(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.