Sunday, March 29

Setting the Compass

This is an expanded version of an article I posted on Crux - a blog for those in campus ministry.


I'm a collector, of sorts. I collect compasses. It's not a very big collection. I only have about six of them. And though some of them look pretty cool, none of them are too expensive. But I do like compasses. I have a couple setting on my desk at the office. I have one on my desk at home. I have others sitting at various spots throughout the house.

A compass is all about direction. It's not so much about where you are at this moment in time, but about the direction in which you are heading to get to the place where you want to be. I need that reminder. In a world ruled by full inboxes, crowded calendars, and over-flowing "to-do" lists, it is easy to lose sight of where you want to be and wander from the direction that will get you there.

The longer I am in campus ministry, the more convinced I am that destination and direction are vital. One reason is that they can keep us from the comparison game: Is my ministry as big, as cool, or as effective as another? Many of us will never have large ministries with hundreds of people in attendance. But effectiveness in ministry isn't always determined by numbers. Though healthy ministries usually grow, there are many factors that influence the size of a ministry. A clear sense of destination and direction will help us focus on that to which God has called us.

Destination and direction are also more important than what is happening at any given time or in any specific year. If you have been in ministry very long at all, you have experienced the cyclical nature of the work. Some years you grow and some years you don't. Some years your leaders step up and do a great job and some years they get distracted or lazy. Some years you baptize people by the dozens and some years it seems that all the students you share the Gospel with have hearts of stone. Some years you will feel like you have this whole thing figured out and you should write a book about how to really do ministry. Some years you write about a half dozen different letters of resignation. But if I am more about destination and direction rather than the success or failure of the moment, I am better able to navigate the roller-coaster of ministry. I will be able to say "no" to the temptation to re-invent the wheel every year, trying to find the right formula. I will be able to express a clear and compelling vision of the purpose and progress of our ministry. And that vision will help me communicate to students, supporters, and potential supporters what the end goal is and how we are going to get there.

So how are you in defining the destination and direction of your ministry and casting a clear and compelling vision of it? What is the primary purpose of your ministry? Can you state it in a sentence that will excite and stir the imagination? If you fulfill God's vision for your ministry, what will that look like? What strategies will help you reach your destination? Are the programs and activities you are now doing moving you in the right direction? How will you know if you reach your destination? How will you know if you accomplish your purpose? What kind of qualities will let you know that you are fulfilling the mission to which God has called you?

So set your destination toward God's vision and purpose for your ministry. Keep moving in that direction.

And maybe put a compass on your desk.

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