what comes of connecting

I’m on my 15th multistate, college ministry-exploring road trip! (Details here.) So whenever I can write, I’ll be posting an “under the hood” look at what I learn and experience on these trips. Enjoy!

This morning I had great chats with two college ministers here at UNLV: Mattie Goins, director of InterVarsity’s chapter here, and Steve Timmons, head of the Christian Challenge ministry here (and the guy who brought me in to speak tomorrow). As usual, these college ministers were able to give me an amazing “insider’s” view of this campus – including the tricky, sticky efforts to reach it for the Lord.

I might post later in the week about the uniqueness of this Rebel tribe, once I’ve got time to get pictures posted. But what I wanted to list here were some of the interesting ideas today’s conversations left me with.

1. Why aren’t we all about planting college ministries on community colleges and other under-reached campuses? Mattie described efforts in her region along these lines, but people who are willing to stand up for reaching less “name brand” campuses are few and far between. That stinks.

2. I’d be intrigued to hear from ministries that are the ONLY Jesus-devoted org on their campus. It would be fascinating to hear the experiences and insights from those ministries that have no counterparts in college ministry reaching their particular tribe.

3. Short-lived church efforts are legion. This wasn’t news to me; in fact, there’s a small chunk of my book devoted to the topic. But a history of “turbulence” or “fragility” in church-originated college ministry work came up again today. Not so coincidentally, fixing this is a big focus of tomorrow’s seminars…

4. Come from abroad or learn broadly. I was also reminded of how helpful it can be to have college ministry staff that has experienced another campus. Too often our ministry worlds are way too small. If we do have limited experiences, then we’ve got to make up for it by learning others’ contexts all the more.

5. But… be local or get local. But Mattie reminded me of the flipside, too: There’s value in understanding Las Vegas and UNLV as she (a local and UNLV alumna) can. Outsiders sometimes don’t realize nuances that locals do. So for us who aren’t actually locals or alumni of our ministry campuses, we’ve got to do all that’s necessary to “get local” – learning our context beyond just surface measures, and loving our context as our very home.

6. Money. Needed. This came up with both ministers, too, but Steve described the recent vote to defund various college ministry work around the state of Nevada. (Southern Baptist ministry is, in many states, funded via churches collectively rather than through individuals.) For all of us, it’s worth considering alternates and additions to the funding we’re used to. My Books-to-Impact project is one way to help campus ministries do this, but I betcha there are many others we can come up with! Maybe it’s time to start trying.

By the way, this idea-generation happens in nearly every conversation I have with campus ministers – I’m left with something cool to ponder for our field, whether it’s something I’ve never thought about before or just something unique I haven’t considered for awhile. Asking good questions – and even moreso, just plain listening to a college minister talk about his or her ministry – yields a surprising bounty of ponder-able goodness!

Written from the Student Union of the University of Nevada – Las Vegas

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