college ministry in the land of Continual Upheaval

I’m sure I’ve been seeing Brink’s Home Security commercials since I was little. So when I caught a very similar commercial yesterday – a scene of a woman’s house being broken into, the alarm scaring off the intruder, the woman receiving an immediate call – I figured it was the familiar commercials I’ve been watching most of my life.

But the voice on the other end of that phone call announced that it was Broadview Security calling to make sure everything was alright. I was immediately annoyed that someone was clearly copying the ads I was used to.

But then the commercial revealed the point: Brink’s Home Security has changed its name to Broadview Security! And I’m a little uneasy about the whole thing. I wasn’t aware of it, but apparently I’ve built quite a schema inside my head of Brink’s as the name in home security.

Obviously, their name change is not actually something that’s going to bother me… too much. But plenty of us who are used to seeing the Brink’s shield might be a little thrown off by the name change.

And here was my campus ministry-connected thought: How many of our college ministries have nearly the identity that even this random security company has? Yes, most college ministries probably avoid the Rigid Traditionalism and static-ness that infamously besets some Christian work. That’s good. But pitching our tents on the other side, in the land of Continual Upheaval, is quite detrimental to our long-term effectiveness.

longevityline

It wouldn’t be surprising at all to observe 5 or more “renditions” of a college ministry across a decade, caused by leader turnover, structure changes, new “visions” for the ministry, and the like. Not all is directly controllable by the college minister, but that doesn’t make it any less problematic.

If the time comes when your ministry needs to change its name, make a major structure adjustment, change leadership, or otherwise significantly alter its identity, will you have built the ministry to the point that people care? I’m not just talking about “branding,” but community identity – does your campus, its community, its administration, and its alumni know your college ministry well enough that a Big Change… would be noticeable?

More important question: Are you building the ministry in such a way that this will be the case in 10 years?

(And feel free to pass this on to whomever oversees you – not giving college ministers long enough to succeed is a major cause of this problem…)

For more on building for longevity, you can check out former posts discussing longevity… or the many posts in the “Assessment & Strength” category.

I also wrote about the need for – and lack of – campus ministry longevity in the very free Reaching the Campus Tribes.

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