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I’ll be taking the week off for family time after the birth of our new son. See you later this month!

Jubilee Facebook CoverFateful days. Fateful seats.

Early in the yearlong road trip, I very purposely made my way down (after weeks in New England) to Orlando to attend Ivy Jungle, which at the time was the top-of-the-heap in pushing the field of college ministry forward. I even attended the pre-conference. And sitting next to me was a gal named Charity.

Charity worked for a college ministry I hadn’t heard of before (this was, after all, early in the road trip). And sadly, I had just left the region the ministry inhabits – the greater Northeast – so any future explorations of her ministry, the Coalition for Christian Outreach, would have to wait.

But by the end of Ivy Jungle, I was hooked, as I got to interact with her and other CCO members attending the conference. (They were also really friendly, which of course was a special kindness toward this lonely road tripper.)

And like I said, I was hooked. Why?

This was a ministry that majors in preparing students for their transition out. Specifically, the CCO focuses – alongside the “regular” discipleship found across the field of collegiate ministry – on connecting students’ vocation with their faith. On bringing all aspects of life under the Lordship of Christ – not just those portions of life we live outside of the “workweek.”

Not long after that – a year or two – the CCO honored me with an invite to share a seminar or two at the Jubilee Conference. Get this: At the time, they felt like their emphasis on every vocation being a spiritual calling had led them to overlook somewhat the fact that some students were, in fact, called to “vocational ministry.” (Wild, eh? Many college ministries have been known in the past for erring in the exactly opposite direction.)

What’s the Jubilee Conference? It’s the CCO’s annual collegiate conference, a gathering to expose students to more of what they’ve already been hearing: God’s involvement in all areas of life, in all fields of study. And though God had touched my heart with such things before, it was this visit that locked in these convictions more than ever before, with message after message, and through rubbing shoulders with plenty of people who actually lived this stuff out.

One of the most formative moments came on the van ride from the airport. (So I guess it was ironically another sovereign seating situation, just like at the Ivy Jungle preconference.) On that ride, I listened enraptured to the viewpoints of David Greusel, the lead designer of Minute Maid Park and PNC Park (home to the Astros and Pirates, respectively). He spoke of building ballparks from/through/by his faith, of PNC being his gift to the citizens of Pittsburgh (the city where Jubilee is held).

This little van-ride dose of vocational theology provided an infection I haven’t recovered from. (A great interview that catches his viewpoint can be found here, it seems.)

I would continue to be around the CCO and their great people, through additional road trips and college ministry gatherings. (I’d run into others who saw this piece of theology as vital, too.)

So though I may be like a collegian untimely born, the CCO has worked its magic with me like so many students actually within its fold. I’m sold. I’m sold on this whole “vocation-faith-intergration” thing, and because I’m drawn to apparent “gaps” in Christian ministry, I’m particularly intrigued at the opportunity to push Christendom forward here.

And so when my team at church began jumping in with both feet last year – with Acton University, Made to Flourish, Center for Faith and Work, et al. – it strengthened what had already been stirring in me, ever since those early encounters with the CCO.

All this to say (Yes, this has just been introduction), I’m excited to go back to Jubilee this week. In my role at my church, I’ll be scouting and observing and reminding myself about the opportunity to tie vocation to faith, as my team and I are learning more and more about this underserved dimension of ministry.

I can’t wait. Stay tuned for what I learn, because the CCO offers something for the church at large (which is why I’m going), and of course for their own field of college ministry too.

Sorry for the late notice, but the wife and I are on vacation this week. So I’m going to take the week off of blogging, too.

As always, you can enjoy old blogs using the categories – you just might find something awesome you’ve never thought about before!

Freebie: Among other things, I’m reading Switch by the guys who wrote Mad to Stick. I think I’m going to like it. But Made to Stick is a “modern classic” in my book – and radically useful for college ministers.

Many of you have just met summertime! Others are in Finals. And some of you – our Quarter System friends – are simply in the big, fat middle.

As for me and my house, we’re going to take a small break for the week. So enjoy perusing some recent posts (or the great Categories) on the left. And I’ll be back on May 19th!

-Benson

It’s been a long time since I’ve written any sort of personal update, but I’ve got two MAJOR changes a’coming in 2013.

Marriage! As you may have noticed on Facebook, God has brought me an amazing gal, Catherine! We hope to tie the knot in the late spring. We actually met way back in our sophomore year at Texas A&M – I even took her to a fraternity date party as friends – and then reconnected through church a couple of years ago. (In between, I learned the world of college ministry and she traveled the world…)

I can’t wait to make a home and have new adventures with my very best friend! And while Cate is not particularly a fan of stacks and stacks of college T-shirts, she is otherwise an awesome supporter of my work with college ministers around the country.

External Focus! As you may remember, I’d been hoping for a way to support myself a little better while continuing to serve Collegiate Ministry as much as I can. I’m thrilled to announce that my own church has asked me to come on board in a full-time capacity, starting in January.

I’ll be serving on what we call our “External Focus” team, which handles everything service / social justice / missions related, both locally and internationally. This area obviously dovetails with the campus ministry world already, so I’m excited to dive even more deeply into an area that’s so important to our field.

Meanwhile, I still look forward to speaking, writing, blogging, and otherwise serving College Ministry however I can. I’ll also be continuing with Books-to-Impact, which helps support me and college ministries (have you seen it?).

Thank you for all your support of me and my work. I don’t know all that God has for me in the years to come, but I’m extremely excited about these BIG steps. His portion for me is exciting indeed.

Update: Happy Memorial Day! Look for a new blog on Tuesday the 31st.

Friends,

Like many of you, I’m going to take a bit of a breather this week… or at least a blogging break. It should actually be a fairly busy week for me, especially as I set up the summer portion of my newest official Project to serve you guys. It’s called Books-to-Impact, and it’s a great way for any college ministry to raise funds or support causes. (I’ve mentioned it before.)

I’ll also be praying and thinking through some other facets of my ministry, and I’d be honored if you pray for me this week!

Meanwhile, if you’re hungry for some college ministry learnin’, use the week to catch up on posts you haven’t gotten to read, or check out the extensive archives. (I’d use Categories list on the left to find topics that will help most!)

Finally, if I can help you assess and brainstorm your campus ministry through a site visit, speak to a gathering of college ministers (or others who need to hear about college ministry), or serve you in-person in some other way this summer, let’s talk about it!

Otherwise, see you next week!

speaking and “consulting” in new york

Yesterday I flew up to Lima to serve as a speaker at Propel, the ministry leadership conference of the BASIC College Ministries. BASIC is a fellowship of church-based campus ministries mostly located in New York state, and I get the chance to share a whole bunch of key ideas from what I’ve learned.

On top of the seminars I’ll deliver, I also have the awesome chance to participate in some Catalytic Conversations. In eight 30-minute slots, I’ll sit down with the leader(s) of individual ministries to offer brainstorming, coaching, encouragement, or whatever the need of the hour (or half-hour!).

Please be praying for me and us. (I love college ministry conferences!)

visiting students is the bomb

One of the best – and most random – parts of this trip was getting to spend a couple of hours in Rochester with a student from Dallas! He’s been in my church’s college ministry during the summers, and now – right before he graduates – I got the very cool opportunity to see him within his own campus tribe, the prestigious Eastman School of Music up here in NY.

Remember, even if you’re a campus-based college minister, your students would love a visit when they’re away from you this summer – even just a lunch gathering in that city where several of them live, perhaps. And church-based college ministers have two groups they can visit: home-grown students who go away to school, and students who go to school locally but live elsewhere in the summer!

This is definitely a very cool way to love students (and to explore some other campus ministry settings while you’re at it!).

textbooks lead to money which helps with impact

Meanwhile, I’m excited to see how this season of Books-to-Impact has gone (as many schools finished their Finals this week). I know some college ministers are hesitant to get excited about something new like this, but things continue to look really good for this fundraising effort. I believe it could be helping dozens of college ministries to raise money for ministry or causes (or both!) over the next couple of years. If you haven’t taken a look at Books-to-Impact, I hope you will.

And please be praying that this round of Books-to-Impact work would be a huge financial blessing to the ministries involved (including my own!).

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Sorry for the extended hiatus here at Exploring College Ministry. Not only did I have all the normal Christmas festivities, I’m also neck-deep in the Trial Run I mentioned awhile back. It’s actually going really well, and I’m guessing this Project will be something that can help quite a few U.S. college ministries raise funds in the coming semesters.

But for now, it’s a Trial Run. And therefore rather secret, if you didn’t notice that already.

I hope your Christmastime and Winter Break have both gone really well. I hope your students’ Breaks are going well, too, whether they’re hanging with you, at home far away, or a little bit of both.

As you watch all these Bowl Games – did you see TCU??? – don’t forget that we’re lucky enough to have these lively places as our mission fields! Can you believe it? Maybe I’ll blog about that soon.

Speaking of blogging, I plan to be back next week. And I have a feeling this could be a neat year in this corner of the world… and I hope your corner has had an excellent 2011 already.

I appreciate that many of you like to stay updated on my ministry! And like to help! So here goes, with helpful headings:

T-shirts wanted: help me share the glories!

As you know, one of the coolest ways I get to share the glories of college ministry is via T-shirts! In fact, this year I’m wearing (and taking a picture of) a different shirt each day, often with some specific little reason for my “Campus Tribe of the Day” pics. (I just started Facebook album #2, because the first album is now full!)

I realized some of you might want to help me represent your awesome college(s). And it’s always very cool to get local “garb” from the many missionaries to the campus tribes. This isn’t just for fun – I truly consider it important.

So for those who might want to help in this weird way, I would love (and proudly wear) any size-Large T-donations you want to send! For decades to come, you’ll be helping me tell the story of God’s work among the campus tribes. And this year, you’ll also help me reach my goal of a different campus represented every single day.

If you’re interested in sending a shirt my way, just let me know. Of course, I can let you know if I already have a shirt from a particular school (though duplicates are never a problem!). And remember – I want to represent every college I can, so I love to get shirts from schools “off the beaten path,” 2-year schools, and other places where campus ministry is present OR needed!

site visits: use my experience!

All of a sudden, I’ve had several college ministries contact me about visiting! The goal would be helping evaluate their present works – and more importantly, discovering all their potential next steps! (These have been churches, but this can apply to any kind of college ministry.) As I’m putting together my Fall Calendar, I wanted to mention the opportunity here.

With everything I’ve seen around the U.S., I can examine a situation, help jump-start a new college ministry, or “fast-track” an existing ministry in an extremely unique and powerful way. In fact, I really feel like this may be a “sweet spot.” Exploring collegiate situations and generating ideas are two things I’ve done hundreds of times on my own; now I have the chance to do it for those who are helped by it.

So if you – or a ministry you know – might be interested, let’s talk. I want every college ministry to have the opportunity if they want it, so I keep things extremely affordable. And by hiring me, you’ll also be helping me continue to spend my time helping the field of college ministry thrive.

For a few more details on that AND other ways to hire me, click here.

speaking and collegiate weeking: travels!

This week, I have the marvelous opportunity to attend the training of some college ministers in Missouri, and I’ll be teaching a session and doing some major Q&A on Wednesday. It should be a blast! As always, I imagine at least one or two blog posts will come out of that time. (Have I mentioned that collegiate conferences are the best way to learn about our field?)

I do ask for your prayers for my time! Most of all, please pray that I’ll be helpful to those college ministers and glorifying to God.

In August, I’ll be attending Collegiate Week in Glorieta, New Mexico – a top-notch training event I’ve discussed before. In the past, this has been a phenomenal week with a lot of college ministers (and college students) from both campus-based and church-based contexts. It was also incredibly formative in my own college ministry growth. (This will be my ninth visit!) So I’m thrilled to get to go once more.

If any of you will be at either of those events, let’s be sure to connect! And otherwise, stay tuned for some learnings here at the blog!

moving into dallas dallas: new digs!

You may or may not know that I’ve been living rather outside of Dallas proper for the last couple of years, since returning from my yearlong road trip. Happily, I now have the opportunity to live IN Dallas. In several ways, this will make it a lot easier to connect and minister around here, and it will even help my accessibility and ministry opportunities in general.

Plus, I’ve also got the neat chance to serve an autistic friend where I’m living, so that opens up a whole new adventure. Good times indeed.

news to come?

If you’ve made it this far, you deserve one more tidbit: Please be in prayer for the possibilities to come! It’s been an interesting summer, and it looks like God’s directing me toward some next steps as I continue to give my life to help the field of college ministry. We’ll see what He wants to do…

As always, for the biggest “scoops” and latest info, you can always join the 600+ others in the Exploring College Ministry with Benson Facebook Group. Those guys are my heroes, and it’s so encouraging to know that so many of you are rooting for me… as I root for you!

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In case you’re coming for the follow-up to yesterday’s post on how to road trip, I needed to put that on pause to fill you in on this week’s adventures. Sorry about that – look for further tips this weekend or next week!

I’m headed to Arkansas today! I’ve been graciously invited to give a seminar at Campus Ministry United’s annual summer conference, held at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. This was one of several conferences I attended on the yearlong road trip, so it kinda holds a special place in my heart. It’ll be good to be back.

I’ve also been really looking forward to my theme: I’ll be speaking on Better Brainstorming, a very practical topic I’m pretty stinkin’ passionate about. If you can, please pray that I’d be effective and encouraging – not just in my seminar on Saturday afternoon, but in the rest of the time I get to hang with the men and women at this conference. I really appreciate it!

(And if you know anybody who might like to hire me for something like this – or a whole host of other ways to make use of my learnings – check things out here!)

are you in the group?

It’s a good time to note: If you didn’t realize I was headed to Arkansas, you probably aren’t in the Exploring College Ministry with Benson Facebook group. It’s definitely the place to get the best low-down on news like this. And there are chances to help me out; members of the group have been helping me figure out some connections to make and things to enjoy on the drive to Arkansas today!

Finally, in case you’re wondering, this does not count as an official Exploring College Ministry Road Trip. (So Number 15 is still to come!) Though I’m perfectly happy to be on the road again, this is just a straight-there, straight-back, one-state-away sort of trip. Not exactly worth comparing to the more humongous explorations.

some good reading for our field

I did want to point you to two newsworthy items you should check out:

Scot McKnight discusses the younger generation “falling away”: In reviewing a new (cool-looking) book, McKnight examines this notion as a potential myth, and College Ministry has entered into the Comments section. So if you’ve got something helpful to say (pro, con, or otherwise), add your two cents!

Alec Hill, President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, looks with concern at CLS v. Martinez: This is another place that could use wisdom from college ministers! Add to the comments if you can, but this is yet another good resource for better understanding this important Supreme Court case. (And if you need to catch up, my recent post on it is here.)

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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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