For years, I’ve been recommending the “crowdsourced collaboration” method for college ministry conferences. These “whiteboard sessions” have been some of the most profitable opportunities for me as a college ministry learner, as well as being really fun to emcee on occasion. (You can read all about the method here, and read why it’s so helpful here.)
But there’s another method I haven’t promoted quite as much but love equally (or more). I think it’s something worth trying – and you don’t need a conference – or me – to do it. You will, however, need a college ministry expert (and that doesn’t just mean someone who’s experienced, but someone who has seen multiple contexts and ministries in action).
The goal of this type of “consultation” is for the “expert” simply to serve as a sort of staff-member-on-loan. You (or you and your team) sit down with him or her, ready to discussion whatever topic is most pressing: recruitment, small groups, planning for the long haul, connecting with other college ministries – anything, really. You share what you need to about your ministry (to give the expert some context).
And then you simply discuss.
The job of your expert isn’t to tell you what to do (if he’s really an expert, he won’t assume he knows exactly what you should do). Instead, he offers specific ideas of what he’s seen, or what he’s tried. He throws out what he might do or try in your situation. Much of the time, he’s just asking thought-provoking questions or noticing “holes” in your approach or potential tweaks… the kinds of things an outsider is able to ask or notice or suggest.
And in 30 minutes or an hour, you receive a wealth of “aha!” moments and “huh!” moments and notes on what to try next.
The whiteboard sessions work well because lots of college ministers – from various contexts – get the chance to share their collective wisdom. The “brainstorming sessions” work because one college minister serves as a “funnel” for the experiences of many to offer focused feedback, ideas, or questions on a topic of the college minister’s choosing.