I introduced my wild Road Trip 13 in the last post – the trip in which I hurled myself to various corners of the country to study 10 Chi Alpha chapters.
A deeper (rather than wider) dive into specific collegiate work provides special sorts of insights, so that’s what I’m trying to share this week (as sinus infection fun keeps sidelining me at times).
So I continue…
Strong Ministries Aren’t Always Big
It was highly impressive that Dennis Gaylor, then the national head of Chi Alpha, chose the particular ministries for my journey that he did. Once I’d visited all those chapters, it became clear that Gaylor wasn’t just interested in telling the stories of the BIGGEST Chi Alpha ministries (and in case you’re unfamiliar, there are some enormous ones). Instead, he wanted to share not only about geographical diversity, but also about strong ministries that weren’t in every case big.
So while I did make my way to the huge UVA Chi Alpha and the dual-campus, dual-state XA at North Dakota State / Moorhead State, I also explored the (much smaller) Cornell and Texas A&M Corpus Christi ministries.
I’m not one of those guys who says “numbers don’t matter,” because we should examine what seems to be successfully reaching people. But I’m also not thrilled about the fact that college ministers (and other Christian ministers) are far more likely to learn from big ministries than they are from small, really strong ones… even though most of us are more likely to build the latter than the former.
National Development Matters
Through this whole experience, I came to really appreciate the way Chi Alpha has taken a strong “national learning” approach. This project wasn’t their first to collect the work of varied Chi Alpha expressions, in fact. As far as I know, they’re still the only national ministry or denomination that has released a “reader” on building a strong college ministry – Reach the U – written by various college ministers from throughout the Chi Alpha family.
Likewise, their “Campus Missionary in Training” program seems to be a beautiful plan. Those former collegians who decide to jump into college ministry have the opportunity to intern at a strong Chi Alpha chapter – which may or may not be the one they just graduated from. (Personally, I’d tend to vote for interning at a different college, because… breadth.)
In other words, there’s a history of not only appreciation for the collective wisdom of the national ministry, but of active participation in disseminating that wisdom through trainees and in print. I’d love to see more and more campus ministries follow suit.