Leadership Development is a significant part of our ministry with H2O Kent. We believe the university environment is ideally suited to seeing atheists become missionaries because there’s so much life transition, so much community, and so much raw potential among college students.
Consequently, we develop student-leaders by encouraging them to participate in a seven-week discipleship experience we call The Well. We invite students to consider apprenticeships and internships at different points throughout their years at Kent State University. We recruit students to go to a summer Leadership Training program in Estes Park, Colorado. And when they graduate from college, we even ask students to consider a career in full-time, support-based Collegiate Missions.
Still, we know that a career in Collegiate Missions is not for everyone. There are a lot of different factors to consider. So we’ve come up with a short-hand, alliterative way of talking about these points of consideration. It used to be the 3 “C”s (the first three listed below). Over time, however, we’ve added other considerations (while somehow managing to stick with the alliteration), so that we’re now up to 7 “C”s. It’s kind of silly, we know, but it’s also kind of cool because our 7 “C”s evoke “The Seven Seas” of ancient maritime lore. And to us, it does feel like an epic spiritual voyage.
So here’s what it takes to sail the 7 “C”s of starting a career in Collegiate Missions:
We believe Christlike Character is the absolute foundation of Christian leadership. The Bible doesn’t talk so much about one’s talent or training, when it comes to qualifications for leadership, as much as it talks about Character. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are two of the clearest and best examples of this. But we also look for men and women who are well respected by others and demonstrably filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom (see Acts 6:1-7). We look for the fruit that’s being produced in that person’s life (see Matthew 7:15-20 and Galatians 5:16-26) — and if it’s good fruit, we see that person as being a good candidate for ministry leadership.
How does a person know if he or she has been Called by God to a career in Collegiate missions? It might sound like we’re looking only for people who audibly hear God’s voice or actually see a beam of light bursting from heaven to show them the way to go. But we think of Calling more broadly, in the sense of feeling compelled by a heart to obey and a critical mind and passionate commitment and devotion to God. It’s not hard to make a case from the Bible that we’re all called to make disciples (see Matthew 28:18-20). When it comes to full-time, support-based ministry among college students, though, there needs to be a focus and drive towards missions that can withstand the refining fire of Ministry Team Development. A career in Collegiate Missions can’t be something that a person is doing to appease (or antagonize) one’s parents, pastors, friends, or whatever. It has to be something a person is doing to obey God and live out one’s calling.
We need proven leaders for our Staff program. We believe that a career in Collegiate Missions is not so much a path to leadership as it is a recognition of the leadership that is already being expressed in the context of local ministry. We want people who already know how to share the Gospel, who already know how to lead a Bible study. We need people who have good communication skills and can mentor younger believers. Perfection is not a requirement; we’re all still works in progress. At the same time, a base level of Competency is important for our line of work — just as it is for most other professional environments.
Those of us on the H2O Kent Staff team are professional colleagues, but we are also brothers and sisters in Christ. “Workplace proximity associates” won’t cut it. Ministry is people. Consequently, emotional dynamics, spiritual dynamics, and social dynamics are a big part of our jobs — not just the practical stuff. So we want to carefully consider the relational fit for any potential candidates for our Staff team. We make it a priority to evaluate conflict resolution skills, communication styles, and personality dynamics to make sure that we don’t disrupt the culture and Chemistry that allows our Staff team to function as a healthy spiritual family.
For better, for worse: our model for Collegiate Missions requires an extended process of Ministry Team Development (a.k.a. “raising support”) at the front end of a ministry career. This facilitates the broad-based, grass-roots coalition of individuals, families, and churches that provide the prayer and financial support needed to sustain a ministry worker in their position. Our employment agency, Reliant Mission, does an excellent job training people in the work of Ministry Team Development. To actually raise the support, though, an individual needs to connect with hundreds of people from their personal networks. So, it’s important for anyone considering Staff to think through who their potential Contacts might be. More than just “name-storming,” it’s important to consult with family and local church leadership to make sure that access to these Contacts will be unrestricted and (ideally) enthusiastically-supported.
Working through the period of one’s initial Ministry Team Development creates a financial bottleneck. Even though the individual is employed — with benefits and everything — it takes time to raise the funds that will eventually be used to pay out all the insurances, and employment taxes, ministry expenses, and salary that are rightfully accrued through the work of Ministry Team Development. Usually, it takes a few months before someone can start to receive a full salary (and, eventually, back pay to cover any shortfalls that may have accrued along the way). Consequently, during that in-between period, it’s important that monthly costs are trimmed as much as possible and/or personal Cash reserves are built up to cover living expenses. By the end of a person’s initial Ministry Team Development, personal savings should be fully restored, if not increased. But it’s just a matter of thinking through Cash flow ahead of time and developing a realistic plan to make it through that financial bottleneck.
In the United States of America, access to a Car is necessary for the level of mobility that will be needed to get through the period of one’s initial Ministry Team Development. An individual frequently has to travel to 10-15 support appointments per week within a 30-minute driving radius, in order to meet all of his or her financial needs. Without access to a reliable Car, it would be very difficult to build this base that’s needed to sustain a career in full-time, support-based Collegiate Missions.
Every person’s situation is unique, of course. We pray regularly that God will raise up workers for His harvest field (see Matthew 9:35-38). But in our experience, it really helps to think through these 7 “C”s in order to maximize the potential of younger generations rising to take their place in these harvest fields.