As I noted, last week I was immersed in two different conferences – which means, of course, that I had two chances to learn some college ministry principles – not because these were “campus ministry conferences” per se, but because we can always be learning about this field.

So that’s the direction I’ll likely be blogging this week.

One thing addressed at my first conference – the Church Leaders Conference here in Dallas – was building a culture that includes fun. A speaker introduced the topic onstage, and then he challenged the church teams to play a game together that night… with the losers returning the next morning to spin the Wheel of Consequences.

For some church teams, this was quite new.

But while that might be an obvious topic for some church teams, it seems weird to encourage college ministers and college ministry teams to “make sure they’re having fun” too. But the truth is, not all college ministries have been as intentional about this aspect of community-building as they could have been – either among staff/leaders or within the ministry as a whole.

Intentional is the point.

Back when Cru was still “Campus Crusade,” I wrote about “fun” being a hallmark of their ministry (typified by their Winter Conference):

One of Cru’s hallmark strengths, from what I can tell, is the preponderance of fun in its chapters. I’ve written before about this being something the other branches can learn from campus-based ministries – but even among those ministries, Crusade certainly seems to be one that places a high value on fostering a Culture of Fun.

Of course, that showed up at Winter Conference. School pride was on display, the emcee-gal was full of dry humor, a crazy monkey-suited fellow roamed about, students and leaders seemed to share true camaraderie inside and outside of official activities, and the atmosphere itself “felt” really lively – that final point being the most noticeable difference between the average Cru chapter I visit and some other ministries.

(Read my additional Cru reflections here)

In the post I linked there (which I’d highly encourage you to read), I noted several ways “fun” was popping up during the course of my Yearlong Road Trip. Then I concluded:

So maybe for some of us…, having fun together – even beyond pre-planned “fellowship activities” – might be a shot-in-the-arm for our own ministries. And for some of our students, this can be a chance to fulfill their God-given purpose of bringin’ joy to others through humor, creativity, and other applications of their personality.

Can you over-do the “fun thing”? Sure! We’re all trying to fight the caricature of “just-pizza-parties” college ministry.

But you can under-do fun, too, right?

(Read more here)

But even before that, just two months in to that crazy year of exploration, I was already noticing that there’s a spectrum in our field on this issue:

Whenever you expose yourself to multiple ministries of the same type, you’re gonna notice contrasts between them. … On this trip, I’ve seen some ministries really “make room” for joy in abundance. I’ve also seen ministries that almost seem to aim for general gloom, in the name of spirituality or wisdom or whatever. And others, not quite as bad, simply miss opportunities to enjoy life with their students (who, believe it or not, can occasionally be tempted to be too serious). Just something we can all think about – and something I’m learning about on this trip.

(Read that post here)

So again, while some of this may be no new revelation for you, other college ministries really aren’t as intentional in this area as they could be. Or some ministries might be producing fun for the general membership, but serving with them (as a leader or a staff member) isn’t nearly as “fun” as it could be.

But the latter may be even more important. Because the bonds and community you’re building among staff, volunteers, and student leaders is vital to all the rest of it – not just for having fun, but in all the ways you hope to lead your students.