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Campus Ministry as Zone Defense vs. Church Picnic Softball

January 22, 2010

This post is about how campus ministers can work most effectively with what I like to call “Double-dippers,” those students who frequent two or more ministries on a regular basis.

One of our favorite pastimes as campus ministers is to gripe about the double-dippers who treat the campus ministry scene like it’s their own personal Baskin-Robbins.

But our griping doesn’t accomplish anything. It’s a reality, and it’s not changing anytime soon.

So how do we deal with it? More than coping, how can we turn it into a positive for the Kingdom?

It’s like this: we have to choose between what I’ll call the “Church Picnic Softball” approach, and the “Zone Defense” approach.

Whether we realize it or not, we campus ministers are on the same team. But we often don’t act like it.

How we relate to each other can be compared to church picnic softball game vs. a zone defense.

In softball, you just run out into the field, and may not even know your “teammmates.”

In zone, you have predetermined assignments, and know the strengths & weakness of your teammates well.

In softball, you might talk to each other, but then again, you might not. The ball easily drops in-between the outfielders.

In zone, you have practiced and reliable ways to communicate with each other.

In softball, you are purely reactive to the play of the game. There’s very little planning or forethought.

In zone, before the play happens, you’re calling out signals and making adjustments. You are fundamentally proactive.  When you need to make adjustments, your proactivity allows you to be effective as you react.

In softball, little thought is given to positions, or who’s best equipped to handle certain tasks.

In zone, much thought is given to who covers whom, based on ability, & experience.

In softball, I’m fixated on my job.

In zone, we’re fixated on our job.  We can have fluidity in our assignments, because we’re focused on the larger goal. If it makes more sense for someone else to pick up that person than me, so be it.

In softball, the biggest, fastest player sometimes roams the outfield, not giving anyone else a chance.

In zone, each player knows his role and where he should be positioned.

I happen to like softball. But I’ve never played a church or fellowship softball game that had any consequence to it, other than some momentary bragging rights.

In campus ministry, our stakes are quite a bit higher.

Communication. Coordination. Cooperation. It’s what distinguishes good cooperative campus ministry environments from  ineffective ones.

Are you playing casual softball, or zone on your campus?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2010 11:42 pm

    Really interesting analysis, and great metaphors!

    “Communication. Coordination. Cooperation. It’s what distinguishes good cooperative campus ministry environments from ineffective ones.”

    Do you have some examples of both of those? You don’t have to name names, but do you have specific examples where you’ve seen that taking place in campus ministry environments?

    • January 23, 2010 10:24 am

      Benson–I can name some positive examples. I think we’re on to something here at PSU. This past week I met with students from Cru, Navs, & some other ministries to plan and do 4-5 separate initiatives that will involve multiple ministries. These will be buzz-worthy, high impact, outreach-oriented. I have good relationships with their campus ministers, so there’s a high degree of trust & respect there. I probably connected with students/staff from 7 or 8 ministries this week. All very positive, with concrete plans on how to work together. That’s zone. If it was “softball,” I might hear about stuff they’re doing after the fact & be positive and encouraging, but it wouldn’t impact me, & vice-versa.

      I’m also all geeked up to take in what’s happening at Univ. of Texas-Austin, when I go to Verge in a few weeks. They’re on to something down there.

      Also, I believe it’s a new day in Philly, or getting to be. Once you could have called that a real softball environment. But among several parties, I see a new willingness to work together, to not act like we’re the only ones in the city, but to emphasize where we’re called, and where others are called instead of us.

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