What is next for college ministry? If we are honest we don’t really know. Whether you are in the midst of COVID-19 when you read this, or in another season of uncertainty, we all face moments like these in our ministry. Granted, most of the time our uncertainty will be more localized and not as national or global as now. Regardless, there will be other moments of uncertainty in our future.
In almost 24 years of doing college ministry, I’ve grown to appreciate what times like these have the potential to produce in our ministries on the backside. It’s hard to see in the moment, but it can actually benefit us in the long run. There are several ways that you can lean into these moments of uncertainty and how they can ultimately help your ministry.
Uncertainty can breed innovation
I’ve been doing some reading over the last several weeks on hard moments in US history. You would be shocked by the numbers of companies, ministries, and movements that were birthed out of wars, recessions, and other significant difficult moments in our country.
I’ve watched college leaders on the frontlines leading in innovation and creation in dynamic ways within local churches. We are having to be resourceful and creative in new ways … new ways of discipleship … new ways of evangelism … new ways of community … new ways of outreach.
We may or may not need all of these methods in the future … but the very fact we are working our “innovation muscles” is good for us as leaders. Many of us have become complacent with our old methods and systems that required very little thought. This uncertainty could birth new initiatives and ways we do ministry that have the potential to mobilize us for even more impact in the future.
Uncertainty can refocus the mission
In moments when questions begin to swirl, they can force us to begin to ask foundational questions. These foundational questions will drive us to refocus on the “Why?” behind our ministries. When complacency sets in, we begin to experience “mission drift.” This drift can create in us lack of urgency and passion for what we have been called to participate in.
Crisis and times of uncertainty push us back to the mission. We are reminded again why we chose to get in the fight: we have been invited to participate in the greatest mission ever, the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
Uncertainty can expose our foundation
One of the things I’ve consistently seen through times of uncertainty is what is exposed. For many of us for the first time we are seeing what is at the foundation of our ministries. We are seeing our commitment to disciple-making, mission, and community. We are seeing where we are strong and where we are weak.
I’m a huge sports fan. My favorite moments in sports are the pressure situations when a person is standing at the top of the key with the ball with seconds left in the game, when the quarterback is driving his team down for one last touchdown, the Sunday back nine of a major in golf … I love it all. It shows us the makeup and fabric of these athletes. Careers and legacies are defined in these moments. These high-pressure situations reveal the core of these athletes. Like in athletics, difficult moments show who we are at our core. We are seeing the foundations of our leadership and ministries. Years from now these could very well be the moments we look back on as the pivot points in our trajectory
So the big question is how do we respond in the midst of uncertainty? When my life or ministry seem out of control I keep going back to a simple process.
- What is true? Let’s be honest, there are lots of lies we believe about ourselves and the ministries we lead. We need to step back and assess what is really true.
- What is God calling us to? In moments of uncertainty, it’s important for us to be listening. Chaos often breeds lots of opinions and ideas and yet ought to quiet our hearts and listen to what God is saying in these moments and then prepare ourselves to respond.
- How will we get there? Once we get our directives, we need to begin to move. We start mapping out the plan that God is calling us towards.
My encouragement to you is to keep moving forward, keep listening, and be responsive to what is happening in times of uncertainty. I believe more than ever in seasons such as this college leaders are more equipped to lead into the next season. Keep after it!