On this day three years ago, I took off on a great big adventure – what would become a yearlong road trip through 44 states and to 181 campuses. Taking this trip wasn’t “like me,” that’s for sure; as I’ve said many times since, I’m not naturally an adventurer.
Instead, I had come that summer to realize a new call, a call to help advance the field of Evangelical college ministry. So I prayed through what that meant next. Would I get hired as a college minister and use that spot to advocate for and advance our field? Would I broadcast what I’d learned already, in eight years of ministering to students? (Surely not, since my experiences so far weren’t quite the stuff of “See How I Did It” books.) What paths might most help our field, and most help the hundreds of college ministers whose ranks I was part of and whose work I adored?
As I wrote in Reaching the Campus Tribes,
It was my friend Steven who first threw out the idea of taking a road trip to see college ministry in action across the nation. I scoffed a bit at first, but the truth is, that suggestion wasn’t as out-of-the-blue as it might seem. (page 13)
I had taken some surprisingly large road trips before, and I’d also spent a lot of time seeking wisdom from various college ministers. At conferences, as a journalist, locally, and otherwise I picked many a campus minister’s brain. And I realized that the national wisdom was much greater than what I – and perhaps every other college minister – had access to so far.
In other words, as I prayed, I came to recognize that breadth was one thing our field desperately needed. (Then, as now, we campus ministers were fairly niched, regioned, denominated, and otherwise isolated from the greater wisdom of the greater field.) If I could do nothing else as a 28-year-old single devotee to collegiate ministry, I could explore that wide, wide world and offer the resulting breadth back to us.
After much prayer, thought, and wisdom-seeking, I decided I would indeed take that big trip.
Knowing this was now a matter of obedience, I took out loans, packed up my stuff, and left Dallas in time for the fall semester – only three weeks after deciding to take the trip. I counted on God’s provision for His call, and He certainly confirmed that call throughout the year. (Reaching the Campus Tribes, page 14)
The three years (so far) that began on that day have been, of course, radically life-changing. I would finish that particular trip 370 days later, indebted financially but also forever indebted relationally because of the rich tapestry of college ministry that hundreds of people had allowed me to see.
Soon after, I would start blogging daily, to share everything I had gained. I would take seven more road trips – none a year long, of course, but still plenty adventurous and fruitful. I would publish that ebook the spring after the trip finished, make it freely available, and watch it spread widely and happily through our field. I would give away whatever wisdom I could however I could, and I’d have opportunities to share in other forms – speaking, writing, consulting.
All of this was partaking in adventure at the hands of the great Adventure-Giver. The yearlong trip wasn’t the only adventure – though that was the most far-flung. But so was the adventure of wondering how this all gets provided for (and still wondering). The adventure of seeing college ministries (and college ministers) grow during the last few years – and having chances to help that growth happen. The adventures of encountering heroes, of fighting against unhealth in our field, of advancing our field any way I can… step by step, project by project.
I don’t know what adventures lie ahead, bundled under this call of “advancing college ministry.” Sometimes – like now – it feels like I’m in the narrows, hoping I can continue to push forward well. Other times, I’ve gotten glimpses that thrill: about our field… where it’s going… its future impact… and a future where Christians care about it like they should (which, as we know, is much, much more).
As I could have said a month or two in, I still say today: “A wide door of effective ministry has opened to me,” and while most of the adversaries aren’t (so far) of the flesh-and-blood type, there are many difficulties indeed.
It all started three years ago today, a day that put my world on wheels and brought into action the awesome call to serve the field of college ministry. Thanks for it, Adventure-Giver. And thanks, college ministers, for letting me partake of the beauty of your many calls.
Evangel University (pictured at the top) would be the first campus of the yearlong trip. I stopped in on August 17th (mostly to take a nap); I returned in the last month of the trip for further exploration, T-shirt purchasing, and picture-taking.