Monday, November 24, 2014

Guest Blog: "The Other Side of the Fence" by Daniel Berry

I served as a college minister for 13 years on 3 different campuses in the south. I loved being a campus minister. For the last two years, I have served as the Lead Pastor of a growing church in Indiana. I often wondered what it would be like going from a campus minister to a pastor. Two years later, here are some of my observations.

1. Football is football. Ministry is ministry.
The vast majority of how I served as a minister while on campus is still what I do in the local church. I am trying to help people find and grow in a relationship with Christ. While there are differences, I think it is an important statement to make from the beginning. A minister is a minister no matter where he is serving.

2. I deal with a LOT less politics now.
I know political struggles happen in the local church and maybe I am just blessed with a great church to serve with (which I am), but as a campus minister I felt the politics a lot more. I always felt the pressure to represent not only Christ, but the theology of every church in my denomination. Seemingly minor theological doctrines (to me) were seen as big deals in the eyes of some of the churches I represented. Often, I would be asked my personal opinion on such doctrines. I constantly felt I was being assessed and judged by pastors. I fully understand that some of this may have been paranoia on my part, but in talking with many other campus ministers through the years, I can assure you my feelings are very common among campus ministers.

3. I am no longer the oldest person in the room.
I supervise a staff that is older than me. Most of the teams (committees) in my church are chaired by people older and wiser than me. I find there is less pressure on me having to be the wise voice of experience on all matters. I like having people to lean into with experience and understanding. Yet, I understand that despite being younger, I have to lead. I am learning to live in the balance of these two tensions.

4. I have to be more intentional to be around people who do not know Christ.
As a campus minister, I was always on the front lines. I was constantly around lost college students. The bigger my church gets, the more meetings and distractions can exist that take me away from being in the world.

5. Pastors do not network like college ministers.
I always regarded my other campus ministers as family. I try hard to make our staff a family, but other pastors seem more guarded. When I'm around other pastors, the conversations seem more forced and less authentic. They do not tend to be as vulnerable when we gather together. The people I call most for advice, prayer, and encouragement
are still campus ministers.

6. I still love college students.
I help teach the college Bible study every Sunday at my church. I feel a need to stay connected with this generation. They need to feel like the church cares for them. In
turn, they help me stay relevant. They ask honest questions, often without filter. They
remind me that they are not the church of tomorrow, but the church of today.

To all the college ministers out there I just want to encourage you. Thank you for what you are doing. Keep your eyes on Christ. You are making a difference.

Daniel Berry is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why Don't Baptists Have More Super Large College Ministries?

Figures released each year by different nation wide Collegiate Ministries in America show Southern Baptists having the most total students involved. Yet, when people look at and study or hear about the super large campus based Ministries, it is often someone other than a Baptist ministry. Why is that?

1. Most Baptist Collegiate Ministry staffs are made up of 1 to 3 people. Super large College Ministries tend to have 10 to 25 staffers.

2. Southern Baptists have generally leaned toward having staff on as many campuses as possible rather than having large staffs on targeted or flagship campuses. Other nation wide groups will focus on 2 or 3 campuses in a state while BCM's will be on most four year campuses in one least in the deep south.

3. BCM Ministries generally are not allowed or discouraged from doing aggressive fund raising (donor banquets, etc) for their budgets due to Southern Baptists emphasis on unified giving through the Cooperative Program. Therefore, many operate on very limited budgets.

4. BCM Campus Ministers tend not to be as entrepreneurial in approach as some non-denominational Campus Ministers. This is at least partly related to working with and for a variety of churches that may have different views as to what is acceptable and not acceptable.

5. Some believe that having the name Baptist in the ministry name (Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Baptist Student Ministry or Baptist Student Union)tends to serve as an unintended exclusion to non-Baptists or this generation increasingly leery of denominations. Although, Baptist Ministries outside the deep south tend to operate under more generic names that do not have Baptist in them.

Should Baptists target larger more flagship campuses?

Should BCM Campus Ministers be allowed or encouraged to raise money for and hire large staffs?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Five Ways the Power of Example Impacts Your Ministry

"Example is not the main thing; it's the only thing".
Albert Sweitzer

"Children hear what you say, but they believe what you do".

"People the world over have always been more impressed with the
power of our example than by the example of our power".
President Bill Clinton

I am a huge believer in the power of example. It just might be the greatest tool we have in our personal ministry. Recently, I heard a new friend who is an adult follower of Jesus share his story of coming to Christ in college. He spoke of the example of his Bible Study group leader who took him to help set up for their weekly large group event. My friend quickly pushed his side of the chairs into some order and threw some song books on each chair. Then, he saw how his Bible study leader was carefully positioning each chair. So, he re-did his section of chairs. Then, he saw how his leader carefully placed each song book in exactly the same place on each chair. My friend re-did the song books in his section. Then, he saw his Group leader stop and pray at each chair. Yes; then my friend went back and prayed over who would sit in each of those chairs that night.

Five Ways our Example Impacts the Ministry We Lead:

1. Who we are draws students to our ministry.

The personal characteristics that we demonstrate affect who is drawn to our ministry. That is a truth that we cannot deny. It is a reminder that we are responsible for being the best we can be. I spoke on a campus where the leader was an athlete and I noticed the large number of athletic type guys. I was on a campus where the leader was a, their music folks were out the top. I believe the single greatest ministry tool your ministry has is you. Nothing in your ministry is more important or
valuable than your personal example. It might scare you to know how closely students
watch, learn and take from who you are.

2. Who we are affects what students take from our ministry.

If they see us pray about situations and care about people who do not know Christ, they are more likely to take that from our ministry to their adult life. Former BCM Presidents who now serve in secular work leadership roles, have messaged me pictures of how their meeting room was organized prior to a big meeting or how someone said, "Where did you learn to lead a meeting like that"? They took that from my ministry. No; it's not is valuable and a reminder they are taking all kinds of things from our example. Students have commented about how much I went to church and all I was involved in at my church. I was not parading it, but they saw it.

3. What we demonstrate in personal characteristics affects our financial support.

If you have to raise your salary or depend on churches, organizations, or individuals for financial support of your budget, who you are affects that. People want to support someone they admire or respect. Do you show up for meetings on time? Do your work habits exhibit someone they think will use their money wisely? It is difficult to separate your feelings about a ministry from your feelings about the ministry's leader.

4. The ministry we lead will reflect our strengths and weaknesses.

The longer we serve as the leader of a ministry, the more that ministry will reflect who we are. It will have our strengths and our weaknesses. It becomes a picture of the leader. I am more convinced of this now than I ever have been. It is a reminder of why we can never cut corners in our personal practices and we must empower people within our ministry that have different strengths than we do.

5. Our example will affect parents sending students to our ministry or advising them to stay away.

I know of situations where the final decision maker in parents feeling good about where their son or daughter would go to college was their belief in the leader of the campus ministry there. As this generation of "Helicopter Parents" speak into the lives of their sons and daughters, how they see you is even more important. Yes; there are situations where parents say, "Don't go there". And, it is a result of what they have seen in the example of the leader of that ministry. When prospective students and parents visit your ministry....just know, the parents are sizing you up.

"Example is not the main thing; it's the ONLY thing". Sweitzer

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

10 Myths in and Around College Ministry

Someone once said, "If you shout a lie loud enough and long enough, people will believe it". A lot of these statements are like that. Maybe you have heard them a, maybe they are true. Here's my take on some of these "less than truths" that those of us in College Ministry either hear or may be guilty of saying.

1. That's ALWAYS true in College Ministry.

-College students change; campus situations change....there is not much that is always true, apart from the Gospel and the need for College Ministry. When we quit flexing and learning in College Ministry, we and our ministry are in trouble.

2. Confronting students is a bad idea. They are volunteers and you want them there.

-I certainly don't think you go around looking for ways to make your students mad. But, I do think that one of our roles in loving and teaching students is sometimes to confront them. Particularly, I am speaking of those students in responsibility roles with whom you work closely and have a personal relationship. It has been my experience that when you confront students that know you love them, the final outcome is almost always positive....notice, I said most of the time.

3. If I just had enough money this ministry would boom.

-Money doesn't make a's hard to have a ministry without money but money doesn't make a ministry. Money is not a shortcut. It doesn't substitute for relationships. It doesn't substitute for the wise investment of your time and years. God is not limited to move only in ministries with large budgets. I've done College Ministry with and without much money. Having money is better, but my ministry wasn't suddenly ten times better. It sometimes even brings added pressure!

4. Nobody cares about this ministry but me.

-Sometimes that is true. But, most of the time, it is not. Work at separating fact
from your feelings on those frustrating days. If no one cares, are you doing what you
should to communicate your vision, what God is doing, and how others could be a part?

5. College Ministers have the summer off.

-I have heard that one different times. My personal response usually went something like
this, "It often feels like it, because I only work 8 or 9 hours a day in the summer".
But, sometimes that idea comes across because people can't find you. If you have a
Center or office, are there times people know they can find you? If someone drops by to
see see you, is there someone who can tell them where you are? Or, is there a note on
the door telling where you have gone or at least when you will be back? You may be out
connecting with supporters, visiting churches of incoming students, etc. Let me share my least favorite phone response of an Administrative Assistant, "He has not made it in
yet.". No; the answer is, "He/she is not here at the moment, could I take a message?".
Ask yourself, Am I doing what needs to be done in the well as, taking some
deserved rest? Good falls are made in the summer.

6. Real College Ministers Stay in a hotel room with their students. (Many of you would say, "No; I sleep on a gym floor with them".)

-I functioned on this one for many years. Until, it finally dawned on me, it was ok for me to have a room by myself. A Methodist Campus Minister friend even raised a point I had not
even thought of....that way you can never be falsely accused of something inappropriate when rooming with students.

7. College Ministry is only for the young.

-Since I'm semi-old, this is one of my least favorite. I believe that God uses people
of all ages and college students need people of all ages. They have buddies. They need
someone to speak love, care and Gospel into their lives. They want and need people who
have been down roads they have yet to go down. You don't have to play basketball with
them to be a great College College Minister.

8. Nothing beats a big crowd.

-This myth still tempts me. I like big crowds. But, there is more to College Ministry
than a big crowd. Beware of doing just something that will draw a crowd. Realize even
some things are better with a small crowd. Also, don't beat yourself up because your
last crowd wasn't huge. Someone asked me after an event once, "Did you have as many
attend as you hoped?". I said, "I've never had as many as I hoped at anything.". But,
I really do know a crowd is not everything. Really, I do. Do you?

9. A good College Minister knows every student's story and their needs.

-Your ministry may be too large for that. But, there is a half truth here. Someone needs to know every student's story and their needs, if they come with any degree of regularity. But, it may be one of your student leaders. Maybe, if you know every student's story, you are limiting yourself to too few students.

10. If you are really sharp, someday, you will have your own church.

-I've heard this one different times. It would usually come after I had spoken at a church and done at least half way decent and someone would come up to me and say, "You are good enough to have your own church". Thats like saying, "College Ministers really are not sharp". Or, "You just do College Ministry until the right church comes along". You just need to translate it. They are saying you did a good job....and...remember, College Ministry is the high calling! If God called you to College Ministry, don't stoop to be the pastor of a 10,000 person church.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

More on Evaluating your Ministry

I recently wrote about doing anonymous written surveys to help you evaluate and know honestly how your ministry is doing and how it is perceived (Getting Honest About Your Ministry), But, I am also a big fan of talk sessions.

I believe now is the perfect time for some evaluation of the fall semester. No; it's not over, but you can see the end from here. Much of what you have done this fall is still fresh in everyone's mind. And, it's still not quite time to do some of the spring semester scheduling. If you do a specialized Freshmen Ministry, invite 4 or 5 freshmen for a sit down session with you about their view of what happened in your Freshmen Bible Study Groups. It was in a session like this once I heard a freshman say, "You should give the upperclass leaders the Bible study material in advance, so they are not reading it for the first time with us". I said, "What?". Obviously, the leaders were receiving the material in advance.....but....I learned something that day.

We would also do an evaluation in our large group weekly Freshmen event, but we did it the last week. It dawned on me...the ones that liked it were still there....the ones that felt it was not worth their time were already gone. Is there a way to get some feedback from those who disappeared from your ministry after the first month or so? Maybe, evaluations should be done before the last session! In some ways, those that have left your ministry have more to tell you than those that have stayed.

I am also all about inviting 4 or 5 students for pizza and talk about the ministry. I have found there is something magic about free pizza that makes students talk more.

The hardest and most important thing you must do in these type sessions is keep your mouth shut and listen. Never justify or explain. Ask questions and listen.

Consider inviting a student to lunch who was very connected at the beginning of the semester and then stopped coming. Tell them you would like their insight about the ministry, both strengths and weaknesses. Again, swallow and listen hard. It won't all be fun.

But remember, one bad or angry comment is not necessarily a correct observation of your whole ministry. Honest evaluation is always a step toward your ministry being stronger.

Monday, November 3, 2014

University Town First Baptist Church Seeks Senior Pastor

First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, Arkansas is seeking a Senior Pastor. Jonesboro is a city of 80,000 and serves as the shopping/medical hub of Northeast Arkansas. The church has two Sunday morning services, a Contemporary and Traditional. The 10:50 service is telecast on the local ABC affiliate station. Attendance this past Sunday was a little over 600. There are eight full time ministry staff members and the annual church budget is just over $2 million. The previous pastor was much loved and left following an 18 year ministry.

The church is located near Arkansas State University with an enrollment of 13,000 students. There is a full time University Minister on the staff and the church was the founding church of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry on campus and continues as it's largest financial supporter.

For information, to make a recommendation, or to submit a resume:

Getting Honest About Your Ministry

I just recently read a survey that indicated that a majority of Americans think one news network is most unbiased, but that a majority of Americans prefer to watch another news network. Truth is sometimes unpleasant. We want our way. I find this same sort of dichotomy true in church and College Ministry.

I serve in a church that has declined some in recent years. When I have raised that concern in some of our meetings, I've been asked to not talk about that. It's negative. In College Ministry we have to report to those above us and justify what we are doing and to encourage folks to continue their financial support. So, we usually try to accentuate the positive.

Are we being honest with ourselves about where our ministry is? I don't want to discourage anyone and I am all about encouraging those who do College Ministry. It is hard work with mixed results. But, I also believe for our ministry to be what and all that God wants it to be, we must see it realistically and honestly. How do you do that?

I am a big believer in anonymous surveys. At different times in a school year, I have sent a brief questionnaire to a group of students and asked them to return it in an enclosed envelope unsigned. I have even done the same thing with local pastors. It can be pretty simple. I can be the King of Simple.

1. What do you see as the strength of our ministry or what we do best?

2. What do you see as one area that needs improving or changing in our ministry?

3. What do you see as the strength of my personal ministry?

4. What is one thing you would like to see me change, add or do differently?

You could pass something like this out in your leadership meeting or even in your weekly large group meeting. Now, here are a couple of warnings:

1. Don't let one huge negative comment ruin your day or week or cause you to quit the ministry. There is always a sorehead or two.
- Look for patterns. Does more than one person mention the same thing?

2. Don't weight the negative comments heavier than the positive.
- In fact, the positive comments may tell you that you need to do more of what you are doing well, instead of fixing something that is broken.

3. Sometimes you have to interpret their comments. What does that mean? You may need to go back to your leadership and say, "Here is a comment or two that someone made that I need you to help me understand".

4. Remember, truth (if it is truth) is always our friend.

Sometimes hearing some thing is not easy. But, if you were looking for easy, you would not be in College Ministry! Seeing and understanding truth can strengthen our ministry. Everybody knows College Ministers are the best ministers!!