Apr 09, 2018

Reach

Filling the Field vs. Filling the Room


Clayton Bullion writes about how the right mindset will focus your college ministry on filling the field rather than filling the room — reaching the lost rather than gathering Christians.

“Fill the field instead of fill the room.”  – John Worcester

This is such a powerful statement! It’s so simple but packed with so much insight!  It reminds us that our job is not just gathering students to hear us preach, but sending students out. Instead of packing out the room, how can we saturate the harvest field with workers?  Isn’t that what Jesus said to pray for in Luke 10:2? Ask the Lord of the harvest for workers because the harvest field is plentiful but the workers are few.

Jesus didn’t ask us to beg God for sitters and listeners, but for goers and workers!  How many college ministries make it their goal to gather Christians? If they can just gather enough Christians and provide a safe place for them to hang out until they pass through the dark ages of college then they’ve done their job. O friends, may it not be!  May we become so captured by God’s vision to see our campus saturated with the gospel that we begin to see the harvest field in need of workers instead of our full worship services and feel content.

What is your mindset? We see our mindset revealed in at least three areas.

VISION & VALUES

Your vision and values determine a lot about your ministry.  It speaks to your mindset. Do you have a vision that involves workers in the harvest field or only the people you can gather?  One ministry had the vision statement: “Everyone on our campus will be within arms reach of the gospel!” Another ministry developed a vision that “every student on our campus will have the opportunity to hear the gospel from a friend before they graduate.”  Both of these are field mindset visions. They demand an equipping and sending out of students, not solely the gathering and maintaining of students.

I’m not sure about your campus but if every single ministry on my campus hit maximum capacity at their worship service we’d still only reach 15% of our campus.  That leaves 85% of our campus lost with no connection to God and his people. We could fill the room and still lose the campus!  It’s not just about gathering students its about our vision of where ministry happens that exposes our mindset.  Do you feel like you have to be present for ministry to happen? Does your ministry happen in a centralized place or an organic network throughout your campus?  Harvest workers tend to be more effective in the actual field harvesting instead of the program you have going on in your building. How is your vision and values enabling students (or prohibiting students) to spill out into the harvest field?

STAFF

The way we staff reflects our mindset. We either staff for the room or staff for the field. When we staff for the room we limit our staff to a ratio of however many participants we have.  When we staff for the field we look at how many people it will take to get the job done. Can you imagine if we staffed our missions agencies like we staff our churches? Can you imagine someone standing up and saying, “Let’s not send anymore missionaries to Saudi Arabia, because they only have 50 believers there.  They don’t need anymore, it would be a waste of resources.” No way! The fact that there are only a few believers and vast untapped harvest field drives our passion for people to go. Why are we so quick to staff our foreign missionaries to reach the harvest field, but limit our college missionaries to staff for only the number of people they can gather in a room?  Didn’t the Lord call us to pray for workers in the harvest field, not guarders of the storehouses?

Some of us will never reach our campus because we only staff to take care of the students we can gather.  One of the most powerful questions I was ever asked was, “What’s it going to take staffing-wise in order for you to reach your campus?” It shifted my paradigm. All of a sudden I was striving to staff a missionary team to reach 14,000 students instead of a staff for the number of students I could gather at my events.  Do you find yourself making staffing decisions based solely on the students that come to your ministry? What would your staff need to look like in order for you to reach your campus with the gospel — in order to fill the field?

THE KINGDOM &  my kingdom

How you view other ministries on your campus reveals your mindset.  Are other ministries on your campus gospel partners or competition?  When we view other ministries as competition then it reveals we are looking to fill the room — our room — not the harvest field.  When other ministries are partners then any growth they experience is a shared win for the Kingdom.

Our ministry lost about 150 students this year when another ministry launched on our campus. I was freaking out! I was like a duck all fall semester:  calm and cool on the surface, but frantically paddling for my life underneath! I had always said I was for His Kingdom to be made known on my campus, but as it turns out I was actually only okay with God bringing His Kingdom to my campus if it meant that He used my kingdom to do it! It revealed my room mindset. How you relate to other gospel groups on your campus is one of the best litmus tests to expose your true mindest.  If you are struggling with the success of other ministries then you may be more concerned with building your kingdom than THE Kingdom. It peels back the layers of facade in our soul and reveals our small mindedness.  How is your view of the other ministries on your campus? Partners in the field or competition to your room?

I have a quote over my desk that reads, “You have one chance to reach this generation. Don’t be lame.” It’s a constant reminder to me that it’s more about my sending capacity, not my seating capacity.  It’s more about who I’m preparing and sending to the fields, not who I’m gathering in the room. Friends, could we rise up and see the gospel march across our campuses and see workers harvesting in the field or will we be content to confuse attendance to our events with discipleship and obedience to Jesus? It starts with us as the leaders and pacesetters in our ministry.  It starts with our mindset.

Will we fill the field or be content with just filling the room?


about the author

Clayton Bullion


Clayton is the Chief Dreamer and Storyteller at the Baptist Student Ministry at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX. He is married to Bethany and they have four fantastic kids. Before coming to Tarleton, Clayton and Bethany lived in the Middle East helping college students engage the culture around them with the gospel.