At the local SMU campus, this is Week 2 of the school year. So that got me thinking about how we campus ministers spend time after the Big Start. We spend so much time preparing for the first week or two of school, and rightly so. What what should happen next? Just running off the steam of the Start?

This week, I’ll be looking at several practical ways you can maximize the entire semester with what you do in weeks 2, 3, and 4. If we’re going to be the best college ministers we can be, we can’t just focus on the START, but also on how we follow up that Start with some important work.

Before I get to the super-practical ideas over the next few days, I wanted to begin with a word about why this stuff matters.

It seems to be a common temptation among college ministers to focus on running plays instead of actually shepherding. In doing the former (simply “running plays”), we design our Mental Ministry Playbook from various sources:

  • Other college ministries we’ve led
  • Other college ministries we’ve participated in
  • Things we’ve heard about other college ministries doing
  • Things that have worked well (or just “worked”) for us in the past
  • Traditions and “standards” within our organization, denomination, or individual ministry
  • Our brainstorming process(es)
  • Just a vague understanding of “things a college ministry does”

(Sadly, I think that last one is a very common source.) Wherever our plays come from, we often simply run them – not because we’ve carefully determined that a particular method will help accomplish a particular purpose, but simply because “that’s what we do” or “students really like it” or “it brought a lot of fruit last time.”

The activity that “just running plays” keeps us from, however, is shepherding. Shepherds (of real sheep or of real people) are required to “note the condition of their flocks.” They have to think about not simply the needs of the year but the needs of the week. They have to recognize that some sheep are different from other sheep, that some days are different from other days, and that this whole process has to be rather “messy.” Because a well-oiled machine doesn’t work when the output (and the input) isn’t supposed to be the same.

I think what we do in Week 2 of our semesters (and Week 3 and Week 4) says a lot about where we are on this running-plays-versus-shepherding spectrum.

  • Are we evaluating how our best-laid plans actually seem to be working out?
  • Are we adjusting to the new, unforeseen realities on our campus?
  • Have we begun processing what this year’s crop of freshmen means to our ministry, now that we’re meeting them face to face?

Those issues – and several more – will be addressed practically this week. So if you buy into what I’m saying, stay tuned. If you don’t, stay tuned anyway. You might be surprised at how much can be accomplished in Week Two.

[Jump into the first post here, or see the whole series so far here!]