4 ways to enjoy a cross-culture college ministry conference

Attending a college ministers’ conference is one of the very BEST ways to catch up on the enormity of college ministry wisdom available – and it’s certainly the most efficient!

But your own “circle” might not have as much training as you’d like. And even if you ARE involved in a group with great training, you might actually happen to believe (like I do) that there is wisdom that can be gained only by going outside your circle and its culture.

(Be wary of the view that one’s circle has most of the college ministry wisdom they need; that kind of college minister is, by definition, perpetually “behind the times”!)

In the last few years, I’ve gotten to attend several college ministry training events with groups I’m not part of – and in most of those cases, I was simply a participant, not a speaker. So if find the need – or, better yet, the desire – to attend a conference outside your own circle, here are some quick tips for maximizing your time and minimizing your roadblocks:

Learn from AND learn about.

When you attend another group’s conference, you’ll hopefully find some great teaching and training. But if you’re only learning what they’re teaching, you’re missing out! The great thing about cross-culture learning is that you learn from another culture and also about another culture, by observing:

  • what they emphasize, laugh about, think about, talk about
  • how they talk to each other
  • distinctives you start to notice about their circle
  • differences between your circle and theirs

So don’t just soak up their wisdom, but soak up the whole experience!

Choose sessions wisely.

Since the above things are true, there might be many reasons to choose particular seminars or activities. Just make sure to make the most of your time by carefully considering (and praying about!) your schedule – you might be surprised what ends up profiting you the best.

And try to participate in as much of the conference as you can. You might not get this chance again!

Act like a guest (and enjoy their hospitality).

How can you be a good guest?

  • First, make sure outsiders are indeed welcome at this particular conference. Lots of groups are excited to have others join in – but it’s always good to check, either with the organizer or with a local college minister in that circle.
  • Be humble! Each circle has its own quirks. Don’t assume you can just jump in to every conversation; you might be surprised by your own untrue assumptions!
  • Connect! We all know that the best part of conferences can be building mutually beneficial connections. The same is true at cross-culture conferences; you simply might have to be extra-brave. If you already know somebody at the conference, that will help with introductions. But even if you don’t, you’ll soon find out what I learned: What connects us as college ministers is far greater than what separates us. So be brave – and connect!
  • Be helpful! You’re not there simply as an observer, you’re there as a co-learner. Just like you need cross-culture wisdom, so do they – so be willing to add your two cents when it’s helpful.

One more note: You might find that letting the leader(s) or others know you’re coming has added benefits. You don’t have to hide – and you can enjoy any hospitality that comes your way!

Ride the adventure.

I am neither an extrovert nor an adventure-seeker, but God has stretched me plenty. I’ve had to learn to “ride the adventure” as it comes, and that includes participating in many cross-culture settings. Will attending a cross-culture college ministry conference occasionally be awkward? challenging? shocking? paradigm-shifting? overwhelming?

Sure it will be. But that’s the adventure part – and part of the fun of attending cross-culture. You’re far more likely to gain some absolutely brand new insight at something like this than within your own circle (especially if you’ve been serving for more than a few years).

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2 Comments

  1. Good insights! It can be difficult to keep the inner/outer tension in all aspects of life, and most especially when it comes to learning and listening to others. I find some of the best ideas come from collaborating with other campus ministers from completely different backgrounds and just learning how they approach their work.

    Iron sharpens iron.

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