May 16, 2016

Campus, Reach

Embrace the Silos

Evan Blackerby writes about the opportunity that lies in embracing “silos” on the college campuses.

Many college students naturally see themselves not as who they are but rather who they desire to be. They may see themselves as professional baseball players, hard workers, magna cum laude, night owls, early birds, the perfect spouse, champion parents, DeadPoet’s-Society-type teachers, leaders, dedicated activists who actually make a difference. Some of them are so delirious with their own delusions that they think they are living proof that Cannabis can fuel their high-functioning life. You get the point.

How students see or classify themselves is their self-proclaimed identity. What they do, what they look like, what they desire, what they enjoy affects who they say they are.

We, as the Church, have generally not done well at valuing who students say they are, even when we disagree with their assessments. But it turns out that identity is a pretty big deal.

We quickly ask students to be part of a community that they see as our identity (namely disciples of Jesus and the resulting church) rather than slowly walking with them on their own journey, through their culture and community.

We have a hard time believing that they simply cannot be integrated into our culture. They are not us. They have their own lives, experiences, strengths, and habits that don’t change quickly. Yet often, if we are not careful, we want them to become little versions of ourselves and forget their old friends and “families.”

In a culture where a self-proclaimed “identity” feels rock-solid and nearly unchangeable,
we, the Church, are left scratching our heads in confusion at how to reach the mission
field before us today. This paradigm shift towards each person, each student, having an unquestionably unique-yet-subjective personal identity, and those individuals congregating around what they do, or wear, or how they feel presents collegiate leaders and influencers with a remarkable opportunity.

Yes. Opportunity.

According to Kelton Hinton, we absolutely must embrace the “silos.” A silo is a structure for storing bulk materials. Silos are used in agriculture to store grain, but they can also be used for bulk storage of coal, cement, carbon black,
woodchips, and sawdust. Technically, my son has a silo of Legos.

Silos are separated. They encase. They protect from weather, scavengers, the elements. They are usually homogenous storage bins for useful foods and materials. The problem is that we often see them shrouded in negativity and worthy of change.

Hinton prayed over a community college campus for six months before attempting to start any sort of ministry there. He theorized there may not be a lot of community on the community college campus, but he discovered he was wrong.

He found that people actually do know each other. People hang out together. They babysit each other’s kids. The students work together, eat together, commiserate about job prospects and celebrate dreams being actualized. They “do life” together.

Hinton noticed that the community that is actually created occurs in the confines of their degree programs or areas of study. The nurses hang out with the nurses. The welders hang out with the welders. The computer programmers hang out and create code together.

Community happens naturally, Hinton found, in silos.

What if you set out to catalyze a ministry with a bunch of math students or future police officers or teachers or artists or thespians?

What if you sent actual missionaries into separate unreached communities to make
disciples? What if your church stood and prayed over them as they sent them out as we do with any international missionary?

We must admit that it’s ok to let people hang out with their friends! The only thing that is needed is a missionary to a specific “silo” of people and someone to encourage the dormant missionaries in each community.

Could that be you?

Don’t see these groups as walled-off, exclusive groups of homogenized college students worthy of “busting up!” Instead see them as rich and deeply connected communities with natural potential for Gospel impact! The potential for Kingdom-impact is limitless.

Embrace the silos.

about the author

Evan Blackerby

Evan is a Futurist with the @NoCampusLeft strengths-based collaborative. He is on mission in a neighborhood in High Point, North Carolina with his wife, son, and daughter.