Oct 03, 2016

Lead

The Frustration and Power of Why


Evan Blackerby writes about the challenge and opportunity that college ministries can find wrapped up in just three letters – WHY?

I have a shed behind my house. It is where I store things like shovels, stray boards, “the junk box,” and my lawnmower. So, I started building a small ramp out of some scrap lumber a neighbor gave me. I worked on it for days — designing it, cutting the boards to proper length, squaring it up, sanding portions, nailing down the planks, and getting prepared for final touches.  I was almost done!

That’s when when my neighbor, bless him, peered over the fence like Wilson from Home Improvement, and asked, “Is it supposed to look like that?”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, seems a little steep doesn’t it?”

“I guess it might be a little steep,” I replied.

“Well, I like the design. I’d just make the ramp a lot longer. Like a lot longer… Well, see you soon, buddy!”

He left me to my disenchantment.  And as I sat, thinking, it occurred to me that not once in the process of dreaming it up, designing it, cutting the boards, and putting them together had I ever asked, “Why?”

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This simple word — a single-word question — can frustrate, illuminate, or obliterate the execution of your collegiate ministry’s vision.

Asking Why? can:

  • Create conversations in your collegiate ministry that don’t exist
  • Drive changes, both large and small
  • Foster creativity and escape from comfort zones
  • Cause pain
  • Impose negativity (if done poorly)
  • Force a response
  • Change organizations

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A few years ago, I was blessed to become the leader of a campus ministry on a large state school in North Carolina.  I remember how excited I was to be able to influence the lives of students, share Jesus, lead leaders, and send them out on mission! Then I started, and it was nothing like I pictured.

We had eight teams run by eight different individuals with different visions and methodologies. I simply wanted to make disciples, but instead I found myself running a small, bureaucratic, organizational mess.

Then we asked the question: Why?

After some tough conversation, we shifted the entirety of our ministry. Our one goal became making disciples. This eliminated most of the teams and got everyone on the same page. Most of the things that were going on previously were not bad things, but it’s surprising how many “not bad” things can turn out not-so-good when nothing gets filtered.  Asking Why? made us focus.

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Here are some good Why? questions for you and your collegiate ministry to consider — if you are willing:

  • Why does our staff do things that students are completely capable of doing?
  • Why do my students always look to me for the answers, rather than searching for them, on their own?
  • Why do I repeatedly find myself in — and unable to break out of —  a Christian bubble?
  • Why do we have paid staff?
  • Why does our church fear engaging the outside world?
  • Why do I feel such ‘burn out’?
  • Why are we still doing that party or event that is labeled “outreach” when it’s clear that there are only believing students in attendance? (Bonus question: Why don’t we just call it what it is?)
  • Why am I so attached to my way of doing ministry?
  • Why is our student’s time being monopolized by the upkeep of a building or program, as opposed to the discipling of their non-believing friends towards Jesus?
  • Why does my leadership feel stale?
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We didn’t really need a ramp on the side of my shed.  My kids could carry their own bikes up and down those two little stairs. I have a worn-out piece of plywood that works fine for rolling the lawn mower up and down the stairs every week or so.

Leaders must learn to handle the question.  If the Kingdom is to expand and disciples are to multiply, we must learn to ask it. Leaders, innovators, drivers, and people who push the envelope ask Why?

Where do you need to ask Why?


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.