under the hood of the crowdsourced collaboration method

(On an unrelated note, go Rangers.)

On Thursday, I briefly described the most effective college minister collaboration method I’ve seen. The gist of it is using a whiteboard (or big sheets of paper) to field topics for discussion, then working through those topics as seems best to the moderator or the audience.

In other words, both the topics listed and the topics discussed are “crowdsourced.” And that’s only one of the reasons this method turns out to be really useful.

It’s instructive to reflect on why this method works well – not just so we use it better, but even to realize some subtle truths about the field of college ministry.

1. One college minister doesn’t drive the conversation. College ministry is an area in which it’s very hard to be an expert on somebody else’s ministry. Because our contexts, practices, and levels of experience can be so diverse, you don’t want one dude calling the shots in group collaboration. If you do, you end up with too many topics that only help a narrow portion of the audience.

2. Topics arise that you wouldn’t have thought of. This works out two ways: Sometimes, we respond to a suggested topic with, “I’m surprised I didn’t think of that.” Other times, we respond with, “I never would have thought of that question.” Even the areas college ministers spend time pondering vary, so it’s not just the diversity of answers that helps, it’s the diversity of questions.

3. Diversity of answers. Of course, that diversity of answers does help. Quite a bit. As in yesterday’s Fridea about Social Justice, sometimes it’s far more helpful to walk away with several ideas to ponder / investigate… because later on, we need to determine what’s best for our ministry at this time.

4. Several topics. Because we’re all at different places in our ministries, it’s valuable to keep moving on topics. And not only so we don’t get bogged down with an uninteresting (to you, at least) topic. The really great thing is that it means in our time together, we’ll probably hit several topics in which you can learn something new. And we’ll hit several more in which you get to share your brilliance with the rest of us.

5. “Small” methods are discussed. In other forms of collaboration, we may only get around to talking about supposed “Best Practices” or especially well-established methods. In this method, all those things come up – but so do all sorts of “little” ideas. People are encouraged to speak up, even if they just have a small addition or a questionable ingredient to add to the stew of ideas.

6. “Experts” can learn from newbies. This method allows for a lot of learning from those who are relatively new at the work. Again – our field is diverse. It’s very likely that a newbie has stumbled upon some method he never realized would be valuable to a lifer – until it comes up in this kind of environment. And that happens all the more because of things (like technology) that newer college ministers often understand in better different ways than longtime college ministers do.

College ministry practices, contexts, and philosophies really do differ. It’s comparable to the diversity of foreign missions endeavors around the world. But despite that fact – and even because of that fact – this method may just allow any gathering of college ministers to collaborate in powerful ways.


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  1. Great post Benson, It’s great to see this written out since we last talked about it. I’m building up my network of Young Adult Pastors to begin meeting together monthly and I will definitely be using this as a guide.

    I had a thought though. I’d be interested in seeing how to use Facebook for for initial gathering of topics and then moderating what will be discussed at the next meeting. Do you think that would help?

  2. That could certainly work well – depending on how you do it, it might be nearly the same and just allow a growing list of topics on the Facebook site. On the other hand, it could make #4 and #5 tougher, and depending on how it’s moderated, #1 could be tougher, too.

    But I definitely think for what you’re talking about, a “running list” would be a great idea. Then you might consider announcing one (major AND widely applicable) topic for each meeting, but as time allows, jumping into a couple of others.

    The trickiest part, though, is the time. It’s going to be hard to cover more than one topic each time – which obviously isn’t terrible, but it just doesn’t get to take advantage of this scenario.

    Last thought: With Young Adult Ministry, my guess is that you’ll find it’s not as vital to use a method like this, since the settings are going to be somewhat less diverse than they would be for, say, all the college ministries in town. Certainly, churches themselves are different, and methodologies will be somewhat different. But even levels of experience – because modern young adult ministry is pretty new – may not be as diverse. As I noted a bunch in the post, it’s the diversity of situations that makes this fit so well with college ministry. There may be a variety of methods that work well for cross-ministry collaboration in young adult ministry; in fact, you might get ideas from those in youth ministry, since they’ve been doing this sort of thing for a long time.

    But I dunno. Whatever you find, I’ll be interested to hear how it goes!

  3. Pingback: creating collaborative environments: one great way « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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