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It’s hard to shake the scrambling of the last year and a half. For many of us it was full of last-minute Zoom meetings, brainstorming how to meet new people and praying that God would use what felt like the scraps of our former ministry.

I’m someone who feeds off new experiences, yet even I have to admit feeling in over my head. My family just moved from a small college town to start something new in a big city. We handed off the collegiate church we started seven years ago to our next-up leaders and loaded up the U-Haul. This had been the plan for a while, but we never imagined doing so during a pandemic with high social tension.

Even if you haven’t moved to a new town, you may also find yourself starting something new. Some of you have had to change the way you have done campus ministry for years. Some of you, like myself, thrive while starting new things. Others of you are feeling forced and miss the way it used to be. As we start new rhythms of ministry in a different context, I feel God gently remind me who he has always been even during change.

The story of Moses comes to mind as he led the Israelites through the desert in Exodus 14-17. God asked Moses to lead them somewhere new. The people lacked trust and complained. They wanted to go back to the comfort of home. They would rather be slaves than endure the discomfort of daily dependence on God. It’s scary to realize I often do the same.

Let’s not grumble that God has led us into new spaces. Instead, thank him for guiding us day by day. He promised to be with the Israelites. Today even still, our Father guides us; his Son intercedes on our behalf; and his Spirit leads us moment by moment. As we navigate new terrain with inevitable valleys, let’s remember what God can create in new spaces. Here are four reasons to celebrate the start of new things in leadership.

  1. New Things Require New Metrics

New things rarely start with large groups, which forces us to have different metrics of success. Instead of asking how many people were there right away, we can practice asking different questions: Did new people come? Are leaders growing in depth? Is community being formed? Is multiplication on the horizon? Is repentance and life-change happening?

  1. New Things Make You Really Need Jesus

It’s hard to be desperate for God to move when you know what to expect. This year, what if we put our money where our aspirational prayer life is and pray like this all depends on him. Let’s depend on God’s power like never before and take risks accordingly. Jesus told us that he will build his church (Matthew 16:18) and that as we make disciples, he will be with us (Matthew 28:20). If the power of the resurrected Christ is our strength, we will be willing to start new things and take calculated risks to reach new students.

This year we felt helpless and many days prayer was all we had. In the spring, we baptized seven students. One was a freshman who one of our leaders “met” by randomly sending a direct message on Instagram. I was overwhelmed by God’s grace in that baptism service, knowing how little we had been able to do on our own strength in the face of many campus restrictions. God’s abundant grace has always been the thing producing life change; I just had to be dependent enough to acknowledge it. God reminded me to keep praying even when it seemed like nothing was happening.

  1. New Things Force You to Evaluate Old Things

Once we change one thing, we’re faced with evaluating the entire ecosystem. In our ministry lately with what feels like higher stakes, we’ve had to examine every space we’re inviting people to. Is this just something we’ve done for 10 years? Does this get us around the lost or leaders? Is this an old model that we need to adapt for a new season of ministry? It has been hard to go deep in this evaluation and try new things, but we’ve seen new people connected over the last year as we’ve switched up our old small group models to fit a new social context.

  1. New Things Make Space for New Leaders

In fast-paced disciple-making contexts like collegiate ministries, making space for new leaders is a beneficial, albeit scary, risk to take. Once we can get past the risk of handing off leadership to students who are not experienced, we can see the benefits of watching those people grow as disciples. They move from consumer to teacher where, Daniel Im reminds us in his book No Silver Bullets, adult learning retention goes up to 70 percent. A new leader in a new space will understand in deeper ways what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

Where is God asking you to follow him as you start something new with intention instead of grumbling? If Moses could lead one million Israelites with a smoke cloud and some manna, are you not also prepared to lead your students through new places? God is with us in the change. I pray we lead in the wilderness with joy and trust that shows our students how to do the same



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