Changing our Default

During these first few weeks of this campus year, I am looking at the five areas of strategic focus of the US Campus Ministry.

  1. WBS Movements
  2. Multiethnic Organization
  3. Stakeholders & Partnerships
  4. Movement Accelerators
  5. Prayer Catalysts

Today, I’m focusing on the multiethnic organization piece. Many of us are engaging with different ethnic communities on our campuses. That’s great. We are still continuing our commitment to launch ethnic specific ministries, Impact, Destino, Epic, KCCC, Nations, Design, as well as Bridges. But we are also seeking to grow into a multi-ethnic leadership organization.

I asked Jason Poon, MPD Director of Epic Movement , if I could share with you thoughts on “Changing our Default” that he originally posted on the CruPress Green blog. He helps us see things through a different lens.

My first assignment on staff was on an EFM campus team. I was pretty excited about it as it was at my alma mater; I knew just how diverse the campus was, and it seemed to be a good place for an EFM team. My wife and I started socializing with the team while we were on full time MPD and were anxious to join them, as we thought they were a group that we could be good friends with and  labor alongside very well. And, for the most part, that was true — at least in our eyes.

Our team was a little oddly comprised: out of the thirteen of us (yes, a huge team!), eleven of us were Epic-designated, myself included. One was a true EFM specialist and our final team member was Destino-designated. As we discussed our plans and ideas about launching movements, discipleship, or whatever was on the agenda that week we found that, unwittingly, we had a “default” which (as you can guess) turned out to be Epic.

We weren’t intentionally trying to exclude the other ministries or dominate the conversation. But for most of us, that was just our natural default. In the course of talking about an upcoming [Epic] training time, planning [Epic] conferences, and recording stats [for Epic], our friend would either have to insert herself to put Destino on the radar (a terribly uncomfortable act), or wait for one of us to turn to her and, as an afterthought, ask, “Oh, and what are you working on?”

Ouch.

As you could imagine, that proved to be a frustrating experience for our friend. Very frustrating. God bless her as she handled that mess with so much class and dignity. Over the course of the year, we were able to acknowledge how we’d all contributed to that hurtful dynamic and praise God that we remain friends still to this day. But as time has gone on, I have been more and more saddened by what she experienced on that team, both because I am more mature and able to see things more clearly, and also because I have been on the other end.

I have sat at a staff conference where the main speaker talked about reaching the entire campus with one movement. Facts, figures, and stats were presented and a tipping point given that, if we were to hit that number, we would reach the campus. Afterward, I watched my friend approach him and eventually have him admit that, in fact, that tipping point would not reach every student on campus — only the “default” students.

I have read articles that outlined strategies and tactics as if every student and movement were the same and never acknowledging that they were actually written with one kind of student in mind: the white student.

When we’re all together, we give reports, we plan, we discuss, and at the end, as an afterthought, we ask, “Oh, and how is EFM doing?” Because CFM is our default, and white students are our default students. That’s who we’re thinking about when we’re writing articles, planning talks, and coming up with national strategies.

Having a default is probably normal, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not hurtful. By sharing my story above, I admit that my natural tendency is to only think about people like me. And if we’re all honest, I think that’s most of our defaults too. There may not be anything inherently wrong with that, but if we stay the course and don’t acknowledge what we’re doing, our natural default will only benefit one kind of person and will alienate the rest.

However, there’s hope: we can change our default. For me, that has mostly happened through relationships. As I have been in relationship with people who are not like me, I have become more aware and cognizant of how those actions are hurtful, and become more in touch with their needs. When I have friends who I love and care about, it’s easier to realize that a strategy won’t reach them or that an article wasn’t written with them in mind. I can see that, because I know their stories.

The campus isn’t made up of just one story, even if it happens to be our default story. When we act as if it is, we marginalize a large number of people.

I’m sure my friend would agree: no one likes being the afterthought.

Thanks, Jason, for your insightful thoughts.

For more on this, here are two articles on posture.

  1. Five Majority Culture Postures toward Ethnic Minority Ministry
  2. Six Postures of Ethnic Minority Culture

And if you are looking to launch in different communities, here are some partnership guides put together by our Ethnic Field Ministry friends for each context:

  1. Bridges
  2. Design
  3. Destino
  4. Epic
  5. Impact
  6. KCCC
  7. Nations

This summer I wrote a series of tips in what I chose to call “Looking for a Better World”. For a few weeks I will continue to make them available here.

What have we lost?
Recognizing arbitrary advantages.
Behavior
Prayer, Care, Share
Becoming confident with new skills
1 and 2 word conversation starters
3 more easy conversation starters
Culture Trumps Vision
Hero Spot
The Law of the Diffusion of Innovation

And in case you don’t get the QuickRead, put out by the US Campus Ministry, here is my Starting the Campus Year Checklist.

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