Before moving on from the largest research-road-trip I’ve experienced since the yearlong road trip, I wanted to take a look back at the crazy 7 1/2 weeks of Road Trip 13! In this recap, you’ll find links, some foreshadowing of discussions I’ll present in days to come, and lots of things to rejoice with me about.
Because all these trips and the explorations within them are for us, not for me. What I learn, whom I meet, and what I share with others are all meant to further our field, helping college ministry be better valued in the eyes of American Christians, and helping us all be a little better at the amazing work we get to do!
So I happily present the glories of Road Trip 13. Thanks for riding with me these last couple of months!
36 campuses visited
9,854 miles driven
an amazing provenance: Chi Alpha’s exciting assignment
You may have picked up early on that this was the first sponsored road trip I’ve taken. Chi Alpha (one of the largest college ministries in the country) commissioned this trip, though I chose to drive (instead of fly) so I could do other things between my “official” XA stops. I had the marvelous opportunity to visit several Chi Alpha chapters around the U.S. – and in the coming days, I have the opportunity to write (for them) about those experiences.
I’ll have more time to brag on those guys later, but Chi Alpha is doing great work in lots of places – and they were certainly superb hosts all along the way.
Because of the Chi Alpha assignment, this trip needed to cover a whole lot of ground in a pretty short amount of time. Remember I logged nearly 10,000 miles through 25 states in less than 8 weeks – with Texas, California, North Dakota, and Virginia all in the same trip. And then in the middle of all that, I took a short flight from Toledo to Iowa to speak at a conference… as best I can figure, I’ve only taken a mid-road-trip flight three times in the 13 big trips.
So that characteristic (maybe more than any other) will stick out to me as a defining quality of Road Trip 13. It wasn’t easy, though there certainly are some up-sides to covering a lot of ground!
a major milestone
I’m not gonna lie – I was pretty excited to make it through Nevada and South Dakota to be able to report that I had been on campus in all 48 lower states within 19 months. Pretty crazy, and a neat signpost in this God-given adventure, for sure.
It’s really interesting to watch as God seems to highlight certain “themes” within my road trips. Very often themes come about through completely unplanned means – either because of the places / campuses I happen to be exploring, or through out-of-the-blue connections made during the trip. Because of the way I’m wired, these “redundancies” cause me to examine issues and groups better than I might be able to otherwise, so I’m thankful for them.
While I made great connections with lots of different college ministry groups, one college ministry that popped up in a special way during this trip was InterVarsity. For one thing, it was fun to hear college ministers buzzing about the upcoming Urbana conference (including those who aren’t part of IV). But I also had the fantastic chance to tour the National Headquarters (thanks to Eric Holmer of Greek IV’s communications), to sit down with Tom Grosh (of IV’s Emerging Scholars Network and Grad/Faculty work), and to attend meetings and meet staffers at several campuses.
theme: an academic flavor
Connecting with the Grad/Faculty ministry of InterVarsity at the national level wasn’t the only time a more “academic” or “scholarly” niche within collegiate ministry popped up. I had the marvelous chance to discuss that theme with two professors at the University of Michigan and a lecturer at Cornell, too, and to attend a Med School Bible study at Penn State Medical.
And I also got some great chances to further examine and learn about Christian Study Centers, a very unique and exciting model for complementary college ministry. I visited Study Center work at Cornell and UVA, as well as discussing this type of work with several people.
I haven’t had too many opportunities to explore grad, faculty, academic, or future-scholar work within campus ministry, though it’s certainly very important. So I was excited that God put those things on my plate this time around! You can see my thoughts after the Michigan interactions here.
theme: collegiate churches
I have had past opportunities to look at collegiate churches, but this trip provided some particularly strong chances to look at that branch of college ministry in-depth – probably more in-depth than I ever have before. It was interesting to watch as three weekends in a row found me at collegiate churches at Winona State (MN), Michigan, and Penn State (the latter two during big home game weekends!). But I also encountered collegiate church talk elsewhere; it’s both a prevalent method now and a method that seems to be on lots of people’s minds for the future.
national college ministry encounters
I am always honored when I have the chance to learn about various college ministries at the national level, getting a bird’s-eye view of groups and their people in various ways. And this 7-week trip was providentially chock-full of those opportunities!
For one thing, I was greatly honored to get to explore the actual national headquarters of both InterVarsity and the Coalition for Christian Outreach (and to connect with some national leadership in those places). But I also got to spend time with other national college ministry leaders – from Campus Ventures, the Evangelical Free Church, Churches of Christ, Ivy Jungle, Campus America, Impact Ministries (of the Independent Christian Churches), and InterVarsity Grad/Faculty Ministries. (And it was likewise exciting to connect with regional leaders of Campus Crusade, Chi Alpha, and Southern Baptist ministry!)
Besides all my regular sorts of explorations, this trip somehow crammed in three different conferences, too. I was honored to speak for several church-based campus ministers at the CollegeLeader Conference, then again for college ministers within the PC(USA)’s Lakes & Prairies Synod. Then, unexpectedly, I was invited to attend the Northeast Regional Staff Conference of Campus Crusade, where I found myself worshiping and learning together with a few hundred Cru staffers in the Adirondacks! An out-of-the-blue blessing indeed.
Like this whole adventure. That’s for sure.