After today, I’ll be breaking for Thanksgiving. See you Monday!

Over the last week or so, I’ve been writing about the possibilities of partnership within collegiate ministries. (See the series here.) One important principle that connects here is the principle of long-term relational commitment.

I wrote about that with general commitment this summer:

Sometimes the best mobilizing we can do is teaching our students to stick. A deeper commitment equals deeper involvement, right? … How clearly have we really taught our students about this? Have you clearly taught them that it’s better to “go a mile deep and an inch wide” – and taught them why that’s true? (Read that whole post here.)

This is where another value of partnership lies: It encourages commitment, and it deepens commitment!

Partnership encourages commitment because suddenly you’ve got another ministry either counting on you, or participating alongside you – like a workout buddy helps keep your workouts on schedule.

Partnership also deepens commitment because suddenly you’re building relationship – with your partner, and with whomever you interact with as part of the partnership. Seeing the same faces when you serve the homeless downtown, when you go back to the same church plant out west, or when you partner with the same college ministry on your campus encourages your students about what long-term commitment can mean.

In the last few posts (for this Partnering Possibilities series), I’ve been discussing partnerships that develop after reflection and analyzation of ministry needs – as well as what potential partnerships are out there.

But partnerships can also arise simply through the relationships you build with people around town, and especially with those college ministers on your own campus.

As always, there’s a balance here – how you spend your time in ministry matters. But wouldn’t it be awesome to know your fellow campus ministers enough that you knew…

  • hopes they had for their ministry’s future?
  • areas they feel their ministry could use some improvement?
  • their methods – not just the Large Group Meeting you’ve heard about, but the less obvious stuff like leader training and service projects and evangelistic effort?

ANY of those three areas could lead to an off-handed conversation that leads to a brainstorming session that leads to partnerships!

The same is true with connected to churches in town, administrators on campus, and other campus leaders (including students).

This is the third entry in a series called “Partnering Possibilities,” looking at the role partnership can play in a college ministry.

An important help – and big opportunity – when we choose to partner is the establishment of a new student leader position: “facilitator.” (You can certainly come up with a snazzier name than that if you choose.)

What if, a few years from now, you have a handful of “service partners” that students volunteer with. Maybe there’s a homeless outreach in the city, a nursing home near the school, ESL with international students through an office on campus, a national ministry focused on Justice, and a chance to mentor kids in a nearby school.

For each of these, it would be highly advantageous to have a student leader dedicated to helping that ministry happen.

No, unlike some other student leaders, these facilitators aren’t developing the activities. But they are serving as champions for the ministry within your group, and helping students get connected well. It’s an awesome opportunity for them to go all-out in something they’re passionate about… and it helps your ministry push into service in an awesome way.

I’m using service / outreach as the example again here, and it’s the one where this principle most obviously fits. But this could apply to most partnership opportunities – even if you’re partnering with another campus ministry, and even if some of the organizations are secular.

This is the third entry in a series called “Partnering Possibilities,” looking at the role partnership can play in a college ministry.

Yesterday I wrote about the chance to use partnership as “delegation,” especially for new activities. Today’s thoughts run the risk of being redundant, but some of the ideas and questions taken from an old post fit quite well here – and take us further down the rabbit hole of partnership. If yesterday’s focus was finding help for bigger projects, today we’re diving into our ongoing efforts.

What would happen if we often made our plans based on partnership?

How often do you consider questions like these?

  • Before we launch a Bible study for that sorority, do we know of any other ministries with students in that club?
  • Instead of assuming nobody’s already reaching that dorm, have we tried to find out and maybe join them?
  • We’ve thought about advertising to that nearby community college – is there a church that might want to help with that outreach?
  • Are there any other secular clubs on campus that could partner with us for this campus-wide party?
  • Before choosing a new service project, have we considered the ones the campus is already getting behind?
  • Instead of having our five students with a passion for _____________ do that on their own, what if they joined forces with similar students from other ministries?

Believe me, I recognize there are sometimes great reasons NOT to partner. But I feel like we’re more often erring on the other side of things, on the side that needlessly recreates wheels and misses opportunities for a little extra unity. What if instead our “bent” was to consider partnership whenever possible?

One more note that’s helpful for avoiding misunderstandings here: I am by no means a naysayer when it comes to having multiple college ministries on a campus. I understand the role they serve, and I know there are real differences between groups. (I believe it is a misunderstanding of biblical unity to declare that multiple groups prove disunity.) But the fact that there often should be multiple college ministries on one campus doesn’t mean that the next activity can’t be done in unison – whether it’s starting a niche ministry or holding a Service Day downtown.

One helpful way to think about partnerships in college ministry is to see them as a form of delegation. Just as it’s important for us to consistently look for more activities we can push from staff’s plates onto the plates of student leaders, we can also ask ourselves:

Which of our goals is already being accomplished by someone else in our city or on our campus?

I feel like this is easiest to consider when we’re planning something new. So we’ll start there.

For instance, what if you’re trying to “beef up” the opportunities for outreach? Instead of you, your staff, or some student leaders creating brand-new service options, you could look for:

  • Secular organizations on campus that are already serving (like fraternities or a Service Club), and serve with them
  • The school itself, if they’re facilitating service
  • Another college ministry that serves well and that you can come alongside
  • A ministry in town that does a great job with volunteers, and send some their way
  • A church in town that’s actively serving its community, and come alongside it

This is a hard mental switch to make – just like it’s hard for many of us (me included) to think about what we might delegate to other people. But if we believe partnership can be productive – something we’ll be talking about all week – then it’s worth considering.

Admittedly, “outreach” is one of the easiest areas to think about here. But it’s worth stretching ourselves to think about other activities:

  • Mission trips
  • Christmas banquet
  • Evangelism
  • Various trainings for students
  • Special seminars on-campus or in-town
  • And even small groups or your Large Group Meeting could potentially come through partnership

One of the “pillars” of my church’s outreach efforts is Partnerships. We nearly always partner with an outside organization to accomplish our corporate city (or global) impact. We’re a big church and could choose to “start things,” but we’d often be recreating what others are successfully doing.

This isn’t an uncommon approach in the world of church outreach ministries, but it seems to be QUITE uncommon in college ministry.

But have you ever considered that partnership might just make sense? Does every piece of a student’s ministry experience need to be created by us “in-house”? Are there areas where we could partner with other campus ministries, ministries / churches in our town, or even non-ministries?

Could some other organizations do certain things better? Could this save us time and effort? Could this lead to great “cross-impact” (when we partner with other Christians) or awesome spiritual conversations (when our partners aren’t believers)?

This week, I’m going to look at some aspects of this (radical) notion. But today, the challenge is simply to brainstorm for yourself: What are others doing – on your town and in your campus – that could allow for participation (instead of replication)?

This week I’ve been posting various assessments for your college ministry, perfect for this point in the semester. Today’s new post offers one more.

One quick way to get a gut-check in your ministry is to ask students what they know about it. Surely there are some things you hope involved students know, but how well those things have gotten across – from the stage, in small groups, in your emails or other messages, etc. – in unclear unless you actually ask.

So, a Fridea along those lines: What if you simply surveyed all your students next week, anonymously, and then examined the results?

Here are the sorts of things I would ask (if they apply to your ministry); adjust the wording for what you need:

  1. First, ask how long they’ve been involved in your ministry. (When you evaluate the survey, this will be important for judging the results – including discounting results from those who have only been coming in the last few weeks.)
  2. What do you think our ministry is all about?
  3. What is our ministry’s mission statement? (or ask about your ministry’s theme verse, official “pillars,” etc. – whatever you’ve officially established to guide the ministry)
  4. Name as many of our student leaders as you can, and their role in the ministry
  5. Name as many staff people as you can (including the college minister!)
  6. Write down as many topics or truths from this semester’s messages as you remember
  7. What’s the reason behind our ministry’s name?
  8. (If you’re at a church) What’s the name of our pastor? (or anything else they should know about the church)
  9. How does someone become a leader in our ministry?
  10. How does someone serve as a volunteer in our ministry?

Hopefully these 10 questions get you thinking; the point is to ask students to articulate the things you feel like they should know.

Like I said, this one could be a gut-check!

This week I’m posting some key assessments that might be helpful at this point in the semester!

I’m in the camp of those who believe college ministers should vet student leaders well. I don’t believe we should promote students to actual leadership (as opposed to service opportunities) based on potential success but on displayed character and commitment. Though I do believe skills can be trained on-the-job sometimes, I believe in a high bar for leadership in collegiate ministries.

So how do we find these leaders? It’s not good if we only find leaders who…

  • have multiple semesters of involvement,
  • have reached a certain age, or
  • know the right people in the college ministry.

My theory is that in any large college ministry – and very likely some smaller ones, too – there are several frustrated potential leaders. They truly are spiritually mature. They have real potential – or even skills developed in another ministry, other student activities, high school, or a summer experience. God has given them particular spiritual gifts…

…that they’re not getting to use. These students are unknown to the right people, they’re a little introverted, they transferred in from another school (or another campus ministry), or they just haven’t “paid their dues.” And so that vital piece of their discipleship – letting them lead – isn’t happening.

Who’s slipping through in your ministry? Who’s frustrated – not because they’re arrogant, but because they really aren’t being used as God has designed them to be used? I understand the need to get to know potential leaders (don’t forget the first paragraph above!) and let them prove their character. But that can happen in a lot of environments that aren’t “obvious.”

How are you finding these leaders?

This week I’m looking at various assessments – from past posts, plus some new stuff – because it’s a great time of year to examine our ministries!

When you look at the makeup of the entire “leadership” of your campus ministry…

  • yourself
  • other staff
  • student leaders
  • adult volunteers

…what personalities, strengths, spiritual gifts, or other personal “components” are you missing?

You can ask this about a single staff team, too, or about just your leader core – any set or subset of leaders. The more our teams reflect a variety of strengths, gifts, etc., the more we’ll really be productive, well-balanced, and impactful. And if you assess that now, you might just have a chance to do something about it before next semester.

We shouldn’t add leaders just for the sake of “balance” – but if we can seek out qualified people to either take part or raise up as future leaders, that’s an benefit for the whole ministry.

Some of the specific areas you might consider if you do want balance-to-better-impact:

1. Girls / guys, ages / school classes, different majors, varied ethnicities, and other “obvious” axes. These are the easiest differences to notice, so it’s worth starting here. Does your leadership (including student leaders, staff, and adult volunteers) reflect a good variety in these important areas?

2. Introverts / extroverts. This is a big one, only because it’s so easy for extroverts to get noticed, and it’s so important to have both peppered throughout your leadership team.

3. Other personality axes. I love personality tests (good ones, at least), and I believe thinking through basic personality is a great part of discovering how Gos has made us. So whether your students look at the basic forms (DISC or other four-type tests) or more advanced (like Myers-Briggs), it can be really valuable for them… and then really valuable for you to notice where your leadership might be imbalanced.

4. Strengthsfinder. The Strengthsfinder test is finding a lot of use in ministry circles (including collegiate ministry), and I’d highly recommend it. It offers both 34 strengths and 4 “areas” for those strengths, making it easy to see where your leadership team might be lacking.

5. Spiritual gifts. Wherever you fall theologically on spiritual gifts, if you believe they exist, this is another area worth examining. If half your leadership team considers Teaching or Exhortation a gift but no one has Mercy, there might be some balance worth seeking.

This week, I’ll be listing some valuable “assessments” for your college ministry. It’s a good point in the season to spend a little time upgrading your ministry – so here are some ideas (new and “refurbished” from past posts) to do that before the year ends.

This first post may seem nit-picky, but it’s one of those simple things you (OR a student leader or other volunteer) could do pretty easily… and maybe make a pretty big improvement in your ministry:

What resources in your ministry haven’t been “audited” in a long time?

Not long ago, I was looking at some training materials used by a missions-sending organization. As I became familiar with the materials and with the situation, it grew clear that while the materials were still solid, they had grown a little “out of date.” Several of the concepts and ideas discussed needed refreshing or replacement to better match trainee needs AND the needs “on the ground.”

At best, these areas were wasting space and wasting trainees’ time. But I know that some of these modules caused frustration for trainees.

So do all your resources still match what your students need and the reality in your ministry and on the campus? Which resources haven’t even been looked at for over a year?

  • The Student Leader application?
  • Any (or all) of the web page?
  • Your listing on the school’s “Student Organizations” section?
  • Bible study or small groups materials you’ve written?
  • Your Twitter bio?
  • Handouts?
  • Training materials?
  • Your organization’s forms on file with the campus?
  • Advertising materials?

What else? What needs to be reviewed because you’re not absolutely positive it’s up-to-date? When will you, a student leader, or an adult volunteer get that done?

 

Welcome to Exploring College Ministry

After ministering to college students for 8 years, I've spent the last 6 years trying to help push our whole field forward. This meant, among other things, a yearlong road trip, an e-book (Reaching the Campus Tribes), exploring 250+ campuses, consulting, writing, speaking, and more. I love any opportunity to serve college ministers or to consult with churches and others about reaching students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.

...and if I can help your ministry directly (or you want to support my mission), contact me!

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