A couple of weeks ago, I urged you to think about taking a brief road trip this summer. As I’ve seen countless times over, 2 or 3 days of connecting with fellow college ministers can be dramatically beneficial in learning more about our field as a whole and gaining ideas on how you can improve your own college ministry work.
I don’t know that I have the “magic bullet” or even a list of true “Best Practices” for such a trip. Your purposes will be different than mine, in large part because I’ve been seeking to learn more for our field as a whole, while you’re probably going to take the trip to learn (primarily) for your ministry skills. (Which, of course, is awesome.)
But I can offer what I can offer, and hopefully these tips will help! And hopefully you’ll find many of them useful not only for taking a trip, but even for interviewing college ministers closer to home, at a conference, or otherwise.
Decide your purposes, and build your trip around those
A “good trip” can only be determined by accomplishing real purposes, not by simply “having a good time.” So you need to pray through and think through what you hope to achieve on this trip. Then, those purposes should help you “map” your trip.
…but be open to broad purposes
At the same time, it’s completely okay to determine pretty broad purposes. “I simply want to learn more about college ministry” is a perfectly valid purpose – in fact, it’s neat to see God show up in those situations. Just be clear from the outset (in your own mind) that this is your purpose. In fact, I’d argue that it’s better to err on the side of general than on the side of focused on your road trips; too often our nearsightedness not only hampers our effectiveness back home, but it even can keep us from learning from others.
…and follow the story
If as you view a ministry’s web page, you notice a particularly surprising program, be sure to ask about it. If you visit Saddleback’s college ministry (I did), be sure to ask what Purpose-Driven looks like in a college ministry context (I did). If the campus is basically on an island (i.e., Texas A&M Corpus Christi), ask how that affects college ministry (it does).
Now, depending on your purposes established for the trip, you might not need to follow every possible rabbit trail. But don’t be so rigid in your pre-designed questions that you can’t follow the story. If the person you’re meeting with starts telling you things they find important, then listen. You can redirect the conversation (if needed), but sometimes you may learn one BIG thing instead of all the little things you had assumed you would. That’s okay.
Have some questions ready to go
After several hundred interviews over the past few years, I’ve definitely gained some ability in this area. But there are still people I “click” with better than others. So if I remember, it’s always helpful to have some questions ready to ask. I may or may not get to them, but if the conversation lags, I’ve got something to ask.
Along these same lines, it is a disservice to your fellow college minister to be frustratingly vague. “So… tell me about your ministry” may seem like a perfect way to begin. But how would you answer that question? Even something like, “What do you consider the main pillars of your ministry” is a far better question. Make sense?
Be up-front with what you want to do
Make it clear-from the get-go (I’ll talk about what the setup can look like tomorrow) what you’re hoping for. Are you interviewing the college minister to learn more about their ministry? Do you have students coming to this campus, so you’re trying to help them get info? Are you researching a specific topic in college ministry? Are you really just looking forward to a casual lunch?
Whatever the case, make it clear.
More to come. Probably tomorrow. Any questions?