a student that we called Stephen, his parents actually called me and said hey, we’re coming up with Stephen to look at the school for orientation.
Can we meet with you? And so I set it up. We got together for lunch and I brought a student leader along with me, and so we had a great conversation and Stephen and this student leader, they really got along well. And so then later the student leader followed up with an email And then when he hit campus he got a text and said hey, we’re having something tonight with CCF. Would you like to come Immediately? he was involved in our ministry and stayed with us throughout his college career, but I’m not convinced that if we hadn’t had done that that he would have been involved with us at all. But it was that connection.
0:28:14 – Speaker 1
0:28:14 – Speaker 3
I just can’t overemphasize that, because I just think that’s where 18-year-olds are. It’s a scary, even though they may put on this idea that they’re great, they’re scared when they first go to campus. And who am I going to meet? Who’s going to be my friends? And so they’re really wanting that. And because they want it so badly, that’s where the enemy can get in and bring along lots of not the best people to be involved with, and so I think that’s one way of undermining his strategy of introducing them to a lot of bad things, but to help them meet people who are really wanting the righteous things.
0:29:01 – Speaker 1
You kind of mentioned this in the beginning, but I want to highlight it too, And you also said for churches you have a role to play too in this practical area, where you can be bringing in campus ministers to meet your high school students while they’re in yourso make those connections for them, introduce them, give them an avenue to help the kids say hey, we’re on this campus and this campus, so reach out to your local campuses that are near around you is basically what you’re saying and make those connections A lot of students go to some of the same schools, like in North Carolina they’ll go to App State or they’ll go to North Carolina State or the University of North Carolina, east Carolina.
0:29:44 – Speaker 3
So if most of your students go in state, it’s pretty easy to reach out to those different schools where their ministries are and get them to come in. And campus ministers love to do that because they want to make connections with incoming prospective students.
0:30:04 – Speaker 1
And again you’re laying out practical things for the church and parents to do. And again it’s working together. It’s not an either or that we’re placing the blame. It’s all of us coming together to work and say these kids and disciple them to a deeper, lead faith so they can go out and really walk in the world and change it.
0:30:25 – Speaker 3
Yeah, that’s my goal.
0:30:27 – Speaker 1
Jim, i’m just so proud of you. I love what you’re doing. I have learned so much from you. You have challenged me in ways that I needed to be challenged as a parent, and I appreciate that I really do. So, jim, tell us where to get your book and where people can contact you.
0:30:46 – Speaker 3
Well, my book is available on amazoncom. Letters from downstream. Jimmussercom is my website.
0:30:55 – Speaker 1
There’s one more thing that I want to say before we wrap up, and that’s this If your kid is already in college, or already moved out, or it’s late in the game and you’re like, oh my goodness, i’ve missed some things, i want to just leave it here with a lot of hope. There is never, never something that God can’t fix, and we saw this with Jim. He was very honest and said we were a churchgoing family, but I didn’t see it at home, but God still was working through all of it and reached Jim’s heart. And so, even though, yes, we need to look in the mirror and say, ok, what can we do differently here? If you’ve missed it and you’re just grieving over it right now, i just want to give you hope. God can restore any relationship, god can reach any heart, and I want you to trust in that and have faith.
0:31:44 – Speaker 3
Well, I would agree with that, Mandy, that God is a God of grace and not of condemnation, that there’s no condemnation in those who are in Christ Jesus. He takes our shortcomings and makes a lot of good things come out of that. So I would echo that same encouragement to your listeners.
0:32:06 – Speaker 1
Amen. Thank you so much for being here. Jim Love Kevin you.
Transcribed by https://podium.page