Your student leaders would gain a lot by watching what you do all week. Even if you don’t have a special viewing room with a two-way mirror.

How often do you bring them along for what you’re doing? I’m talking about just about everything, like:

  • Planning a message
  • Spending time on campus / “ministry of presence”
  • Planning out the semester or summer
  • Budgeting
  • Chatting with other student leaders or ministry teams
  • Sharing your fundraising appeal
  • Discussing the ministry with your boss
  • Editing a video
  • Preparing announcements
  • Meeting with your staff or adult volunteers
  • Visiting another college minister (on your campus or otherwise)

Any more options? I’m sure there are. The point is, you’ve got the chance to bring students along for all of it. Sometimes – sure – you shouldn’t. But more often, you should be asking yourself, Why not?

I’m no expert on delegation, neither an expert in understanding nor experience. But I want to be better.

One thing I’ve learned is that quality delegation will nearly always hurt, at least for a while. If you’re only delegating to student leaders the very parts of your campus ministry that

  1. you hate doing
  2. the students will do the same as you would

…then you’re at the bottom rungs of the delegation ladder. That’s fine and all, and it’s good you’re saving yourself some time and energy and giving them “at bats” in execution.

But you’re training ministers (whether they’ll ever be paid for it or not). They need at-bats on strategy, on actual leadership, on decision-making, and even on delegation themselves. For your benefit and (perhaps even especially) their benefit, consider loosening the reins on areas students might do differently than you would. Assign them the chance to come up with strategy, then actually let them run that out. If it’s obviously terrible for reasons they don’t understand, fine, maybe redirect before it even gets off the ground.

But otherwise, you’ll have to face some anxiety while you wait for their strategy to play out.

The same is true for delegating leadership, delegating speaking, delegating ministry functions (like setting up for Large Group Meeting or making a video), and so on. If it doesn’t hurt you to delegate, you’re probably not delegating enough.

As the news broke this morning of the passing of Billy Graham, I couldn’t help but think about my favorite Billy Graham story: his role in Explo ’72, the Campus Crusade for Christ conference here in Dallas that came to be known as the “Christian Woodstock” and the pinnacle of the Jesus Movement. That event, in turn, helped push “Jesus Music” (later known as contemporary Christian music) forward among believers – obviously a watershed moment for any of us who have sung non-hymns with college students.

Below are a few interesting articles about Billy Graham’s connection to campus ministry… but of course hundreds or thousands of us have a more personal connection, too. In my case, the pastor of my church in college, Chris Osborne, had come to Christ after seeing Graham on TV, and I’m very thankful for the impact that pastor had on my life. Whether it’s a lineage of evangelism or impact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you can trace a little of the “Billy gene” in your spiritual DNA.

I’ve seen college ministers pay too much attention to the ideas or opinions of singular, noisy students.

But I also think there are plenty of “well-oiled machines” out there, college ministries that have run well – and haven’t changed much – for awhile now.

In that case, it would be easy never to evaluate ideas from students who aren’t connected to the right people, extroverted, well-known enough, or otherwise less visible.

But this (college ministry) is training ground for ministry. And that means student – any student who cares enough – should have the chance to flex ministry muscles, including trying to make your efforts better. Yes, there will be students who try too hard come up with way too many ideas, or don’t ultimately merit a whole lot of time – not every idea deserves an hour of evaluation, of course. But we can’t let that potential messiness – of needing to disciple the overeager idea factories – keep us from providing avenues for all students to share their ideas.

Otherwise, you’re just frustrating people who have committed to your mission, and who care enough to share their thoughts.

Two ways to build community and culture are so simple (and so effective) they almost feel cliche:

  • honoring examples of the culture you’re trying to build
  • self-deprecation

While these two avenues seem worlds apart, they can share a common mode, one method that can accomplish either (or even both): a “best of” ceremony. Whether you’re awarding people humorously (offering “awards” for funny mistakes and goofball moments) or seriously (awarding people for greatness), each avenue presents an opportunity. Either you’re doubling down on what you want… or you’re building community by helping everyone not take your ministry (and each other) too seriously.

Examples of the humorous route: Each year at our staff-wide retreat, a few staff members present an “Oscars”-style awards show… which is basically a “roast” of various staff members. No one’s exempt; top leaders are just as likely (or probably more likely) to “win” as admins or new staffers are. Another example is the weekly wrap-up on a sports radio station I listen to, when three “bloopers” from the week are presented and then voted on by listeners.

Examples of the straightforward route: On the other hand, awards for things like “Volunteer of the Year” can go a long way toward highlighting what you want to see more of. You might not have to chain yourself to a particular category, either – instead offering something vague like the “Ministry Innovation” award once in awhile. (I used to have a team member who would hand out little “Great Job” tickets for various successes she noticed. It meant a lot!)

Whichever route you go, the point is to think about publicly building culture. Could an award ceremony (or an “award” ceremony) be just what you need?

There’s still a lot of meat left on the bone of this semester, and among other things, that means you’ve got room to adjust your student leadership roles and structure in meaningful ways. I’ve written about this opportunity before, so here you go:

You’ve heard the Good to Great principle of getting the right people on the bus, then into the right seats. The latter describes making sure everyone on the team is in the best possible position (for them and for the organization).

Are your leaders – from the ones leading ministry teams, to small group leaders, to musicians, to interns – maximizing their potential in the role they’ve got? For each person, is this role their “best and highest use”? Or is there a different role they’d really be better in – whether it’s because they’re “underperforming” where they are, or (hopefully) because they’d be even more excellent in another spot?

You don’t have to wait for the usual “leader selections period” to make the change. And the time remaining this semester provides a good chance to experiment.

Switching people’s “seats” should always be on the table (any time of year), always worth considering, and often worth doing. Sure, a small group will be sad if their leader needs to move out (or their time gets divided with a new role). And yes, there will be a learning curve for the new guy working the sound board or leading your evangelism team. But you have to be open to this, and brave enough to do it when the opportunity arises.

For Valentine’s Day, a past post assessing the relationships and romances that develop within your college ministry…

We college ministers need to talk plenty about “love and relationships” – those things are on our students’ minds, they trip up plenty of Christian students, they provide a chance to run counter-cultural to the campus, and they’ll lead to the life-changing choice of a spouse either in college or afterwards. So I figured I’d spend some posts talking about college students and romance. (Find the whole series here.)

Here’s the first post in the series: evaluating your ministry through the Great Couples Assessment.

One interesting way to assess your ministry is along this unique line: the kinds of romantic couples it’s producing. These questions are worth asking – even if there are different “right” answers (because campus ministries are different from each other).

1. When romantic couples emerge within your college ministry, are they awesome? A healthy college ministry will tend to produce healthy couples, and couples that exemplify the very things the ministry celebrates. Do you and other students enjoy being around the couples your ministry produces? Are those couples healthy, or are they full of red flags?

2. Is your campus ministry really good about celebrating romance, relationships, marriage, etc.? Sometimes campus ministries aren’t even good at supporting couples, let alone celebrating God’s work in bringing people together!

3. Do solid Christians within your college ministry regularly build romances with each otherHow this one relates to healthy college ministry is a bit more complicated. But if you’re not seeing couples emerge from within your ministry (and especially if you are seeing students enter into relationships regularly with Christian students outside your ministry), it’s at least worth asking Why that’s the case.

Are you providing opportunities for awesome men of God to meet awesome women of God? Is your ministry the kind of ministry that even attracts those awesome people – both men and women? Is there room – even alongside the accompanying awkwardness – for students to build friendships, and eventually more, with others in your ministry?

Related to this is the issue of offering gender-specific vs. co-ed opportunities. Read where I wrote about that – including some great comments from you guys!

4. Do people get married? Some might presume that a strong college ministry will indeed produce lots and lots of marriages, while others would recognize that marriage-immediately-after-graduating really isn’t the norm anymore. But I think we have to imagine that within a college ministry with a good number of students, we would likely be seeing the occasional marriage produced. If not, it’s probably worth asking Why – even if in the end, we decide we’re right where we need to be.

————————

So there you have it. Four questions. As you answer them, simply consider what the answers in your ministry should be… and then what they actually are. Ministries will be different, but I think these things are worth examining!

But what do you think?

(Continue the series here.)

One big focus on this blog is encouraging you to have the kind of college ministry that your campus looks to for help in times of crisis.

But whether or not you’ve ever gotten that call, you have even more control over whether or not your ministry and your students have chosen to serve.

What if you – and your students (that’s vital) – spent the next few months looking for ways to serve in crisis? It may be crisis at the campus level, maybe at the organization level, or maybe just one of the many personal crises that will hit students on your campus.

But crisis will happen.

You can respond.

It’ll make an impact.

Of course the Winter Olympics provide opportunities for your college ministry: with students in your ministry, with the larger campus, even with supporters/overseers.

If you want a boost in figuring out how, here are a couple of posts where we’ve chatted about it:

…and a bonus, where the Olympics are mentioned, to get you imagining taking your ministry to Tokyo, Beijing, or Paris:

Your Spring Break plans may include one “pillar” that you’re inviting students to – a ski trip, a mission trip, etc. – or may involve your students pursuing a variety of paths (including things like “Alternative Spring Break” with others on the campus).

Regardless, have you considered facilitating some sort of process to follow those events? (Always a big deal!)

In this case, the question itself is more important than any examples I could give (but don’t worry, I love examples). Simply examine what your students – individually or together – are doing, and ask yourself if any discipleship process might take advantage of those activities. You’ll have your answer.

But I will give a few examples, to note the varieties of “hooks” that might be involved here:

  • Offering four weeks to unpack “God’s heart for the nations” for all the students who went on the mission trip… and maybe others who didn’t get to go, to let them “catch” the impact of the trip too
  • A new leadership study that you advertise first to all those on the ski trip, maximizing the opportunity for them to continue the relationships that develop
  • Inviting everyone who did missions and/or Alternative Spring Break on their own to join for a Debrief Session (or follow-up studies as described above)
  • Hosting an “Impacting Your Family This Summer” class that starts right after Spring Break (since over Spring Break, many students will be primed to think about this topic)
  • Offering a one-time (or even few-week!) session called “Atoning after Spring Break Debauchery” that you offer to the whole campus

I’m not even kidding about that last one – you’d just have to know your campus well (and be brave). Cool evangelism opportunity if you take it.

But again: Note what your students (or all students) are doing over Spring Break, and then go from there: How can you double-down on what’s learned, friendships that are built, or felt needs that are grown?

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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 others who want to reach college students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.

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