About a year and a half ago, right after I had published Reaching the Campus Tribes, I wrote here about an idea I had addressed in the book: the hope for some kind of “super-sized hero” to help serve the field of college ministry. I didn’t know if that should happen, but I was pondering that it could be just what we need!
Over time, I’ve come to realize that in fact many groups and people may end up playing the role of “servant to the servants.” Many Christian ministries without an official presence on the college campus might be able to help us – not by planting full-fledged college ministries, but in complementary ways: providing resources, gathering ideas, lending their expertise on certain issues, and so on.
And some groups may even focus specially on our field in a full-time way, nurturing it and resourcing it and connecting it and advancing it.
For now, the need (and want) for these helps outweigh what’s actually taking place. So since remains a vacuum, there’s an enormous chance for “the early bird(s) to get the worm.” In a big way.
Because that’s true, here’s the “formula” I noted then:
vacuum + growing concern = wide-open opportunity
But I noted a corollary, as well:
vacuum + growing concern – deep understanding = wide-open opportunity for waste or even damage
I’ve had the chance to discuss that idea with at least three outside groups in the last week! And I’m glad to do it, because I’m nervous… very nervous… that we’ll have early birds swoop in without the wisdom that’s required.
The truth is, it’s already happening.
Not all that glitters… or gets blogged… or gets published… or gets delivered in a seminar… or seems like it really should work… or even bears awesome results on one campus or in one region… is gold.
Meanwhile, there is much within college ministry that is “gold.” (I’ve seen great and wonderful things all over.) But in our underdeveloped field, it doesn’t often float to the top. It has to be mined or sifted out. It doesn’t always even look golden at first.
One day, a developed field of Collegiate Ministry will be much better at “peer review” – so the cream will rise to the top, and the unwise will be sifted out. We’ll still have disagreements and differences, sure, but even those will be wiser. Like those who consider involvement in foreign missions, American Christians will be sensitive to the fact that any involvement in college ministry (whether “on the ground” or in supporting roles) is a delicate business, a grand responsibility, a noble calling that many should nobly hesitate to join. And we’ll all stand guard – not in heavy-handed ways, but in ways that recognize that wisdom is needed by all, for the sake of these students we serve.
“Not many of [us] should presume to be teachers,” and the rest of us must indeed beware of “laying hands to quickly,” of endorsing books and methods and organizations simply because they’re something and not because they’re wise.
I wrote last week (with the help of Jurassic Park) about being careful as we approach the task of reaching college students. Today’s post is more a call for hope and prayer that all early birds be wise – and for us each to work in our own worlds (and our own selves) to ensure that’s the case.
It’s not exactly a worm, but I did take that banana slug pic at the school that claims it as its mascot! Not only that, but UC Santa Cruz’s school year is actually getting under way THIS WEEK (see yesterday’s post on that surprising fact).