obama’s surprise and the decisions we shouldn’t make

I don’t know if you caught the Bill O’Reilly interview with Barack Obama before the Super Bowl on Sunday, but I was intrigued by one exchange. And, naturally, I tied it to what we do in campus ministry.

O’REILLY: “What is it about the job that has surprised you the most, that you weren’t prepared for coming in here?”

OBAMA: “I think that the thing you understand intellectually, but you don’t understand in your gut until you’re in the job, is that every decision that comes to my desk is something that nobody else has been able to solve. The easy stuff gets solved somewhere by somebody else. By the time it gets to me, you don’t have easy answers.”

O’Reilly noted that this meant “wave after wave of complicated problems,” to which the President agreed.

I really did find that answer fascinating. And it rings so true, doesn’t it? It makes sense for the President to only deal with the items that haven’t been solved by others.

But then it hit me: As college ministers, we actually may need to move a little closer to that.

We’re often on the opposite end of the spectrum, aren’t we? Many of us college ministers are handling nearly every issue, every concern that pops up. We don’t let student leaders, volunteers, or other staff handle set up for the Large Group Meeting or decide what snacks we’ll have at the Super Bowl Party.

Clearly, many college ministers don’t have the luxury of interns, associates, or even adult volunteers. But…

  • Even some ministers with staff or adult volunteers are delegating far too little.
  • We should all aim to raise up student leaders who are prepared enough to handle a major portion of the decisions and activities that make up our weekly ministry work.

I know everybody points to Exodus 18 and Jethro’s advice to Moses about delegating – but it was really good advice! We’re not nearly in the position the President is in, but many of us do need to push our ministries forward in the area of delegated responsibility. I know it means we’ll be left with mostly the complicated stuff… but it also means we’ll have time and energy for them!


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  1. Pingback: 10 final reads for campus ministry evaluation « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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