Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reaching and Developing Leaders for Your College Ministry

The more leaders we have in our ministry the stronger our ministry will be. The more leaders we have in our ministry the more students we can reach and build deeply into their lives. In addition, more student leaders can help free you up for other tasks and more of what God called you to do.....and live a more balanced and healthy life!

There are two parts to having strong leaders in our ministry:

1. Teach and model leadership.
2. Be intentional about trying to draw student leaders to your ministry.

One aspect of teaching and modeling leadership is creating an atmosphere where leadership is recognized and appreciated. This is done in different of leadership teams in printed materials or on the wall....recognition of leaders at the start or end of their terms of service....a special tee shirt given to leaders, etc. Do students WANT to serve in a Leadership role in your ministry? Does it even enter their mind to aspire to a leadership role?

Training of leaders is key. What is expected and how do they do it? Developing leaders is not simply putting someone in charge of something and letting them sink or swim. With no experience or training, the likelihood is they will sink and then they are done with leadership. Meeting individually with leaders on a regular basis for processing, evaluating, and coaching are key. Some College Ministers periodically offer some sort of general leadership training experience for anyone that wants to participate. It can be an on-going weekly group or a one time experience. Some bring their leaders in some time during the summer or just before school begins for an intensive training and prep time.

Are there ways you can draw leaders to your ministry? We learned some years ago that many of the strongest student leader types came to one or two particular Freshmen Orientations. We put even more effort into those orientations. We talked about leadership opportunities. Is there some place, event, or whatever that will connect you with students who are looking for ways to serve and grow as leaders?

Some College Ministries target Greeks and athletes as the leaders of the campus to develop their ministry. It is my experience that there are leaders in all segments of student life. I would suggest you not limit yourself to one type of leader or even the one that is already overloaded.

Finally, it is my belief that we must be about developing leaders because that is one of our purposes....developing leaders for churches after college days. Many churches suffer due to a lack of strong lay leaders. Also, in these days of cuts in funding to College
Ministry, one strong point is when church leaders see us developing strong Christian leaders.

Jesus it seems spent extra time with three of the disciples. The argument can be made that Jesus was doing leader training.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Responsibilities of Veteran College Ministers

A few years back someone asked if I had read a certain new book on College Ministry. I had not heard about it and asked who had written it. My friend mentioned a name I had not heard of as the author. I asked who he was..."He is the College Minister for (famous Pastor's name)". Oh...that was the explanation for his expertise.

A concern that I have had in recent years is that many of our most experienced and knowledgeable College Ministers are not sharing what they know. There are lots of good articles on twitter, Facebook, Email newsletters, etc. But, absent from the conversation are some of the folks that have the most to share.

It is my deep conviction that those of us who have many years of experience have the responsibility to mentor others and hold up the banner of College Ministry. When we do that we are not claiming perfection, that we know it all or that we are God's special gift to College Ministry. We know something about surviving over the long term and we know things that work and don't work. Partly, we know things that don't work because we tried them...sometimes more than once.

My first year at Arkansas State was one of the toughest of my life. One of the reasons I survived was because a veteran College Minister would could call me about once a week and ask how I was doing. Then, he mostly listened.

In 1979 Ron Wells at Texas A&M was considered one of the top, if not the top, College Minister in America. He let me come and follow him around for three days and ask dumb questions. He acted as though he had nothing else to do. I bet he did.

Another facet of veterans speaking up is it highlights some of the most successful ministries in the country. I think College Ministry suffers from a false impression of declining success and student response. In fact, I think the opposite is true. These are some of the best days in what God doing is doing on college campuses. But, we must show it and tell it. Our veterans are some of the best ones to do that.

Why aren't we hearing more from veterans?

-For some it is sheer modesty, they don't want to seem to be tooting their own horn.
-It is often because they have kept a singular laser focus on their ministry and that is part of their success.
-I think many veterans today are overwhelmed with the continued development of technology even to the point of feeling some young College Ministers spend too much time there. So, the veterans don't use technology to spread their knowledge.

If you are young in College Ministry, realize there are lots of of folks who know a lot but may not write books or be famous....or work for a famous pastor. Find them and maybe even ask if you could come follow them around a few days....or maybe just call and ask them some questions.

If you are a veteran, look for ways to share what you know. Write an article. Post something on Facebook. Get a Twitter account. Everybody doesn't have to learn things the hard way. Find a young College a minister who might need some encouragement and call them up and ask how they are doing. Let others know the good things happening in your ministry.

When College Ministry is lifted up anywhere, we all benefit. When College Minstry struggles anywhere, we all suffer.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

How to Stay in College Ministry for 40 Years

For some years College Ministry was seen as something you passed through while getting enough experience for a "real ministry job". Then, that changed as people realized the value and need for experienced College Ministers. But, we are now seeing some shift away from long term "College Ministry Pros". Part of this relates to cuts in finances and more and more expectations on campus based College Ministers. But, I believe the need is greater then ever for the long term College Minister. It is no surprise that many of the larger campus based ministries are led by College Ministers in their 50's and 60's. It comes down to experience, respect, and trust.

So, if you are a young or middle College Minister that feels called to College Ministry, what do you do to make it into the 50's and 60's?

1. Identify, Understand and Work the Different Seasons of Campus Ministry.

One of the great things about College Ministry is that each year has clear beginnings and endings. There is often a different and slower routine in the summer. There is a break at Christmas. If you will do different things in the different seasons, it will add balance to your ministry AND be restorative to you. Speaking outlines developed in the summer make for less stressful and more fulfilling falls. Donors thanked personally in the summer make better givers in the fall. More family time at slower times builds into your personal reserves. More quiet time in your relationship to the Lord builds you up and reminds you why you are doing what you do.

2. Have Projects That You Look forward to Doing That Give You a Sense of Satisfaction and Accomplishment.

This is part of working the seasons. As the year goes along, identify some projects that need doing and lay them aside to the time you can do them....plan a time to do them. One of the frustrations of the ministry is often working like a dog and never feeling you are done or have accomplished anything. Projects that have starting and ending points are a great antidote for this. Look what is just finished!

3. Regularly Re-Visit Your Calling to College Ministry.

Why and how did you feel called to College Ministry? Remind yourself of that and re-visit it. Are those things still true? Keep touch with this experience in your life.

4. Have One or Two Go To Friends in College Ministry.

I have a College Ministry friend in another state that we talk every week....sometimes every day.....ok; sometimes we have talked three times in one hour! We can and do say "anything" to one another. I believe no one gets College Ministers like another College Minister. Do you have someone like that? You can trade ideas; you can process thinking. You can scream your frustrations! Work at developing a relationship like that. It will
benefit your ministry....but much will benefit YOU!

5. Go to Church.

I don't mean preach somewhere. I don't mean visit all your supporting churches. Go to church for you. Worship. Hear from the Lord. Sit with your family. Allow others to
speak into your soul and life. Work at turning off your "ministerial side" while you are there. Don't worry about the lag time between songs or evaluating the preacher. I
have to remind myself to do this...a lot. I don't want to be just a "church professional". Serve on a dumb committee. Let a church know you and love you. There are many who will do this, if you let them.

6. Work a Three Year Rotation in Your Ministry.

One of the things that kills College Ministers is doing everything they know to do and needs doing EVERY year. Part of the answer to that is to develop a three year rotation of special events and projects. One year we do a big foreign mission trip and the next we do a simple trip with less logistics, etc. What are some things that need to be part
of your ministry....just not every year?

7. Have both an Individual Ministry and a Larger Ministry Which You Lead.

As the years go on and your administrative skills develop, it is easy to oversee the work of others or organize the details, but do little of what you actually initially felt
called to do. Do both! Supervise and train others, but work individually with students too. Do pre-marital counseling. You meet with the Freshmen Leadership Team. Sometimes, we hand off the most rewarding things. Make sure you are doing some of those yourself.

8. Find, Acknowledge and EMPHASIZE the Strengths of the Age You are Now.

The long lasting "It Factor" for a College Minister is RESPECT. Nearly all the super successful college football coaches who are paid millions each year could not make a tackle or throw a 50 yard pass if their life depended on it. They are paid and recognized for their ability to teach those who can. As you age in the ministry, you
know more; you likely have grown in your ability to teach either in a group setting or one to one. Teach and share what you know. You are not paid or called to be the best ballplayer or midnight conversationalist. Today's young adults say they want to learn from those older than them. I believe it.

When you are thinking about quitting, maybe you have just finally learned enough to start doing it really well! One of the strengths of being older is you get over the idea of
trying to impress people.....then, God can use what he has put into you through experience and growing wisdom.

Monday, June 1, 2015

When Is It Time to Move On?

Recently, I've had conversations with College Ministers trying to decide if it is time to leave for another job. They had not been offered another job....they were just wondering if their current job had run it's course for them. When is it God's leading and when is it just you? I wanted to write something like "7 Ways You Know it's Time to Move On". But, I don't know a simple formula. Here are some of the issues and ideas to consider.

-Have the job requirements changed to the point that it is no longer the job you took?
This is one question facing College Ministers funded by denominations these days. As giving by churches has changed and the concern for loss of youth to churches has grown, many denominational College Ministers are being asked to do more in the churches. A pastor once told me he visited the hospital every day so they would let him preach on Sunday. He called it "paying the rent". All of us have parts of our job that are not a favorite. I guess part of the equation is, when does the "rent paying" far outweigh what you get your satisfaction from doing?

-"I still loved College Ministry; I just hated students".
One former College Minister told me he realized that he no longer enjoyed being with students. That's a key part of the question of when do you move you still get joy and satisfaction from working with students? That doesn't mean you always want to do midnight coffee, but that the issues of their lives, relationship to the Lord, and questions still matter to you. That is key.

-Am I simply over-reacting to a difficult time or issue?
There will always be seasons of distress or a tough issue that steals some, if not much of the joy from your ministry. But, it is important to realize if your situation has changed permanently or this is simply a brief season. Also, sometimes we let a negative issue become our main focus when it does not have to be. It is there, but it cannot and should not define us and our ministry. Make sure you are not lettting a negative issue become more than it really is.

-Listen to friends you trust.
Wise counsel is huge here. Look for those who know you and your ministry. What do they see happening? Ask some key students how they feel about the ministry (not whether you should leave or not). Feedback from those who know and love you is important.

-Realize if your lack of satisfaction or discomfort is a change of season.
Fifty year olds and 25 year olds don't do College Ministry the same. Maybe it is time for you to consider a change in approach. Can you empower your student leaders more? Are you trying to be places and times that no one else really expects you to be? I strongly believe there are strengths and pluses to every age category in College Ministry. Make sure you are operating out of your "Season Strengths".

What to do while you are considering making a change:
1. Rest. Make sure you are not just simply drained out. Make an effort to take care of you.
2. Look for a ministry project that would give you a great sense of accomplishment in doing....not an impossible one, but one that would give you joy in doing and accomplishing....writing that Bible study series....refurbishing that room, etc. It needs to have a start and a finish.