logistics for research road trips

Last week, I offered a few tips for planning your own learnin’ trip. I honestly do believe that a “research road trip” can be a really powerful opportunity to broaden your horizons and deepen your understanding of college ministry. Not only will you learn methods, but you’ll also gain wisdom and breadth from your collaborations! Hooray!

Today, some logistic tips from my many, many visits to campuses.

fewer campuses longer, or more campuses shorter?

Are you best served by seeing only a few campuses (or one campus) but connecting with several college ministers there, or by seeing several campuses, but perhaps meeting only one college minister at each?

Ultimately, it depends on your purposes. (Do you have those figured out?)

Certainly, even just walking a new campus can sharpen your skills. But much of my best learning comes from connecting with multiple people at the same campus. Especially if you’ve found a campus that is similar to your own (in the overarching culture and/or “college ministry scene”), there’s a lot to be gained by learning deeply at one campus.

Often each minister adds to the piece of the puzzle I’m putting together in my head, but they also help balance each other out. I’m forced to think through differences (and you should ask about these!), plus I’m able to compare their levels of apparent success – and connect that to their methods.

Staying in one place for a few days also allows greater flexibility. Not only can you offer more time slots when you schedule (see below), but you have more time to make room for new stuff that arises. Often, the first college ministers you meet with will suggest things you should see or people you should meet. If you’ve purposely got room in your schedule, you can fit these things in.

email ahead

When I’m planning a trip to a campus for a few days (or longer), often I’ll email ahead (rather than calling or just showing up). I’ll describe my purposes, the time length I’ll be there, and ask about options. With this method, I often have to trust God about who’s going to get back to me and whether or not the times will work out or conflict. But I can tell you – it’s been absolutely amazing to see God work this out.

Of course, you can always follow up if needed. But don’t forget that those college ministers are busy, too, and you don’t have any “right” to meet with them. Don’t judge, in other words, if they seem to blow you off.

trust the Architect

“Unless the LORD [plans the research trip], those who [plan] it labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1, mostly).

don’t just meet; see (and exegete!)

Yes, “interviews” with fellow college ministers may be a big part of this. But seeing the campuses, sitting in on college ministry activity, observing the campus culture (including reading fliers and the school newspaper), and being open to opportunities that spring up while you’re there – this all makes for a great road trip and for much better learning.

In fact, this is your chance to practice what you should constantly be doing at home. Just like a mission trip sharpens and catalyzes our “missioning” skills, exegeting a new campus will help you do that all the better back home!

ask me

Finally, I urge you to let me help. If you’re headed somewhere, I might know some good things and people worth checking out (either there or on the way!). If you’re planning a trip, I might be able to offer tips or look over your schedule and offer ideas. And so on. Let me help!


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