early birds, be wise!

Yesterday, I wrote about my hope for more groups to involve themselves with campuses and campus ministries. (See that here.) This might mean a focused parachurch ministry aiming for a specialized collegiate impact, a publisher recognizing just how far a college ministry / college student strategy could take them, or even a ministry that already focuses on collegians being strategic as it approaches new campuses.

The post below, edited from something first published a couple of years ago, speaks to the need for wisdom in this endeavor. Sadly, lots of efforts have proven less fruitful than they could have!

There is an awful lot of opportunity for outside groups and ministers to jump into our collegiate world: providing resources, gathering ideas, lending their expertise on certain issues, and so on. Impact could be enormous and widespread.

For now, our need for this kind of help far outweighs what’s actually been offered so far. So since there remains a vacuum, there’s an enormous chance for “the early bird to get the worm.” In a big way.

In other words,

vacuum + growing concern for collegiate impact = wide-open opportunity

But I’ve noted a corollary before, as well:

vacuum + growing concern – deep understanding = big possibility of wasted effort (or even damage)

The truth is, I’ve already seen “early birds” swoop into our mission fields without the wisdom, contextualization, or familiarity-with-collegiate-ministry that’s required. That’s sad, because often these groups are left with the impression that campus ministry isn’t worth engaging… when in fact they just didn’t know how best to engage it. Great motives, but the vehicles were lacking.

Not all that glitters is gold… Not all that gets blogged… or gets published… or gets preached in a seminar… or seems like it really should work… or bears results in one location… is gold for a nation of campuses. (Of course, some efforts are golden – I’ve seen great and wonderful things all over the country!)

One day, a developed field of Collegiate Ministry will be much better at “peer review” and telling the outside world how to best connect with us. Similar to those considering foreign missions, American Christians will be sensitive to the fact that any involvement in college ministry (whether “on the ground” or in supporting roles) is a delicate business, a grand responsibility, a noble calling that we should nobly hesitate to join.

I wrote a while back (with the help of Jurassic Park) about being careful as we approach the task of reaching college students. Today’s post is more a call for hope and prayer that all early birds be wise – and for us each to work in our own contexts (and even on our own selves) to ensure that’s the case. The good news is, the early birds that are wise will find plenty of fruit. Or worms.

It’s not exactly a worm, but I did take that banana slug pic at the school that claims it as its mascot, UC Santa Cruz.


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