Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. (Prov. 14:4 ESV)
It’s a simple matter to have a clean manger, a clean barn, a clean life… just don’t buy any oxen. Or, if you prefer a plowed field and the resulting abundant crops, you can choose the messy oxen route. It’s your choice, but you can’t generally have both.
One of the things I observed on the road trip? Good college ministry allows for some messy.
But the temptations include
- Trying to organize the messiness out of our ministry.
- Freaking out about the messiness in the people we serve.
- Fighting to maintain so-called “balance” between types of people, types of emphases, types of activities, public perceptions, and so on.
- Looking to build “perfect” “unity” among local college ministries by removing any hint of programmatic overlap or competition. (Yes, both “perfect” and “unity” have quotes in that sentence; often we – and plenty of students, as well – misunderstand both of those ideas.)
- Having undue confidence in our program “as is.” Thus brilliant strategy and wise public relations and consistent “tweaking” won’t be high priorities, because smooth sailing, proper recognition, and steady growth are the expectations for the foreseeable future.
- Getting depressed about all the roadblocks to building a strong, long-lasting college ministry.
From what I can tell, the lack of messiness–tolerance in college ministry leads to a surprising amount of difficulty, disillusionment, and even conflict between people or ministries.
(This does not discount the great need for planning, strategizing, collaborating, etc. We need more of that, all the while keeping in mind that our mangers will never be clean.)
I’m sure I’ll be writing plenty more on this.