Just Do it

6 Feb

I’m a slow learner.  I was nearly forty years old before I finally completed my formal education.  Then it took me another ten years to figure out that I had been trained for exercising pastoral ministry in a context that no longer existed and trained for a teaching ministry that relied on methods of communication that date back to medieval times.

I used to think that, as a spiritual and intellectual leader, I had to do it all—all the leading, all the serving, all, the thinking, all the teaching, all the exhorting—all for the sake of “quality control.”  Now don’t get me wrong.  I think having a strong work ethic, a sense of personal responsibility and a passion for excellence are important commitments for campus ministers to keep.  But over time I’ve come to realize that a great way to kill a ministry is to think and act like we have to do it all ourselves.

A couple of years ago, we changed paradigms at the Ecumenical Campus Ministry at Kansas State University.  I became less of a doer and more of an encourager and equipper.  We invited students and other young adults to take ownership of the ministry’s programming.  We invited those emerging leaders to “go with their strengths,” to identify something—a need, an injustice, a hobby—they were passionate about and develop a ministry that addressed their passion.  We quit trying to fit round pegs into square holes, and instead, made a conscious effort to allow God to call us to the places where “our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

The energy that decision released has been transformative!  Student leaders have emerged.  New programmatic initiatives have started.  Collaborations with others have evolved.  Involvement in ministry has grown. Lives are being changed.  In short, the campus ministry has begun to flourish—but not until I began to let go of exercising leadership in ways better suited to a bygone era.

What kind of leadership are you providing to your campus ministry?  Are you engaged in leadership practices that will sustain you in ministry for the long haul and, and concurrently, effectively equip others for the ministry to which they’ve been called?  If you’re not asking yourself these kinds of questions, you’re doing yourself and your campus ministry a disservice.

Don’t be a slower learner like me.  Just do it.


David Jones will begin his 16th year as campus pastor of the ECM (Ecumenical Campus Ministry) at Kansas State University on April Fool’s Day, 2012—which he contends should be the official start day for all who serve in campus ministry.  For almost 27 years he has been married to Linda, with whom he has two children: Nathan (22) and Lindsey (20).  When not hanging out with students, he enjoys staying physically active via yoga, running, walking Bear (his dog), swimming and gardening.  He earned his Ph.D. in Church History from Vanderbilt University, a M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology and a B.A. in psychology and religion from Augustana College (S.D.).


One Response to “Just Do it”

  1. paul walley February 7, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    Fine piece, David. Too many times we are like the Lone Ranger
    (ah, that dates me) and try to save the ship alone. Right on
    with your new thoughts. Way to go.


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