creating collaborative environments: one great way

At the College Ministers Cohort during Catalyst, our Saturday session made use of one method I’ve seen to be extremely effective to help college ministers collaborate – even across lines of region, denomination, organization, and branch of college ministry.

(It’d be easy to skip over this, but it really is a fantastic method for any time you’ve got a bunch of college ministers together.)

At our Saturday session, we had people from several different states, from three different branches – church-based, campus-based, and institutional, and with all sorts of levels of experience. FCA was represented, as was the SBC. Christy Ridings from Belmont’s University Ministries was there, and so were some national leaders from CCO and Impact Campus Ministries. We had “lifers,” and we had recent grads who brought their very (near-)collegiate energy with them. And as expected, they all came from extremely diverse campuses – from Boise State to Penn State.

So how could all these different kinds of college ministers walk away with useful ideas – and at the same time feel like they had some things to offer the rest of us?

It just takes a whiteboard.

This method is simple enough. At the beginning of our 5-hour Saturday session, I asked everybody to help me list ideas (from Catalyst) that could connect with college ministry. What we came up with is in the picture above!

After that, the rest of the day was just working topic-by-topic. Not in order, but choosing the one that seemed like a good next topic. In many cases, the moderator (that was me) picked as seemed best, but the next topic can be crowd-determined, too.

Other settings where I’ve seen this used, the topic list was even less “structured” – we’d put whatever general topics struck our fancies. And throughout the event, we’d add to the list – in the breaks, between sessions, etc.

When a topic comes up, ideas are solicited… from everyone. So if the topic is “Books you’re reading,” anybody with something useful to say gets to add to the discussion. On one topic – perhaps “Using the first 3 weeks well – an attendee might find themselves offering a new idea they just discovered. On the next topic – perhaps “Helping students get involved in local churches” – that same attendee might find themselves furiously writing notes as they listen to the brilliance of several others.

On one topic, a teacher. On the next, a learner. No matter if you’ve been involved in college ministry for two decades or two months.

This is a method that uses the awkward diversity of our contexts and our activities to our advantage. For one thing, it’s a method that recognizes that we don’t have “Best Practices” nearly as much as we have “Good Ideas.” And if you’ll give it a try – the next time you’re around a bunch of college ministers – I bet you find it works wonders.

In a follow-up post, I’m going under the hood of this method.


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  1. Pingback: joining and growing: more thoughts from a conference junkie « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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