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4 Mindsets to Have in Campus Ministry in a Pandemic

February 24, 2021

If I hear the word “unprecedented” or “pivot” one more time in reference to the pandemic, I actually might lose my mind.

Ok, seriously though, while most of us are weary of hearing these words, the fact remains that we are living in strange times, marked by an unusual degree of difficulty.

Governments around the world are (still!) struggling to contain the COVID-19 virus, while simultaneously laboring to sustain their economies.

Throughout the past few months, I’ve been seeking out new opportunities to improve as a leader and to grow the impact of my campus ministry. (I love what God has been doing in our ministry, but I know we have plenty of room for growth and improvement!) My aim is to lead well during this crisis, and to emerge on the other side of this pandemic stronger and better.

One collegiate ministry I’ve been learning from recently is The Salt Company. Based in the midwestern United States, they are a fascinating group with a church-based model that’s similar to that of my own ministry organization, Every Nation.

Their ministry in Ames, Iowa is also one of the largest college ministries I’m aware of in the U.S. Their ministry at Iowa State University had 1,700 students involved on a weekly basis last year, which is inspiring!

During a recent webinar, one of their leaders shared four mindset shifts for campus ministers during the pandemic.

  1. The base hit is the new home run.

Things are just different now. In baseball, a home run is when the batter hits the ball and then is able to run all around the bases to get back to home plate and score. However, that’s not the only way to score. Most times the batter only makes it to first or second base. Then, they will gradually work their way around the bases until they reach home plate to score.

In this time, we ought to not adopt a defeatist mindset merely because “home runs” are more difficult to come by. We can still make progress!

We need to keep doing the work, and adjust our expectations, knowing that winning is still possible. The “game” just looks different right now, and progress may be more incremental.

  1. Use more pencils than pens for our planning.

I’ve made so many plans over the past six months that have been either revised multiple times or cancelled altogether. (Sometimes the plans I’ve revised multiple times have also been the ones that are later cancelled.)

It’s been frustrating and tiring. It can feel like a lot of work that leads to nothing.

Though some of this is inevitable, we need to adjust our planning processes to the reality of the environment of uncertainty and rapid change.

Let’s not labor over a plan for months, when it may be completely blown up by a government “pivot.”

Planning nearer to the events we are working on and then (still) remaining flexible is a good move in this environment. Use more pencils than pens!

  1. Master the four main plays.

Like many college ministries, The Salt Company typically uses international mission trips, conferences, fall retreats, and numerous other events and outreaches to accomplish their mission.

However, this year they are focusing their energy on a few things: small groups, Thursday night meetings, leader nights, and discipleship groups.

Hearing that a large and fruitful ministry like this is narrowing their focus was freeing to me as a leader of a comparatively smaller ministry. It also makes a lot of sense!

If effectiveness is our goal—not mere activity or busyness—sometimes doing less is the way to achieve more. Focusing on a few key priorities during a time of distress can help to make sure these central priorities are done well, maintaining the health of your ministry.

  1. Deep roots for a long reach.

Many leaders are feeling overwhelmed right now. There is so much to do, so many changes to make, and what was working so well before just isn’t working now.

“You may be feeling buried, but what if God is actually trying to help root you in this season?” This statement by The Salt Company leadership challenged me and ministered to my soul.

Even if we can’t change the circumstances, we need to remember that God is at work in the circumstances and he may be doing something from his perspective that is vastly different than what we perceive.

He is surely at work for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I appreciated these helpful “mindset shifts” from The Salt Company leadership at Iowa State, and I’m grateful for the generosity of this ministry to share what they are learning with others in the body of Christ.

Which of these “mindset shifts” most spoke to you? What application do you need to take to adjust your ministry strategy or your personal perspective to move forward in this season?