Professionalism is about being respected for the work that you do, being acknowledged for the work that you do, and being accountable for the work that you do.
This quote comes from a public education reformer in Rhode Island.
As I seek to help push our own field forward, the first two items in her list are no-brainers. Of course we want to be much more respected for the work we do and much better acknowledged for the work we do. (I’m not sure I know all the differences between being “respected” and “acknowledged” in Rhode Island public ed, but in our field, I’d guess the latter might involve things like better funding, better understanding of our work, and recognition of college ministry as a valuable resource within greater Christian ministry.)
But the third idea – the idea of being held accountable – is also part of what it means for our field to move forward.
This will, of course, be largely through evaluation of individual college ministries. On this score, I’ve observed a rather mixed bag – and even those in organizations that have built strong evaluative tools, I’m not sure we are widely open to objective evaluation from outside our own ranks. But even that’s part of being “accountable.”
This will also mean “peer review” of our attempts to teach and train – through speaking, books, blogs. “Peer review” happens most naturally on blogs, of course, but it certainly doesn’t happen enough. We need to find productive ways to question inaccuracies, unhealthy practices, and faulty preconceptions. We need to challenge each other’s assumptions.
I’m not sure we’re at the place where that kind of questioning – along with really strong book reviews, healthy debates, and other forms of “peer review” – can take place easily. But hopefully our field will get there, because not all that gets attention in our field these days is wise. (We know that, right?)
I look forward to that day. I think we all should look forward to that day.
Deborah Gist, that Rhode Island education reformer, went on to say,
I meet teachers in our state all the time who are more than ready to be held accountable for their work and are very proud of the results that they’re able to see…
I think that’s true for us. I think there are many college ministers who are proud of their work (and should be!). Although in our field – underdeveloped as it is – I think some of our best college ministers will be surprised to find out that they’ve got something special going on. When we don’t have good accountability structures, it’s hard to know if you’re doing great just like it’s hard to know if you’re doing poorly.
This is all just a riff off the article I linked, but it’s definitely something that’s on my mind. Let’s push college ministry forward – not just in being respected, not just in being acknowledged, but in being held accountable, too.