breadth of exposure makes all the difference

Warning: This post has LOTS of anonymous characters in it. I’m trying to be wise and nice. Sorry if it’s a little annoying.

I was on a conference call a couple of weeks ago with a top leader of one of the largest college ministries in the country. He’s working on a ministry project outside the arena of collegiate ministry. One thing he said on the call was particularly fascinating.

As he connects with others who have developed strategies around this topic, they often seem to think that they’ve got THE answer for the rest of the Christian world. He knows differently, of course, because he’s seeing all sorts of models play out around the country. But since those guys are in their individual cities and don’t know about each other… it’s easy for them to assume. So they’re plugging away, not realizing that people are coming up with different answers that “work” just as well (or better).

Story number 2:

Last week, I had the chance to chat with a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. We discussed various college ministry books that have been written through the years.

I noted the same problem as the guy in Story #1 did: I’ve run into plenty of collegiate ministers who really don’t realize how specific their own experience is. And yet they offer to others – nationally or locally – some methodologies that just aren’t as transferable as they believe them to be.

The major leader I mentioned in Story 1 was generous: He noted that God could be using that “This-is-the-Answer” mentality to encourage these guys to work hard in their own contexts. I appreciate that gracious approach. We do need to be gracious with those who assume too quickly that their experience equals expertise (and we’ve all done that ourselves, I’m sure).

But we can still be picky about how much weight we give their ideas. I’ve learned to lean on those who have seen plenty of contexts (and learned from those contexts), and who recognize that context really matters in the world of college ministry.

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