when mad libs don’t matter

Yesterday, I outlined (at length) the Unplanned Mission Trip, an original idea that’s one of my favorites – and one I got to try with a group a few years ago. We called our version the “Mad Libs eBay Road Trip,” and it was a blast. (As linked yesterday, you can read the story from that trip here.)

But that episode will also remind me forever of a vital truth for what we do as campus ministers: Methods only matter when they match particular purposes.

You see, this was one method I dreamed up at some point earlier in my ministry career. Then that school year (2006-2007), as Spring Break drew nearer and I was hoping to take our fledgling college ministry on a mission trip, it became really tempting just to take that fun idea and plug it in. It would be fun. It would probably seem “successful.” Why not just “go with it” and see what happened?

But I have to take my shepherding role more seriously than that.

Even if the Unplanned Mission Trip was a great idea “in a vacuum” or “on paper,” did it match the actual purposes God had in mind… for our group… at that time?

I faced a crisis: Would I “go with my gut,” taking a chance on a truly good idea and praying for God to bless it? Or would I instead labor in prayer and thought, discerning first God’s purposes and then – and only then – deciding my method?

I’m so glad I took the time to ponder, pray, and strategize – and it definitely wasn’t easy to do that as apparent deadlines approached. In the end, it became clear that the Mad Libs eBay Road Trip fit several purposes for our ministry at that point – even more than a traditional mission trip would have. That certainly doesn’t mean our trip was perfect or that my decision was somehow “infallible” or anything. But the whole thing sure did seem to be purposeful, and I could get excited about that.

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