Friday, April 30, 2010

The Greatest Resource [Wasted?]

Do you pray?  Are you engaged in the practice of other spiritual disciplines?  Are they central to your ministry and efforts?  Or are they something you turn to when no other option remains?

These questions are not meant to be condemning or an attempt to sound like a spiritual elitist.  I know I'm guilty of not praying, fasting, etc., as much as I could (or should).  I think it has something to do with the kind of schedules we keep - often quite busy, yet consistently inconsistent.

College ministers, like most other kinds of ministers, can easily fall into the trap of living lives filled with the 'doing' of ministry, while neglecting to 'be' an intentional Christ-follower.

Again, strong words - I know, but what I mean is that we can get so wrapped up in doing all of the things that we are called to do as pastors and servants of college students - really good stuff like:

  • leading worship services
  • leading Bible studies
  • counseling students
  • sharing Christ
  • facilitating service and mission opportunities
  • investing in student leaders
  • investing in professional staff
  • watching the budget
  • caring for facilities
  • preparation - for ALL of the above
  • and the list could go on and on and on...
that we then allow ourselves to schedule over the time that we should be focused on tending to OUR own relationship with Jesus (the 'being' a Christ-follower).  

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Not Just Adding to the Noise

In my post yesterday I talked about some of the hurdles I've seen in forging partnerships in college ministry.  It's no easy task... but with such a clear common end-goal in mind it sure seems that we should make every attempt to work [better] with one another.

With that in mind, I've got a few ideas (or upcoming events) that I want to make you aware of (if you're not already), with the hopes that it might encourage you to participate in these great conversations/events and/or spark some creative thinking in you that will result in some new, creative initiatives that will help to:
  1. further equip campus and college ministers,
  2. challenge us all to think outside of our contextual or denominational box/es, and ultimately
  3. help to reach our students for Christ 
So here are some things coming up that I think are worth mentioning:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'Friendly Fire' on Campus

Do you know what I'm talking about?

Friendly fire?

It's a term most often used in the military or other combat scenarios and involves the inadvertent firing towards a member of  one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces.

It's called "friendly" because the assumption is that it is an accident... unintentional... 

But is it still considered 'friendly fire' when the "fire" is coming from other members of the larger team your a part of?  I'm talking about Christians hurting Christians - ministries working against each other - leaders, student leaders and even casual participants engaging in mean and destructive behavior towards one another.

It happens.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The [Un]Scheduled Pastor

Have you ever been asked, "What's a 'typical' day in your job like?"  If so, I'm guessing your answer was something like, "There is no typical day... they're all quite different."

Last week I asked the question [in my weekly poll], "How many weekly (repeating) meetings do you hold?"

Respondent's answers ranged from the (0-2) category to the (10-12) category.  Based on these results, a 'typical' day in the life of a college minister may include NO regular/weekly/repeating meetings - OR no more than 2 or 3 - which leaves a lot of unscheduled time to be well utilized.

This seems right to me.  I've had days, even weeks, where special events were happening, or student leader interviews were being conducted - something BIG that seemed to take up the majority of my time on campus - and it left me feeling a bit too tied down.  Do you know what I mean?

When I look at the life and ministry of Jesus I see Someone who was purposeful and intentional, but also open and available.

Monday, April 26, 2010

[Lack of] Commitment to Jesus in a Culture of Non-Commitment

Commitment.  It doesn't seem to be a real popular action among college students... especially when it comes to Jesus.

And can we really blame them?

As a culture (both Christian and non) we've not done a very good job of modeling commitment to this younger generation.

In the media, we have promoted programming that displays all of the "fun" that can be had without committing to just one partner, but by keeping your "options open" and enjoying the disconnected physical pleasures with individuals (and/or groups) who are simply interested in meeting an immediate "need" without consideration for the long-term ramifications.

In the home, we shown them that the marriage union is one that can be easily broken if it gets too hard, no longer meets our needs, or simply looses its interest (I recognize this does not categorize all accounts of divorce).  Many of today's college students have experienced the harsh realities of divorce first-hand as they have witnessed the disintegration of their parent's marriage.  Right or wrong, students have lived through the pain of these break-ups and have been profoundly impacted by them.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Top 10 Issues College Students Face

There's so much that makes up the college experience... so many opportunities, so many potential pitfalls.  

How well do we assist students in navigating the waters of the college years?

Maybe before we can accurately answer this question we must first ask, "what are the big issues that our students are dealing with?"  If we've not taken the time to answer this question than we must ask ourselves, "how relevant is our ministry?"

I've been working with college students for the last 13 years of my life.  I know there are plenty of you out there who have been working with college students longer than I have (so I hope you'll chime in down in the comments section), or have experienced ministry with college students in different contexts than I have (so your insight will be crucial as well), but here are the top 10 issues I see college students facing today - issues that MUST influence how we 'do ministry.'

Top 10 Issues:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

College Students, Discipleship & Creation Care

Happy Earth Day!

Today is the 40 year anniversary of Earth Day.  Are you taking advantage of this global focus?  Students LOVE things that take a 'global focus' stage!

While there are a number of reasons to challenge college students to be an active part of Earth Day, I wonder if we're helping them to make the important connections between creation care and their discipleship.

Consumerism is dominant in so much of our culture.  It's how we've been trained to view the world we live in... as those who have been made to consume it.  But as Christians I believe we've been given a different charge!

God created us to love Him, to love others and to be stewards of all that He has created.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Message Are You Sending?

Do you know what message your ministry is communicating to others?  
Does it accurately represent you?  
Your thoughts?  
Your beliefs?  
Do your students reflect this message?  
Do they communicate it with what they say and do?

What we communicate through our ministry says a lot about the kind/s of people that are going to find their way into it.

As I continue to be a student of God's Word, it seems to me that the welcome mat into community with God was extended to ALL - in some way, shape or form - and this, I believe, should inform our ministry.  
His call to love our neighbor as ourselves  is said to be 'just like' the call to love Him with ALL of our heart, mind, soul and strength.  No where does He exclude anyone/s - based on anything - we only read of people excluding themselves based on the choices they make, or are unwilling to make.

As you think about your ministry context, do you extend the welcome mat to:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Longevity in College Ministry

A few weeks ago I started polling my readers so I could:

  • better understand who you are,
  • gain some statistical data,
  • test out some theories I have,
  • attempt to provide some posts that are meaningful and relevant to the work we are doing.

     The question I posed two weeks ago was:
    How long have you been serving in college ministry?
    Nearly 70% of those who took the poll reported having served in college ministry for 6 years or more (6-10 years 31%; 11-20 years 31%; and 20+ years 6%).  I, myself, am just finishing my 13th year serving in college ministry.  Over my 13 years of working with college students I have worked on 4 different campuses - within 3 different denominations - spanning 3 different geographical regions within the US.  The results of my poll, coupled with my own experiences over the course of my ministry life thus far, have served to confirm a bit of wisdom I was given when applying for my first position in college ministry:

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Slow Down!

    The margins in my life have been pretty thin this year. 

    Our family moved into a new house back at the end of August - yes, just as the new school year was beginning - not the ideal time to move... but we were so thankful to have the chance in the economy that we're living in.

    Between this big adjustment at home, and the crazy pace of life that seems to define most school years, my margins have been thin... and one of the things that has regularly been pushed off of my daily page has been exercise.  I hate that.  And I've missed it (another post for another time).

    Well, this morning I was able to get out for a run.  It's not the first time since we've been in this new house, but it was the first time I took this particular route.  I've driven this direction numerous times - it's one of the two ways out of our neighborhood - so it's a route I'm very familiar with... or so I thought.

    It's amazing what you notice when you slow down.  

    On my run today I noticed houses that sit back off the road just enough that I've never seen them before.  I noticed, for the first time, a creek that cuts back and forth under this street in several different spots.  I noticed the hills... OH, how I noticed this hills - so beautiful to look at, but something totally different when you encounter them on an early morning run.

    All of this got me to thinking about our routines on campus.

    If you're anything like me, your days are probably pretty full of meetings - with students, colleagues, administrators, etc. - and those times in between meetings can often easily be consumed with checking email, returning email, planning and prepping for what is next on you calendar... even the walks between meetings can be filled with checking in on our 'smartphones'... and there's something that doesn't seem quite right about it all.

    I wonder how different our days might be if we created more space in our schedules... If we chose to intentionally slow down, make ourselves more mentally, emotionally and physically available.  I wonder how different our walks through campus might be if we chose to leave our phones in our pockets and attempted to greet students as we passed them (I recognize that about 99% of them will be on their phones, but... that's a whole other post as well).

    We need to challenge ourselves to slow down.  To take in all that makes up the unique place that God has called us to... if we don't, how will we ever see Him at work, or know how to come alongside what He's already doing in that place?

    So what do you think?

    How thin are the margins in your life?

    What are some of the things you might see differently in your ministry context if you chose to intentionally slow down?

    Do you know what God is up to on your campus?

    I'd love to hear about your experiences!

    Grace and peace to you.

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    The Grass On The Other Side

    Have you ever stopped to wonder what you might be doing if you weren't doing college ministry?

    For some of us, maybe we find ourselves thinking about this often... even too often.

    But is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence?

    Sure, sometimes a change of career - a new vocational understanding - requires us to move on from where we are.  But sometimes I think some of our mental wanderings simply serve to distract us from the ministry we have been called to.

    I think, however, there's also another option for us to consider here... 
    Is it possible, that in considering some of the other things in life that:

    • bring us joy
    • use are gifts
    • expose us to new things
    • cause us to consider a career change
    that God might be wanting to grow our current ministry context?  Is it possible that He might want to bring in to our current ministry context some of our gifts/talents/passions that we're not currently making good use of?  Is it possible that the day-to-day approach to ministry we've grown comfortable with is no longer sufficient, and God is trying to stir in us some new ways of engaging in our daily work?

    What do you think?

    How would you know if God was calling you to something new OR simply calling you to broaden your approach to ministry in your current context?

    What are some of the gifts/talents/passions that you possess, that you don't currently make good use of in you ministry setting?

    I'd love to hear what you think!

    Grace and peace.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Part II :: Moses AND Joshua :: Different Sides of the Same Ministry

    I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. ~ I Cor. 3:6

    Understanding our purpose and calling as leaders is SO important.  We are not all called to do the same things.  We are not all called to serve the same people... in the same ways.  All places and problems are unique - and God calls us based on the unique gifts/talents/passions He has designed us with to 'go and do' what He calls us to.

    In my post yesterday I shared some thoughts on how the unique nature of Moses' leadership of the Israelites might be able to shed some necessary light on our current ministry leadership experience.  

    Today my attention turns to Joshua and how God chose to use him to complete the mission that He had originally called Moses to - conquering the Promised Land for the Israelites to inhabit.

    The task had been Moses', but now it was Joshua's.  Joshua had been with Moses, even serving as a spy sent to explore the Promised Land in the book of Numbers, but at the end of Deuteronomy we see Moses passing on his leadership baton to the new leader of the Israelites.  

    The mission was not complete, but Moses' part in the process was.
    Joshua's 40 year of leadership would take on a much different look than that of his predecessor.  All of the struggles that Moses experienced while moving the Israelites towards the Promised Land would be replaced, in Joshua's season of leadership, with success in the form of a united Israelite army following - ultimately - the leadership of God.

    But wasn't Moses' ministry leadership critical to setting the stage for Joshua's success?  Some of us may too quickly give all of the credit to God... and truthfully, He may be deserving of it.  I wonder, however, if as we look at this transitional period in the history of the Israelites, we don't catch a glimpse of how God chooses to use different people - in different seasons - for different reasons.

    Would Moses' really have been able to lead the military campaigns in the successful manner that Joshua did?  Would Joshua have been able to deal with the stiff-necked nature of the Israelites for 40 years in the same way that Moses did?  It's hard to say with any certainty, but it's definitely worth us considering.

    These two men led the Israelites in different ways through very different seasons of their history.  And if we pull back just a bit on the panorama of their history, we are reminded of the Patriarchs and Joseph who helped to pave the way for these two men... and if we pull back further yet we'll see that faithful individuals like the Judges, Ruth, Samuel, some of the Kings, the Prophets, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jesus & the Disciples, Paul, Timothy and many others were used to lead the Jewish nation at different times in their collective history.

    The point that I'm trying to make is that we never know for sure where our leadership will fall in the lifetime of a ministry context.  We don't know how our current course of action - including our present challenges and/or success - are setting the stage for the leaders who will come after us.  Neither do we oft consider the legacy of those who have come before us... and how all of their efforts have helped to set the stage for us.

    We are stewards of the relationships and ministry contexts that God chooses to entrust to us.  


    How does this truth shape your current ministry leadership?

    What role do you currently find yourself playing (soil tiller, seed sower, waterer, pruner, harvester, other)?

    Does it help you in your current ministry season to consider that God has called you to it, designed you in ways to help it, as well as to see that you are simply carrying out the role that God has asked of you... in the line of many who have come before you... and the many who will come after you?

    I'd love to know what you think.

    Grace and peace.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Moses AND Joshua :: Different Sides of the Same Ministry

    Have you ever stopped to consider your place in the life of the ministry you are serving in?

    If you're anything like me... probably not.

    God is so clearly at work in the world - and on our campuses.  But are we presently aware of the fact that He was present [in our ministry context] long before we arrived... and will be there long after we've left?  Our perspective is too often limited solely to the season of ministry that we are present for and I think we need to be challenged to pull back and consider the larger picture.

    The story of Moses and Joshua are helping to challenge me in this regard.

    Moses could be considered the "big man on campus" of the Pentateuch, if not the Old Testament.  Moses is the central leadership figure in the books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy - no other Old Testament leader had a ministry that spanned more than one book in duration.  Moses was connected to some of the greatest miracles within the Bible - the burning bush, the 10 plagues, the Israelite' escape from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, water from a rock, etc., etc., etc.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    IF Jesus Becomes Business

    Got Jesus?

    As one called into ministry, this can be a scary question to encounter.

    There's a very real danger for all of us who have been called into ministry... that we would become so intensely focused on the 'doing' of ministry that we would neglect our need to 'be' with Jesus.

    Maybe you've experienced this.  Or maybe you've experienced the ministry leadership of someone who has experienced this.  You might not be able to quickly put your finger on it, but it is much more noticeable than we might think.

    When we, as Christian leaders, cease to intentionally follow Jesus and instead, begin to rely on ourselves, we quickly run out of anything real substantive to offer others.  The reservoirs of faith that we may have made deposits in over the course of our lifetime of following Jesus will only keep us going for so long... and that doesn't account for what we must 'have' in order to 'give' to others.

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Leaders Are [Lifetime] Learners

    I've been thinking a lot about my ongoing professional development the past few weeks.  It's also important for me to mention that a part of this post was inspired by the simple question posed last Friday on the Heart of Campus Ministry blog: Leaders are Readers - What's the best book you've read that applies to campus ministry?  There have been some good books recommended there.

    I'm the kind of guy who's always looking for ways to better myself, to sharpen my mind and better prepare my heart for the life and work that God has called me to... I love to learn and believe that ALL leaders should be life-long learners.

    It's been almost 4.5 years since I graduated from George Fox Evangelical Seminary with a DMin in Leadership and Spiritual Formation - an incredible program for what we do in college ministry!  While the years I was pursuing this degree - and working on my dissertation - were incredibly full - challenging - years, they were also very rich and fruitful years.

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    The "R" Word


    It has increasingly become a dirty word for this generation of students.  

    I posted a some reflections back in February where I began thinking about the impact that the 'emerging adulthood' phase of life might be having on our work and ministry with college students (you can find them here and here).

    Central to our struggle to draw students into meaningful, long-term, relational ministry might very well be this element of responsibility.

    We know that students - most of whom are out of their parents sight, and immediate influence, for the first time - NEED to be challenged to take on more and more of life's responsibilities as they join us on campus community... BUT we also know that one of the key characteristics to this 'emerging adulthood' phase of life is an unwillingness to step into the new, adult responsiblities that accompany all of the new, adult freedoms.

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Are You Available? Accessible?

    Ministry can be IS a challenging calling.

    A life committed to discipleship and service is one that calls us to be available to others, accessible nearly all the time.

    This call to ministry is a high calling for so many reasons, not the least of which is our need to be willing to set aside our own agendas each and everyday to follow the leading of Christ.  And as we all know, this is much easier said than done.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    In Search of Rest

    As some of you have noticed, I've added a "poll" section to my blog page.  I added it last week for a couple of different reasons:

    1. I wanted to get a better idea for who you are [as a reader of this blog], and
    2. I wanted to get a better feel for some of the things that you are dealing with as you serve on into the spring semester/trimester.
    Most of my posts are related to the things I'm currently thinking about, or wrestling with, but desiring to be a resource to others in the field I felt it important to create a way for you [the reader] to guide some of the content of this blog.

    So, last week's poll was:
    What do you find yourself most in need of right now as a minister?  The overwhelming response: REST.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Savoring the Cupcakes

    Every campus is different.  No ministry the same.  Even our missions can vary somewhat from context to context... 

    One thing we share, however, is our need for encouragement in the midst of our service.  

    Whether we consider our ministries to be widely successful, or sparsely fruitful, seeing students 'get it' can be as sweet as the tastiest of treats.  

    A few months ago I had a colleague show up in the doorway of my office with an incredible-looking cupcake in her hand.  She knew that I had been in the midst of a challenging season of ministry on campus, but happened to find me with a big smile on my face...

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    Which Way Do We Go?

    In my last post I talked about some good ministry ideas for the month of April.  April has the potential to be  a wasted month as students often shift into survival mode in regards to their classes, responsibilities... and really anything that doesn't involve them being outside, enjoying the great spring weather.  It can be tempting, for those of us who serve these students, to follow suit... especially if you're not sure where to go next.

    One of the suggestions I made for making good use of the month of April was to use it as a time to recruit for, and begin to train towards, leadership positions for next year.  

    But how do you do this when we're not sure what's coming next?  Is it possible, or even wise, to recruit leaders for specific positions when we know big changes are likely coming?

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Ideas for April

    For most of us, April is the final (full) month of ministry with students before they leave for summer break.  The end is in sight, but there are still more meaningful ministry opportunities for us to take advantage of.

    Last week I posted some thoughts on Avoiding Autopilot Syndrome during this post-spring break season of ministry.  Students tend to check out during these final weeks of the school year, and it can be very tempting to 'return the favor' as we are equally tired - from a full season of ministry, and eager - for the change of pace that comes when students leave for the summer.  SO, I thought I might post a few ideas about how we can still connect with, love and serve our students over the month of April.

    This list will NOT be complete, so please feel free to add your ideas in the comment section below: