This won’t apply to each of us in the same way, but it’s good to ponder. Hopefully it’s a reminder for all college ministers to “excel still more” in the basics of what makes for great college ministry.
When I spoke in July to one statewide group of Missouri college ministers on “The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy” in college ministry practice, one of the ways I mentioned for practicing bad college ministry was to remain untrained.
(The mascot I used to “represent” that idea was the Wildcat – like at Villanova, pictured above. Since cats are notoriously difficult to train anyway, I figured a wild variety must be all the more “untrained,” right?)
That topic came up with a state college ministry leader last week, too, and involves an important notion: that there really are quite a few basic skills in college ministry, and these can and should be learned. Like foreign missions and probably many other ministry areas, college ministry has its learning curve. Perhaps not all these skills can be taught – some may need to be “caught” – but they’re there just the same. Dozens of them. Honed over time. Specific to our field of ministry.
It’s easy to assume that training – training specific to college ministry – isn’t all that necessary. Because, after all, you and I can surely impact some students just by lovin’ and teachin’ and disciplin’ the best ways we know how, and God Himself certainly brings fruit from our attempts. But the question is whether we’re impacting as much as we possibly can, not whether we’re impacting to some point we’re personally satisfied with.
“Fulfilling the ministry we’ve received from the Lord,” I’d argue, will always include finding ways to add to our skills – not just at general ministry, but at college ministry in particular. Because it definitely makes a difference. As I sit down with college ministers and attend their ministries all over the country, there are times I recognize that certain basic skills might be lacking. Even guys who have spent years in college ministry and have grown large ministries haven’t always trained in the particular skills needed here, and it shows up. (That doesn’t mean I’m sitting there scowling or snubbing, but it’s something an explorer notices…)
Meanwhile, there are hundreds of college ministers that – whether they realize it or not – attest to the skills they’ve been taught or they’ve “caught” from others. It’s evident in how they run their ministries. They’re trained.
There is plenty of wisdom out there, and there are chances to shadow and apprentice and be mentored and conference and consult and collaborate and learn. It may be tricky to find time – or even chances – to do those things. But we don’t have an excuse to be untrained: by doing our own thing, running supposed “good college ministry plays,” and working only from natural ability or general ministry training.
Both the audience we reach – college students – and the mission fields on which we work – college campuses – stand in obvious need of tailored approaches and specialized skills.