what we expect to hear

As our college ministry semesters move from First Weeks to Meaty Middle, we run the risk of expectations muddling the impact of our ministries.

A quick story.

I recently heard a guy share about a ministry he has to local immigrant and refugee populations here in Dallas. As he told about their work, he described the massive pockets of internationals who live in areas like “Chinatown” or “Little Italy” here in Dallas.

He also brought to the stage three Burmese teenagers he had built relationship with. He knew they, too, live in an area surrounded by others of their ethnicity. So he asked the Burmese girl what they call that area of Dallas.

She said something (without a microphone), and he responded to make sure he heard it right: “Wal-nu-hil-le?

She repeated herself, and this time he got it: “Oh, Walnut Hill Lane…” The audience roared with laughter (for a long time!).

So what’s the tie-in to our campus ministries? That guy misheard his Burmese friend because he was expecting something very different – something in Burmese, perhaps, or at least not a plain ol’ street name (even if it’s one of the major streets in Dallas).

Likewise, we’ll run the risk of miscommunication OR missing impact opportunities because of what we might expect in the weeks to come:

  • We expect every new student to be a freshmen.
  • We expect nobody to want to join a small group after the first month.
  • We expect Christian freshmen all to be at the same maturity level.
  • We expect students to be roughly who they were in semesters past – our leaders to still be following Jesus closely, the immature to still be immature, the whole group to be pretty similar to where it was in May.
  • We expect the campus’s needs to be the same as last year.

…and so on.

The problem is, if we fashion our ministries along these lines, we’re going to miss “hearing” people as well as we could. We won’t have the impact we might have, simply because our expectations kept us from taking each person and each semester on their own terms.


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