college ministers & one-track-mindedness

Yesterday’s guest post by Brandon Smith connects with a theme that has already come up several times on this trip: our ability to make specific, college ministry application from general teaching.

The widely-recognized lack of campus ministry training resources doesn’t let us off the hook when it comes to advancing our understanding of our vocation. We can still learn from plenty of sources, if we choose to.

Using the Catalyst Conference as an example: For as long as I’m a college minister, I hope I’ll always walk away from conferences like that with lots of application for my work as a college minister – not simply great “general ministry” thoughts that are cool to share with others but don’t affect my day-to-day work.

So I want to give you permission – actually, I want to challenge all of us – to a little more one-track-mindedness! When you attend a ministry conference, consider analyzing its value for your present work. When you read a book, why not read it with college-ministry-colored glasses? When you have extra time, you could look for blogs and articles and other sources that might be applied – however tangentially – to college ministry. This won’t always feel natural and certainly isn’t always easy. But it keeps each of us from being “a jack of all trades, and master of none.”

Very often
we dabble in every area in which we have an interest

rather than
especially focusing on the area that already has our investment.

Just a couple of days ago, Drew Aufhammer of UCLA’s Campus Crusade described their staff learning collegiate ministry principles from a church-planting conference. In that same conversation, I described a major college ministry brainstorming tool I gained from Seth Godin’s marketing book, Free Prize Inside. And I’ll never forget Casey Casady of Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, LA, noting ESPN Magazine as a place he picks up design ideas from.

These are just a few random examples of “outside learning,” but it’s been sad to hear very few college ministers describe learning from outside sources like this. And I’ve asked. (The only preponderance of ministers who talk regularly about outside sources has been chaplains at Christian colleges.)

Certainly, God has other things to teach us that apply to other parts of our lives. But if our vocation – our calling – is college ministry, it’s very possible that God wants to teach us LOTS MORE about our field… even when He ships that wisdom in other packages.

written from yet another Motel 6! (Norwalk, CA)


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Road Trip 13: Days 17 & 18 recap
Spent more great time in SoCal (see all explorations so far!)
Mileage: 3,180 miles so far

T-shirt: the Thunderduck tribe of Richland College, and the Wildcats of K. State
today: hanging out with people in La Mirada and Fullerton, and then (I think) headed out of state!


  1. I just read an article about Joe Paterno Head Football coach @ Penn State University in Sports Illustrated and here is something that he had said to one of his sons – currently an assistant coach at the school – a few years back.

    “You’ll understand, once you have kids, that life changes. You’ll find that your happiness is defined by your least happy child. You’ll understand. Every player we have, someone—maybe a parent, a grandparent, someone—poured their life and soul into that young man. They are handing that young man off to us. They are giving us their treasure, and it’s our job to make sure we give them back that young man intact and ready to face the world.”

    What a great example of college ministry! Joe Pa has a passion to make a difference, and it shows through, what am I doing? I’m pretty sure this is now my new purpose statement for my ministry and life.

  2. Kirby–thanks for drawing attention to that fantastic quote.

    As a campus minister here at PSU, I can tell you that JoePa–a devout catholic, and a driving force behind our spiritual center here on campus–takes those words to heart.

    Agreed that its a fantastic quote for campus ministers to reflect on!

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