Posted by: Justin Wallace | March 10, 2010

Lessons from the road…

This year for spring break the Impact staff decided to hit the road. Our destination…2 campus ministries, a potential supporting church, lots of old friends, 3 resteraunts that were featured on Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives, our Alma Mater :: Anderson University and a tasty donut shop in my home town.

Trips like this are in-valuable! They give you time away from the day in, day out routine. They allow you to be together 24 hours a day. And from my experience you become more open, honest and vulnerable on little sleep.

Our goal for this trip was this :: To visit two campus ministries that were out ahead of us.

I’m a student of campus ministry. I want to see what others are trying. I want to experience what they are offering. I want to sit down with the staff and listen to their stories. I want to learn!

We visited CSF at the University of Kentucky and Purdue Campus House. Both ministries are larger than us. Been around longer than us. Have a larger staff than us. Both are further down the road…and we have a lot to learn from places like this.

We asked several questions but the one I want to talk about today is this :: What did it take for your ministry to become the place it is today? (This question is not about a formula. It’s about what they learned along the way. What worked. What did not work. What helped them become the place they are.)

So, because they were so gracious to spend time with us and dump their brains on us, here’s what we learned about what it will take for Impact to take the next step in the world of campus ministry.

1. Consistent Staff
I have experienced this just on our campus. Campus Crusade at Charlotte has changed staff 3 or 4 times in the past 5 years. They used to be the largest campus ministry on our campus with over 100 students. At the end of last year they were averaging less than 20 students. Having a consistent staff and consistent leadership is a must. Rob at Purdue campus house has been on staff over 20 years. The Executive Staff at CSF @ UK has been together for 5 years. This stability is key to growth and effectively reaching your campus. College students experience so much instability. Their lives change every year. Most have never experienced a stable family. We must offer them stability and consistency. This will give them a reason to trust us. This principle also allows the campus administration to trust us. Consistent staff is vital if we want to continue growing numerically and spiritually.

2. Vision
We all know Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is not vision, the people perish.” I like how Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” I think you can say it this way, “Where there is no vision, the people will not thrive.” When I asked the staff at CSF how they tripled in size in the past 5 years one of the things they all agreed on was this, “Brian Marshall has the ability to cast vision.” Brian leads the staff at CSF and God has given him a vision for that community. Without this vision CSF would not be thriving. I wonder if the reason so many places are not thriving is because they lack a clear, communicated, BIG vision. What is your vision?

3. Focus on being small while being big
CSF includes over 280 students and Purdue Campus House includes over 800 students. They are large communities. It would be easy for someone to get lost in the hugeness. But, both places make a point to break down their large community into small communities. This includes Bible studies, volunteer teams, leadership teams and so many other small communities for people to plug into. It can be so easy to get distracted by the need to keep the “whole” thing running that you forget that people grow and develop best in small communities. These two places do not neglect the need for being small while being big. Garrett Curry, who is on staff with Purdue Campus House, once told me that cliques are not bad…as long as the cliques are outward focused. People need cliques. They need small groups of friends they can count on. As we grow and our influence continues to expand we must remember that remaining small is vital.

4. Play Basketball
(I’m borrowing this from Purdue Campus House) Most men and women that are doing campus ministry are decathletes. They do 10 different jobs. It’s a must because most campus ministries only have one staff member, two at the most. So, you are forced to be good at a lot of things. As you add staff you become a staff of Golfing buddies. It might be a round of best ball. Everyone still has to be good at a lot of things. For the team to be successful everyone on the team must be prepared to do whatever it takes at any given moment. You have to be a good driver, your mid range game must be good, you need to be a good chipper and a good putter. As your community grows and the needs of your community expands your team must begin to play basketball. Each member has a specific purpose and gift. One is a point guard, one is a shooting guard, one is a forward, one is a center and so on. This allows people to work within their giftings and allows them to focus their energy. Not all of us can do this but we must always be looking to move forward. Maybe right now your a decathlete…what will it take for you to have some golf buddies? Maybe you’re like us at Impact, you have golf buddies…what will take for us to start playing basketball?

I have so grateful for places like CSF and Purdue Campus House and their willingness to teach me and our team. Principles like the ones above are vital and we must continue talking through them. We must continue learning. Moving forward. Asking hard questions. We must be students of campus ministry.

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Responses

  1. This is really good and really helpful, Justin. Thanks for beating the drum for collaboration – as you know, I’m a fan. 🙂

    If I can ever give you (or anybody) tips on whom / where to visit, let me know. This is possibly THE best way to strengthen our own ministries’ assessment and ideation.

  2. Justin, this post was just absolutely incredible and fantastic for all sorts of reason.

    I love it bro. I took notes. Thanks man.

  3. […] from others: Justin Wallace posts a phenomenal apologia for exploring other college ministries – complete with results from a couple of recent visits he’s gotten to make. A great […]


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