laying foundations: two potential objections

In the last two posts, I’ve written about preparing students NOW for where God is taking your ministry next semester. (The first specific application was helping them prepare spiritually.)

But already I’ve come upon two objections (in my own mind). And I think these pop up on other occasions in collegiate ministry, too.

Objection #1: Surprise is snazzier.

The first discomfort anyone might have about “previewing” the upcoming semester’s activities or theme might be that it feels less “exciting” than unveiling everything in the spring. In fact, some of your new directions could actually be a turn-off; you might rather students see them in action (or at least already have arrived at your ministry) before unveiling the plans.

So here are some thoughts on that:

  1. You don’t have to share everything. Think “movie trailer,” not “movie synopsis” – as we’ve seen, just about any movie trailer can make a movie look like a winner. So when you share, you can share like that. Further, students can be prepared for what’s coming without being totally clear on what’s coming – yesterday‘s encouragement to give them Bible passages to read, for example, doesn’t require that they know exactly why they’re meditating on these portions of Scripture.
  2. Most students are unlikely to be on the “edge of their seats” waiting to find out what the next message series is. An “element of surprise” in college ministry – except for times when you’re being really intentional about generating excitement this way – is probably far outweighed by the word-of-mouth and tilling-of-soil that can take place when you reveal (at least a little of) what’s coming.
  3. If you are nervous that the new direction might turn students off, that’s a good reason to make sure you’re going to be ready to cast that vision. Students can be turned off once you do reveal the plan, too. We should be in the business of casting vision – not just directing traffic – for our methods. So if you’re not able to “sell” your ideas now, how sure are you that you will be able to when the time comes? (Just something to think about.)

Objection #2: They won’t all prepare.

Another objection to foundation-laying is that not all your students will participate. You could give them Scripture to read, ideas to ponder, a request for feedback, etc…. and your response rate might be 12%. So is it worth it?

Yes, yes it is.

Of course, you have to think about the “I” (Investment) portion of “ROI” (Return on Investment). If laying foundations takes a lot of time, energy, or relational capital, it might not be worth it if only a few students participate. But I don’t think it usually would require much to lay foundations in the ways I’m discussing this week.

And here’s why it’s so likely to be valuable even if a small number engage: Because of another principle – the principle of Investing in Fruitful Fields. Those students who are willing to prepare for what’s coming are the kinds of students you want to invest in most. Just like a leader-developing Bible study or a freshman recruiting booth is worth “extra” energy because of the dividends they can pay, so providing more for students who are willing to engage will grow students who are particularly attuned to growth.

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