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I’m no expert on delegation, neither an expert in understanding nor experience. But I want to be better.

One thing I’ve learned is that quality delegation will nearly always hurt, at least for a while. If you’re only delegating to student leaders the very parts of your campus ministry that

  1. you hate doing
  2. the students will do the same as you would

…then you’re at the bottom rungs of the delegation ladder. That’s fine and all, and it’s good you’re saving yourself some time and energy and giving them “at bats” in execution.

But you’re training ministers (whether they’ll ever be paid for it or not). They need at-bats on strategy, on actual leadership, on decision-making, and even on delegation themselves. For your benefit and (perhaps even especially) their benefit, consider loosening the reins on areas students might do differently than you would. Assign them the chance to come up with strategy, then actually let them run that out. If it’s obviously terrible for reasons they don’t understand, fine, maybe redirect before it even gets off the ground.

But otherwise, you’ll have to face some anxiety while you wait for their strategy to play out.

The same is true for delegating leadership, delegating speaking, delegating ministry functions (like setting up for Large Group Meeting or making a video), and so on. If it doesn’t hurt you to delegate, you’re probably not delegating enough.

There’s still a lot of meat left on the bone of this semester, and among other things, that means you’ve got room to adjust your student leadership roles and structure in meaningful ways. I’ve written about this opportunity before, so here you go:

You’ve heard the Good to Great principle of getting the right people on the bus, then into the right seats. The latter describes making sure everyone on the team is in the best possible position (for them and for the organization).

Are your leaders – from the ones leading ministry teams, to small group leaders, to musicians, to interns – maximizing their potential in the role they’ve got? For each person, is this role their “best and highest use”? Or is there a different role they’d really be better in – whether it’s because they’re “underperforming” where they are, or (hopefully) because they’d be even more excellent in another spot?

You don’t have to wait for the usual “leader selections period” to make the change. And the time remaining this semester provides a good chance to experiment.

Switching people’s “seats” should always be on the table (any time of year), always worth considering, and often worth doing. Sure, a small group will be sad if their leader needs to move out (or their time gets divided with a new role). And yes, there will be a learning curve for the new guy working the sound board or leading your evangelism team. But you have to be open to this, and brave enough to do it when the opportunity arises.

For Valentine’s Day, a past post assessing the relationships and romances that develop within your college ministry…

We college ministers need to talk plenty about “love and relationships” – those things are on our students’ minds, they trip up plenty of Christian students, they provide a chance to run counter-cultural to the campus, and they’ll lead to the life-changing choice of a spouse either in college or afterwards. So I figured I’d spend some posts talking about college students and romance. (Find the whole series here.)

Here’s the first post in the series: evaluating your ministry through the Great Couples Assessment.

One interesting way to assess your ministry is along this unique line: the kinds of romantic couples it’s producing. These questions are worth asking – even if there are different “right” answers (because campus ministries are different from each other).

1. When romantic couples emerge within your college ministry, are they awesome? A healthy college ministry will tend to produce healthy couples, and couples that exemplify the very things the ministry celebrates. Do you and other students enjoy being around the couples your ministry produces? Are those couples healthy, or are they full of red flags?

2. Is your campus ministry really good about celebrating romance, relationships, marriage, etc.? Sometimes campus ministries aren’t even good at supporting couples, let alone celebrating God’s work in bringing people together!

3. Do solid Christians within your college ministry regularly build romances with each otherHow this one relates to healthy college ministry is a bit more complicated. But if you’re not seeing couples emerge from within your ministry (and especially if you are seeing students enter into relationships regularly with Christian students outside your ministry), it’s at least worth asking Why that’s the case.

Are you providing opportunities for awesome men of God to meet awesome women of God? Is your ministry the kind of ministry that even attracts those awesome people – both men and women? Is there room – even alongside the accompanying awkwardness – for students to build friendships, and eventually more, with others in your ministry?

Related to this is the issue of offering gender-specific vs. co-ed opportunities. Read where I wrote about that – including some great comments from you guys!

4. Do people get married? Some might presume that a strong college ministry will indeed produce lots and lots of marriages, while others would recognize that marriage-immediately-after-graduating really isn’t the norm anymore. But I think we have to imagine that within a college ministry with a good number of students, we would likely be seeing the occasional marriage produced. If not, it’s probably worth asking Why – even if in the end, we decide we’re right where we need to be.


So there you have it. Four questions. As you answer them, simply consider what the answers in your ministry should be… and then what they actually are. Ministries will be different, but I think these things are worth examining!

But what do you think?

(Continue the series here.)

This week I’m exploring ways to help students take seriously the opportunity to invite others into your college ministry.

“Recruiting” (or whatever we call it) is clearly a major part of just about any college ministry. And it should be: You have the chance to intersect with students’ testimonies (like I discussed yesterday). And while you’ll have up years and down years when it comes to attendance, drawing new people is a constant need when students leave after only a handful of years. People fuel the ministry, allowing you to reach more people.

With that importance in mind, though, another key to taking recruiting seriously is this:

As staff and students recruit, the top goal must remain impacting individual lives, followed by building the impactful ministry.

A danger exists here. College students (and their leaders) can easily slip into focusing MORE on the “volume” side of recruiting than on the potential for impact of the very person I’m talking to right now, or who’s reading our advertisement, or who has shown up on this night. And it’s all the more difficult because hoping to draw a “critical mass” of students isn’t a bad goal. It just can’t be the aspect that catches imaginations the very most, or receives most of the attention, when it comes down to it.

As you look at the way you promote recruiting – especially in August/September, but also year-round – do you present it more as “seeking lost sheep” or as “sowing seed in the field,” so to speak? Both are great, and both are wise. But the former should touch our heart, even while we constantly consider the value of the latter.

This is a repost from yesteryear, but incredibly timely.

I’ve heard Tim Elmore encourage college ministers not only to work in their college ministries but also on their college ministries.

At this point in the semester, one of the most valuable “Frideas” I can offer is this:

Audit. Everything.

I remember once sitting across from a couple of college ministers – one with a detail-oriented personality and one with an outgoing, “action”-oriented personality. I suggested that they make an enormous list of every facet of their college ministry and evaluate how well each facet was really doing its job. (Their ministry really did need it.)

And I remember how crestfallen the second guy was. Walk through every portion of our ministry, little and big, to make sure it’s accomplishing what we want it to? That certainly didn’t sound like a lot of fun to him – or very “productive,” I’m sure.

But it’s vital.

When’s the last time you injected this level of quality control? Would you be okay knowing that 50% of your ministry’s activity was only 50% effective? I wouldn’t be.

I’m pretty regularly amazed at how much we undervalue careful (even tedious) evaluation of our own ministries, and how often college ministers can be satisfied simply with the generally positive reviews they get from the students most like themselves (and maybe their spouses!).

As I’ve said before, I believe one of the lines separating “okay” campus ministries and great ones is right here: Time and effort spent working on campus ministries, not simply in them. A careful audit is a necessary part of that process.

As I continue placing “pebbles in your shoe,” I’m hoping to bug you – just a little bit – with some brief questions to get you thinking about the new semester. And this one is particularly simple… but potentially profound.

How do your locations – or maybe you only have one – affect your ability to reach the whole of campus? Of course, I’m not talking only about your Large Group Meeting, but any “access points” or front doors you might make available to students, either regularly or occasionally.

Even on a small campus, geography matters, because students’ traffic patterns matter. But certainly on a big campus, a group that meets on the south side may not even be known by north-siders, let alone attended regularly. And the effect is even greater for those ministries that meet entirely off-campus… or conversely, for off-campus students who are asked to come on-campus.

So that’s today’s pebble to get you thinking: How could you expand your access points, help students come from awkward geographies, or otherwise work with the geographical reality?

As I continue placing (small) pebbles in your shoe, hoping to give you something to think about as the new semester approaches…

I want to ask: Have your students caught your vision for church involvement?

College ministers – just like all other Christians – can differ on what “biblical church involvement” looks like. But I don’t know if I’ve ever encountered a college minister who says they’re not hoping for students to be intentionally involved in church. For some college ministers, their conviction is that students simply need to show up on Sunday (and participate in corporate worship). For others, a much deeper level of church engagement seems prescribed. And I’m sure plenty fall in between the poles.

But my question today is… Whatever your conviction for your students is, is the flock you’ve got responding to that conviction?

If they’re not… or you’re not sure… then something probably needs to be done (either to make that call clearer, find out why they’re not engaging, or figure out how to figure that out).

Sorry for the lack of promised “pebbles in your shoe” this week! I’m sputtering to the end of 2017 after the happy birth of our second kiddo – and quite the year at work. But I hope to resume with a few pebbles after taking next week off. Merry Christmas!

What’s the best way you can welcome old students back after the break, reconnect their relationships with each other, remind them of how God moved last semester, and “start where you left off” rather than “start over”?

I’m asking, not telling.

That’s the pebble I want to leave in your shoe today, encouraging you to spend time architecting the beginning of second semester. This is worth your brainstorming, your analyzation, your purposeful plotting of major purposes followed by structures that actually attack those goals.

Now would be a great time of your semester to check up on students’ church involvement: especially freshmen, but anyone could find their churchmanship waning at any point in college.

And this is applicable even if you run a church-based ministry or collegiate church. (Are those students involved in a healthy way?)

It’s easy for college ministers to say they care about church involvement, but if it’s never a topic of conversation – and a topic of accountability – then it’s probably not an actual priority. On the other hand, if you do “make a big deal about church,” you’ll remind students that, yes, this is a priority for each semester and season of their lives.

In my current role, I work hard to get church people to find their “fit” for serving others. Obviously, finding a place to impact others, where passions and spiritual gifting and strengths and schedule, is a great goal for every Christian – even if we all learn along the way that sometimes “getting done what’s needed” may be our calling in the moment, too.

But the setup of many college ministries probably aids students in exploring the latter (doing necessary things) a lot more than the former (finding their fit). Even student leadership structures that offer a diversity of roles may “lock students in” to a particular path their Sophomore year. They’re small group leaders, then leaders of small group leaders… or they serve on the tech team, then they lead the tech team… And so on.

But do you think students gain new insight about passions/gifts/strengths during their college years? Shouldn’t this be a season when they (1) get to explore options, and (2) figure out their “best and highest use” for impacting others?

You’re not necessarily called to make a new leadership position for every student, positions that are as unique as the students that populate them. But I can also say that one of the “output goals” for college ministry should probably be students knowing their leadership bent, knowing their strengths, knowing their spiritual gifts… and having at least an inkling of ways they might be deployed in their “best and highest use” for years to come. But discipling in those things will require some sort of structure aligned around that goal.

So somewhere, somehow, college ministries need options and flexibility enough for leadership disambiguation along the way. How can you start students on the path to their unique “good works prepared beforehand”?

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Welcome to Exploring College Ministry

After ministering to college students for 8 years, I've spent the last 6 years trying to help push our whole field forward. This meant, among other things, a yearlong road trip, an e-book (Reaching the Campus Tribes), exploring 250+ campuses, consulting, writing, speaking, and more. I love any opportunity to serve college ministers or others who want to reach college students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.



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