building bridges to our world (advancing our field #4)

Last week, I started posting on ways each of us can help advance the field of College Ministry, which will in turn strengthen all the individual college ministries out there. (And if you don’t feel the slightest urgency to do this, I’d challenge you to ponder why you don’t.)

Today, another simple way to help – and this one’s got a two-pronged benefit.

As I described last week, there are plenty of outside groups that could be impactful for our field; we’d be arrogant to think that we don’t need “outsiders” and their wisdom, talents, and resources. Seminaries, publishers, denominations, conferences, and all sorts of other parachurch ministries can all benefit us – if they choose to.

But how they do is much more important than whether they do it.

So one way we can help our field is by helping successful, useful bridges get built between these outside groups and the work we’re doing on campuses.

Take this week’s Catalyst Conference for example. By combining what I’ve experienced at the Catalyst Conference in the past WITH what I’ve learned about college ministers’ needs and wants, I’ve been able to build a “forum-within-a-conference” that hopefully serves college ministers really well this week! That’s building a bridge!

But not only that, I’ve gotten the chance to work with various Cohort sponsors. And as I have connected with these outside groups, I’ve done what I can to help them understand us – college ministers – as an audience. I want the giveaways they send, the advertising they provide, and the connections they make to be as effective (for us AND them) as possible!

When it comes to a seminary, we want their training for college ministers to be solid. If it’s a publisher, we want them to produce things that are useful and relevant. At a conference, sure we want more sessions that we college ministers can use… but we also want those sessions to be strong.

It’s not enough just to ask provocative questions or to help groups see the differences between youth ministry, college ministry, and young adult ministry. If and when these groups decide to connect with the field of College Ministry, we want to help them do that well. How can we do that?

  • Encourage those groups to spend time getting to know our field.
  • Give them examples of things they need to know… and also ways they might be less effective than they could be.
  • Point them toward experts who understand our field well – and especially those who have connected with a wide range of different college ministries. (I’m very glad to help groups in this way, but others – especially state, regional, or national staff – are great for this, too.)
  • Remind them that college ministers serve in a rather unique field – in many ways, we’re like foreign missionaries. So they’re going to need some unique tactics and some unique products in order to serve us best.

And that’s where the two-pronged effect of this strategy comes in. Not only do we help outside groups in connecting with us, we also end up on the receiving end of better resources, better services, and better impact!

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