What can the Constitution teach us about college ministry?
Jim Collins has mesmerized business leaders for years now with his insightful research presented in Good to Great.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed this book, Collins’s other book, Built to Last, was more paradigm shifting for me.
As in Good to Great, Collins analyzed several companies and compared them according to a handful of criteria.
Essentially, what he found was that there have been several great start up companies, built on a strong leader and an inspiring vision that didn’t last.
The companies that lasted were those that not only had an inspiring vision, but also built visionary structures that undergirded and made the inspiring vision possible.
As a red-blooded American, my favorite example Collins used was The United States of America.
The birth of our nation obviously contained an inspiring vision and strong leaders, but the Constitution represented the lasting structure that would make this vision a reality despite a shift and change in leadership.
Collins’s research has endless implications and applications for college ministry, but our primary lesson to learn is to think beyond the here and now into the then and there.
We must desire to not only launch a ministry with energy, but sustain it for years to come, even after we’re gone.
Leading your ministry to grow by addition is only thinking for the immediate future.
Leading it into growing by multiplication creates a structure that will last.
We should seek to create movements built on multiplication, not moments built on addition.
Ultimately, the principle of multiplication is THE key structure for college ministry.
Essentially, sticking to the plan of multiplication is to college ministry, what the Constitution is to America.
So what can you do to build this visionary structure of multiplication into your ministry?
After you have done the hard, grunt work of grassroots evangelism, below are a few suggestions to follow to help you ensure that multiplication happens and not only addition.
Train your laborers
Once you’ve poured your life into multiple students, you’ve got students on your team who can help you reach more students and thereby build a movement. But if you don’t train them in how to multiply, they’ll never do it.
The only way you’re going to sustain a movement is if the movement gets decentralized and way bigger than something you can lead.
I would encourage a couple ways to do this:
Gather all of these student laborers into one room and pass on some good training material on how to multiply.
Give them some principles on having a personal ministry, leading evangelistic bible studies and more.
Develop leaders through delegation
If your students only sit on the sideline while you quarterback every play, you’ll end up with a ministry full of cheerleaders.
You’re probably the best at leading everything but no one will be trained to replace you if you get “injured.”
Give away big leadership opportunities to your key students and you’ll be well on your way to building an out of control movement that will sustain itself by God’s power and providence rather than your crazed hard work.
If you want your ministry to live beyond you, you better start giving it away now!
Pray with your laborers
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who labor, labor in vain.” (Psalm 127)
Do you want a ministry that you can manage? Or one that is out of control because God is moving in multiple places that you can’t keep up with?
It’s easy to build a ministry. It takes prayer to build and sustain a movement. Here are a few ideas on how to do this:
Set community wide prayer requests
At the beginning of the semester, get your core team of student laborers together, and ask, “What would it look like if God’s Kingdom came down to our campus this semester?”
Set challenging, inspiring goals and pray that God would show His power.
Then at the end of the semester, celebrate what He has done!
Have regular prayer times
I would suggest gathering your students at least twice a week into large group prayer times.
Bring the requests with you and remind everyone of what you are praying for.
Update these regularly and keep everyone’s prayers informed.
Use these prayer times as opportunities to teach what it means to live in dependence.
Have spontaneous prayer times
If you are really a part of a movement, there will be unpredictable things that happen.
Prayer should be our knee jerk reaction when things don’t go as planned.
We need to train our students to have the same DNA.
This may lead to entirely student led prayer times that you don’t even know about!
As the semester progresses, you may even decide to have a week long prayer focus with 24 hour prayer chains for all of your students to participate in.
Don’t ever be the guy that declines to have multiple prayer meetings!
Build community with your laborers
Most of us fall out on one of two extremes. We are either too relational or too intentional.
Wherever you are, I would encourage you to take steps toward better balance.
In order to sustain a movement, I think we need to be a good mix of each. Here are a couple suggestions:
Have a lot of fun with your laborers
I am personally on the “too intentional” end of things.
Guys like me don’t need to take themselves so seriously. We need to loosen up and laugh with our people.
You don’t want your ministry to feel like the military!
Yes, we have a mission, but it is with college students and they just so happen to like to have a lot of fun!
Do a lot of ministry with your laborers
On the other end, I would suggest to those of you who tend to be too relational, that it may be a good idea to do ministry with your people.
If they only see you laughing with people and never sharing the gospel with them, they may never learn how to share the good news.
They need to see the fun guy get real sometimes.
Real community is built when a group of people who love each other are on mission together.
If you only aim at community, you’ll never get mission. If you aim at mission with people, you end up getting community thrown in.
This is by no means an exhaustive, failproof plan for building your ministry on the visionary structure of multiplication.
But hopefully these few ideas will help you get started down the road of formulating your own plan to build a ministry that lasts!