Last night, I heard a message about living opposite of the ways of the world. Always a good exhortation… and there are many ways we can apply that to college ministry practice, I’m sure.
One way that came to mind is something that I’ve been pondering for awhile now: the notion that running a college ministry according to my own natural personality simply won’t cut it. If my natural likes and dislikes, quirks and qualities, preferences and pet peeves drive my decisions, I’m likely to build a ministry in my own image. And while that may be cute and even impactful at times, it won’t be anything like it could be.
God apparently prefers to, on occasion, bring strengths out of our weaknesses, call us to be “all things to all people,” and lead us to tend to our sheep in stretching (even annoyingly so) ways. The world may shout to “just be ourselves,” but that’s found nowhere in Scripture. We have to live opposite of that. Apparently dying to myself – even to my natural personality when it’s needed – is vital for the Christian life. And that includes my shepherding of college students.
As we approach the new school year – and some may in fact have jumped in already! – this is a good place to “check ourselves before we wreck ourselves”… or our ministries. And sadly, “wrecking” in the shallows of personality-driven ministry probably won’t be as obvious as full-out ministry implosion. At least for awhile.
Some red flags that MIGHT indicate a college minister is leaning too hard on his or her own personality:
- Most of our students are a lot like us
- Most of our student leaders or “core” members are a lot like us
- Most of our college ministry’s activities are things we personally enjoy (or would have enjoyed as students)
- For many of our individual methods, we can’t trace our decisions to anything more specific or skilled than “it seemed like a great idea”
- We rarely – if ever – organize ministry activities (events, teaching topics, and so on) that we personally don’t enjoy or that bore us
- We rarely – if ever – let the advice of our staff, students (especially those unlike us), or leaders “trump” our own inclinations
Will new college ministries often draw people like the college ministers? Of course they will. But as we grow the ministry, we have the chance to diversify. Unless there’s a very specific, purposeful decision to draw a particular type of people, I’d argue that most healthy college ministries will diversify along personality lines. But we have to fight the tendency to default to, drift toward, or be driven by our own personalities as we grow our groups.
What other indicators might suggest a personality-driven ministry? Add to my list!