resolving and completing: an encouragement for college ministers

Several of the blogs I read (and others linked on Twitter) have been posting on the topic of “New Year’s Resolutions,” or its cousin, “Goals for 2010.” This is not that kind of post, because at present, my adventurous sojourn makes forward-looking a little tricky.

Fortunately, I continue to know my calling: To help further the field of College Ministry. While the steps involved in that are a bit hazy, God continues to be clear on next steps – which is all I really need.

God has continued to develop my understanding of that calling and the activities I should and shouldn’t pursue, and I thought I’d share a bit of wisdom He has used to shape me in the last few years. It directly relates to ideas like “resolutions,” “goal-setting,” and even understanding God’s will. I figured now would be a good time to offer it – both for you and potentially for your students, who likely need this wisdom more than anyone else in the whole world.

That piece of (what I consider) enormous wisdom?

Don’t start something if you can’t push through the Dip.

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know I’m a Seth Godin fan, but it might surprise you that one of his works is actually one of my very favorite books of all time. That short book – which I’ve read four times in the past two years – is The Dip.

The title theme, the infamous “dip,” refers to “the long slog between starting and mastery” (page 17). The claims of the 2-part book, then, include:

“Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny majority of people who are able to push through a tiny bit longer than most.”

BUT ALSO…

“Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny majority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new” (both quotes from p. 4).

In other words, the book urges,

Quit the wrong stuff.
Stick with the right stuff.
Have the guts to do one or the other
(also p. 4).

And I believe this is wisdom: For those starting a college ministry. For those starting a new initiative within their campus ministry. For new bloggers. For those hoping to write a book (which I’ve heard lots of people talking about lately). For planting a church. For lots of other things that we college ministers are likely to begin sometime soon.

And it’s wisdom college students need, too – that they might understand that following a new passion or a new idea each week isn’t God’s desire for their lives, now or later.

If they (or we) can’t push through “the Dip” to completion or mastery, they (or we) probably shouldn’t begin. And our question, as Christians, is not only “Can we?” but “Should we?”

No, The Dip is not a Christian book. But it contextualizes a principle that seems to be the thrust of I Corinthians 9:26-27:

So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (ESV)

“Beating the air,” the commentators note, probably doesn’t refer to “shadow boxing” (even if that is the popular exposition). It refers, instead, to missed punches in an actual fight – “air punches,” akin to the much-mocked “air ball” in basketball. The idea is parallel to the one that precedes it: Wandering from one’s own lane during a race.

We – and our students – are meant to run with aim and consistently “land our punches” (or, to use Jesus-analogies, to finish our buildings and win our wars). I don’t mean that there will never be something like “trial and error,” but biblically it’s not commended as standard operating procedure. If we are really going to “make the most of every opportunity,” we celebrate the fact that God has not called us to all things – and He has not called us even to all the things we desire to do, hope to do, or recognize would be valuable. He’s got for us “good works prepared beforehand,” and that portion is beautiful enough.

So if you need help deciding what those “works” might be, and if you believe wisdom can come in small, secular packages, you might find some counsel in the book fully titled, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Stick). I can’t encourage you more to get – and read – this book, particularly if you’re considering any sort of new endeavor like the ones I mentioned above. It’s 80 pages, and the pages are small.

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9 Comments

  1. Thanks Benson…good thoughts. I’ll pick this up.

    Impact Ministries just completed our annual staff conference in Orlando. It’s already shaping up to be a great year!

    we talked about the importance of letting go of what’s not important, and persevering through the good. I’ll put “the Dip” at the the top of my reading list…a good topic for me as I begin a three year adventure.

  2. One of my favorite posts Benson. I think it’s because I can feel the emotion behind what you are saying, especially when I consider where you are in your journey.

    In our office we have a old poster on the wall of someone running up the bleachers of a sports stadium. Philippians 3 v14 is printed at the bottom of the poster:
    “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” TNIV

    It may be a little out of context, but it does remind us that we’re trying to do Kingdom work here.

    Your story is also encouraging us to press on. You’re an incredible resource to the field of college ministry.

    I want to personally thank you for what you’ve done and for what I hope you’ll continue to do.

  3. Thanks a bunch, everybody! Glad I could scratch where people seem to be itching.

    Just to add to what you just wrote, Ian – you’re right, this IS (hopefully) Kingdom work we’re doing. That’s why we’ve got to be so good not only at pressing on in what we’re called to, but also being absolutely strict with ourselves about not wasting our time on whims – even valuable, exciting, fitting, good whims. “Good is the enemy of the best.”

  4. Pingback: 10 more quick reads on campus ministry evaluation « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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