raising expectations #3: better brainstorming

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.

One of the ways we might raise expectations for our activities is by approaching any (or many) of our elements a little more creatively. I’ve posted multiple times on my favorite method for brainstorming creative approaches: what I call “exploring the edges.”

It’s an adaptation of Seth Godin’s “edgecraft.” This method truly provides a better way to brainstorm, an easy way for anybody to jump-start their creativity (regardless of their natural talent in that area). It’s also designed specifically to help us “tweak” the methods we’re already using… so it fits beautifully with what we’re talking about this week. (As I’ve written before, I encourage you to read Godin’s book Free Prize Inside, my personal favorite Godin book for application to campus ministry.)

The truth is, our usual approach to “brainstorming” doesn’t always work very well. The classic picture is of a group of leaders, sitting around a room, throwing out random ideas and hoping something will stick. While useful ideas are sometimes produced, I want to offer a method to produce ideas in a bit more purposeful way.

Here’s the basic idea, followed by posts that show how I flesh this out:

As we look at individual elements – a weekly worship time, our use of student leaders, the web site, etc. – we imagine various possibilities past the present “edges” of that idea. That means thinking new thoughts about the who of this activity, the what, the where, the when, and even the why.

So for each of those Ws, we ask questions like…

What if this who, what, etc., increased (involved more, got bigger, went further, was added to)? (“What if we studied a whole book of the Bible each week in small groups?”)

What if this part decreased (involved less, got smaller, stayed closer, was subtracted from)? (“What if our large group meeting only lasted 30 minutes?)

What would be the craziest thing we could do with this part? (“What if we took a surprise mission trip this weekend?”)

When we get to asking these questions (and more) for the who, what, where, when, and why of an activity, our brainstorms get channeled into some pretty useful (and creative) new ideas.

This is kind of tricky to explain, so if you’re at all intrigued and willing to practice, check out four specific applications of this method:

  1. Exploring the Edges, Applied: Using this method to tweak the standard campus ministry mission trip
  2. Exploring the Edges of “The Map-bringers”: Applying this method to a first-week-of-school idea to make it even more impactful
  3. College Ministry Dinner for 10: Applying this method to a community-building idea
  4. Explore the Edges of Your Year-to-Come: Applying this method to simply tweaking your standard activities in the upcoming year / semester / quarter

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