raising expectations #1: the value of variety

Today (if all has gone well), I’m in Ethiopia with 20 young adults, partnering with local churches through e3 Partners. So this week, I’m re-posting five entries that touch on the idea of “raising expectations” for what we do in our campus ministry. For all the posts (including last Friday’s introduction), click here.

Early on in this blog, I wrote a whole series on how Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night show both reflected and reached Millennials (our audience) in a unique way. The seventh entry in that series touched on his show’s variety, and I followed that post up with some pondering of what “eclectic college ministry” might look like:

1. “Loose” or shifting schedules for regular activities.

How necessary is the exact schedule we keep? Take the large group meeting, for example: Where do the music, teaching, announcements, and other items fit? Could some items be longer or shorter on occasion? Moved? Left out?

The principle of eclecticism might be applied to other regular events in a college ministry, too (although the benefit of traditions has to be weighed). Or student-led small groups could practice a shifting schedule when they meet – and it might be interesting to see what students leaders themselves think about “going eclectic.”

If we did try this out, we might (as a bonus) find that event-specific purposes are accomplished by changing our schedules event-to-event. So once we shed our “agenda-pendence,” we would be free to adjust our elements for maximum benefit.

2. Inserting “regular randomness.”

What if we simply aimed for one “eclectic addition” to each event? For many college ministries, this is somewhat accomplished in large group meetings already – through quirky announcements, skits, or other mid-meeting variety.

And some college ministers do this within their teaching more than others. A mid-teaching interview, testimony, video, or other illustration can add a bit of an eclectic feel.

3. Choices and changes.

One last pathway to eclecticism might be providing a variety of opportunities through the semesters or years. For instance, offering different types of small groups presents an eclectic experience for students across time, as does the opportunity to enjoy several topics or teachers across 2 or 3 years. It’s also possible that many students will respond better to short teaching series rather than semester-long ones.

And while we usually assume anything that “works” should be kept, what if some of our student ministry teams, service projects, and leadership positions were more dynamic? Might there be some benefit – to our students and our ministry – if they had the chance to try their hand at a few different roles during their collegiate career? (And might some of our programs become more excellent if they lay fallow every once in a while?)

Ducks all over the place

Believe me when I say that this isn’t my style, and I’m honestly just brainstorming here.

I would prefer my ducks all-in-a-row, my ministries master-planned, and a clear vision for the next several semesters (if not the next several decades!). Nor can I claim that embracing eclecticism is going to be best for every – or any – ministry. But the truth is, college ministry is far messier than many of us prefer already.

Eclecticism might just be one way to embrace that messiness! And I know this is at least one characteristic of the generation we serve. So it’s possible we should follow that trail for a bit, to see how God’s purposes for our students might be met through a bit of eclectic programming. If you get a chance to try it out, I’d love to know what you find.

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