Friday, December 31, 2010

An All-Star Team of College Ministers/Some You can Learn From

"Who's the best?" one of the pilots asked in the Top Gun movie when they arrive for their training?  Often, this question is asked, sometimes in an unhealthy, competitive way.  But, it is often asked in wanting to know who are some people I can watch, talk to and learn from.  I remember how I used to corner Ircil Harrison at national meetings and just annoy the daylights out of him asking questions.  He was then the Campus Minister at Mississippi State University.  There is no answer to "who is the best?' because every situation is different and one person may be great in their situation, but could not make it in the situation in which you serve.  But, here is an All-Star Team from which you can learn some things:
Johnny Pons, Penn State
Lloyd Lunceford, Southern Mississippi
Dave Buschman, Princeton
Bruce Venable, FBC Lubbock
Steve Masters, LSU
Joel Bratcher, Texas A&M
Mike McQuitty, Syracuse
Charles Lillard, Central Oklahoma
Lynn Loyd, U of Arkansas
Darrell Cook, Virginia Tech
Tim Stewart, U of South Carolina
Linda Osborne (She hasn't forgotten it all yet!)
Mike Whelan, Georgia Tech
Keith Cating, McNeese State, LA

What are your nominations for this All-Star team?

"I forgot that College Ministry is a lot like juggling!"

That is one of my favorite quotes from a friend who had done college ministry, served briefly in a church and then came back to college ministry (the HIGH calling).  Multi-tasking is a must in college ministry.  The king of multi-tasking is Steve Masters, BCM Director at LSU.  Steve is famous for his ability to do many things at one time while eating a snickers and drinking a Mt Dew.  It is part of the secret of his great and on-going success.

So, how do you do it?  it is more than being on a conference call and reading your email at the same time.  It is continually dealing with the past, present and future of your ministry.  Here are 4 thoughts or suggestions to improve your "juggling".
1.  Schedule time for thinking.  Don't let the urgent control you!
2.  Make sure your planned schedule respresents your variety of tasks.  Plan for all parts of your job.
3.  Look for tasks you can START and then turn over to others for completion.  One question to ask, "What am I doing that AI could or ought to be handing off to others?"
4.  Never, Ever decide you are too big, too busy or too important to do certain things!  You may not need to do them all the time or let them fill your day....but when you get too important for some things, you are probably too your own mind!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Quality or Participation/Ownership?

One of the discussions in college ministry today is, "Do you hire professionals to 'put on' the best collegiate worship service possible in terms of quality or do you have students do it so they can learn how and have ownership?"

One of the influences in this has been the passion movement where thousands of students experience worship led by the best contemporary worship leaders of the day and the likes of Louie Giglio speaking.  Louie is arguably the top college speaker of the last several years.  Consequently, many collegiate worship events now resemble a "mini-passion".  One campus based ministry has rented the ballroom on their campus and brings in a nationally known speaker each week and different well known professional worship leaders.  Their obvious attempt is to attract a large number of students with the quality of their event.

For some church collegiate ministries, a primary concern in calling a college minister is that person's ability as a speaker to a large group and some even now are bringing on full time or part-time contemporary worship leaders for the purpose of leading their weekly college worship event.  While other collegiate ministries are having volunteer student led bands lead their large group events.  Some would say it is simply a question of economics...which can you afford?  You might argue that quality is always determined by the budget.  Yet, there really are two different philosophies at work here.

What impacts a student's life the most for the long it a quality event or is it seeing fellow students or even him or herself leading worship?  The argument for student led goes to the idea of teaching students how to serve, preparing them to lead in their churches in the years to come.  Some students have even reacted somewhat negatively toward collegiate worship events that are "too glossy" or "showy".  But, if you have ever worked with an all student/volunteer band, you know how messy it can be.

I don't like a choice that is a choice between quality and training.  I don't believe we ever say it is ok to do collegiate events poorly, but I do come out big-time on the side of using students to train and prepare them for the future.  One question we must never lose in college ministry is, what is best for the long term in their lives?  We can't ever quit holding up the banner and challenge of quality and must model it in every thing we do, but somewhere there is a line between messy, real worship and just a really good concert or show....where that line is probably varies in different situations.

How many Louie Giglio speakers are there out there.....not many.  BUT, I have come to believe that we need gifted speakers in special events, but that someone who knows and loves students in their particular context may likely be even better than a Louie or Francis or whomever.  A few years ago we experiemented with bringing in a quality collegiate speaker that our students liked very much.  He would come once a month for a semester.  The idea was that it would attract more students for those "special worships".  Hopefully, then some of then would show up occasionally for the other 3 worships each month.  A funny thing happened; attendance started to go down on the weeks that the special speaker was there.  Was the regular speaker better?  No.  But, he knew the students and knew their concerns.  They knew him and that he cared for them. Worship is personal and when it becomes impersonal, it can loose something.

The choice is not as simple as quality vs. participation/ownership.  A friend of mine is fond of saying, "For every difficult question, there is an obvious and easy answer.....that is usually wrong!" 

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Secret Formula to College Ministry Success

Many different questions are asked of those who are experiencing some degree of success in college ministry.  These questions involve lots of different points and concerns, but most can be summed up in the question one asked, "What is the secret formula to college ministry success?"  One very successful church college minister (he had big crowds in a non-Bible belt church) said it was the number of adult volunteers that he had.  That was HIS success formula....but is that the success formula for everyone?

Let me share what I think "The Secret Formula" is:
   Your Strengths/Gifts + Your campus/church situation + Hard work + Consistency

That's it!  One Texas campus minister put it in western jargon when he said, "you got to ride the horse that brought you."  Simply put, it means you got to be you where you are.  All of us have specific skills, spiritual gifts (that are God's road map to his will for our lives) and life experiences that we bring to our ministry.  That must be factored into what the situation is wherever you are.  It is BOTH the pluses and minuses of your setting.  No ministry can be completely transplanted from one setting to another.  No two campus situations are must be tweaked and adjusted to fit the unique aspects of your situation.

Even the most casual observer can see there are many different ways to do college ministry that are working.  But, I believe they all fit this formula.  Your "horse" is you. What do YOU do well?  How does that fit your setting?  Some years ago a friend who had a large ministry began to experience a downturn in his ministry.  There was a new ministry on campus and they were "the hot new deal".  They did some things very differently than he had done.  My friend decided to switch and adopt many of their approaches and left much that had been successful in the past.  Was the progress, expanding the box, or did he unwisely leave the horse that brought him?  After 2 or 3 years of trying the new approach of the other ministry, he left it to go on to something else.

Nothing substitutes for hard work. And consistency is continuing to be who you are and putting one year on top of another one.  Students know what to expect; your supporters know what to expect.  There are tweaks, but there is always consistency.  I honestly believe Strengths/Gifts+Your campus/church situation+Hard work+Consistency is the SECRET formula to college ministry success!!
Arliss Dickerson

Difference in Campus Based College Ministers and Church Based???

One of the things that has struck me in the last year or so is the realization that church based college ministers and campus based (BCM Directors usually) think very differently.  Up till this point I just assumed that we thought the very same way, but just worked in different locations trying to do the same things.  I knew the church based ones tended to wear their hair "funkier" and have their shirt tails out more, but when working on the committee for the 2009 Collegiate Ministers Summit, I heard the church guys asking for and wanting preaching and the campus based folks asking for "how to's".  That was my first dawning moment....we are really different!  The church based folks are all about "church" and we are all about spirituality on campus...helping students figure out how to do college, working with parents...parents see us as their partners, which I think is a good thing.

A close friend who was a campus based and then went to a church based job said it was a shock the first Monday staff meeting when the pastor asked, "How come we were down attendance wise in students yesterday?"  The pastor didn't think no home football game, etc was a was my friend's fault.  That helps me understand why some church based college ministers do some of what they do.

I am still working to understand this difference in thinking....but part of the benefit of this is my finally figuring out, WE DON'T THINK THE SAME!

Friday, December 17, 2010

7 Characteristics of the Successful College Minister

1.  Be Intentionally Relational (relationships are the currency of our ministry.)
2.  Possess and demonstrate Integrity while being the face of your ministry (people will believe in your ministry in relationship to how they believe in you.).
3.  Be a good communicator (tell stories that illustrate truths is a story teller.).
4.  Keep changing, growing.
5.  Be a multi-tasker (think about next semester while you are finishing up this one...and next fall.)
6.  Provide leadership and vision to your ministry....if you don't there is none or the wrong one providing it!
7.  Balance ministering and matter how relational and cool you are you need to plan and organize...and no matter how organized you are, you must keep working at your personal ministry.  The successful college minister has a ministry of his/her own and over-sees a ministry that touches way more people than he/she can touch personally.  That is the balance!!


I think most of you know that Sue and I have decided to retire at the end of the Spring Semester from the ASU/BCM ministry.This is a painful decision for me even though I feel it is the right one at the right time. It is hard for me to imagine our life apart from this ministry and campus!! BUT, I am not at the stage I am ready to rock full time or play golf all the time. I will continue to work for the National BCM as the Leadership Development Contract big part of that will be working on the National Collegiate Ministers Summit for Spring of 2012. Also, I plan to do some speaking, consulting, etc. Any and all prayers are appreciated.

I have great concerns about the future of college issues are causing cuts lots of places and often one of the first places cuts happen is in college ministry. This comes as church leaders are saying, "what can we do to not lose this generation?" I think we must contine to advocate for and demonstrate both the need and success of our ministries and all college ministry.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

College Ministry Experts

I am amazed at the number of people today who are "college ministry experts" being quoted who have only done college ministry briefly and/or are only aware of the one situation in which they have worked.  They have something to add to the conversation for sure.....but it is just a little strange that some of these folks have been raised up as the ones to follow or emulate.  In future blogs I hope to share some info and insight from some people who have done it many years very successfully and often in more than one place.