Friday, July 21, 2006

Changing a Culture

A year ago I attended a seminar that Dr. Henry Cloud was giving on parenting. Dr. Cloud has been tremendously influential in our ministry in helping our staff and students to understand how people grow in grace and truth over time and in areas like boundaries, adulthood, and in bonding with one another. During the question & answer time of the seminar, one of those in attendance (this was at a Campus Crusade staff conference) expressed frustration with some of the peer pressure she feels in raising her kids. As missionaries, there are certain expectations that are put upon us (either explicitly or implicitly) by churches, supporters and even other missionaries in how we choose to raise our children.

Within Campus Crusade I've seen this take place in areas like which schooling option we choose for our kids, what food we eat, how we dress, who we vote for and where we go to church. The particular pressure that this parent felt was for her children to also join the staff of Campus Crusade when they became adults. She felt like parents whose children also joined CCC staff were more favorably looked upon than those whose kids didn't. The vibe she was feeling was that you had done a good job raising your kids if they went into vocational ministry and that you were somehow a poor parent if they selected a "secular" profession.

Dr. Cloud's answer was quite intriguing. He essentially said that if that is in fact true as part of Crusade culture (and he wasn't certain that it was), then it was each of our responsibility to change our culture. As someone that is very familiar with our ministry, he admitted that although there are many positive values in "Crusade culture", there are some attitudes that he sees as potentially unhealthy. So if there is something that is a part of our culture that is not healthy, we need to confront it when it arises. If enough people address these issues as they arise and intentionally address them before they become part of the culture, then you will, in effect, change the culture.

I encountered one of these situations the other day when I felt impressed by God to help in changing our culture. For over 40 years, the Campus Ministry in the U.S. had operated under a single paradigm in regard to staff placement -- having a full staff team on a single campus. In the early nineties, this led us to have around 180-200 ministries throughout the country with about 9,000 students involved. In 1992, we made a major shift in our thinking and introduced the concept of catalytic ministry -- that is, instead of staff just being focused on a single campus, they could take on a scope of a whole city, state or states. By continuing to have our staffed campus strategy in place and adding to it a catalytic philosophy (as well as ethnic student and worldwide partnerships emphasized), we now are on approximately 1,300 campuses with over 55,000 students involved. To God be the glory!

With that all being said, even though we have changed our paradigm in how our staff work, there still exists a certain bias with our ministry. That bias is that staffed campus ministry is really the superior strategy and all others are a little bit less than ideal or, at worst, "not effective." One indicator of this bias is the terminology that some of our staff use when a staffed campus location transitions to a catalytic location -- that is, that there will no longer be a full-time staff team on that campus, but it will be student and volunteer led with full-time staff coaching and resourcing those leaders. When this shift happens, I have oftentimes heard it being referred to as "shutting down the campus" or "closing down the ministry."

Do you see the bias contained in that choice of wording?! It is assumed that this ministry is now somehow "less than" or even being shut down because students are now leading it instead of professional missionaries. Nothing could be further from the truth! Anyway, I was sitting in on a lecture this week when a national director within CCC used that phrase -- "they shut the ministry down" -- when describing a campus that was transitioning to a catalytic location. After letting his choice of wording sink in, I was reminded of Dr. Cloud's challenge to "change the culture." But different thoughts went through my head -- Was I being too sensitive? He didn't really mean anything by it, did He? Who am I to confront him?

Though a bit nervous about this, I felt I needed to bring it to this individual's attention. After his lecture was over, I approached him and introduced myself. I then proceeded to explain to him how his use of that phrase might be received negatively by some of our staff and what that terminology implies. I sought to be gracious with him and to his credit, he received my rebuke very humbly and graciously. He admitted that that probably isn't the best choice of words and that he would consider that in the future.

I could have very easily let this go, but when people continue to say or do things that offend others and nobody has the guts to bring this to their attention, then it will only result in frustration and discord. So often as Christians, instead of going to a person that does something that bothers us, we just talk about it to our friends. The problem doesn't get resolved, the person continues to commit this error over and over again and we sit back and watch it happen. I love the quote from Gandhi that addresses this, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." In order to change our culture, we need to stand up and change it. Not in a demanding, rude or arrogant way, but in graciousness we need to confront the injustice around us.

I also want to say that I put tremendous value on our staffed campus ministries. Many, many people have come to Christ over the years through this strategy and many people have been discipled and equipped for ministry as a result. Even as our ministry continues to grow and expand and focus on getting to those students and campuses that we've traditionally neglected, I hope that our staffed campuses continue to thrive and do what they do best -- winning, building and sending for God's glory. But we need to value everyone's contribution to the Great Commission and not look down upon those that have a different calling or place in the ministry. We are all part of the same family, yet we have different roles. Let's never forget that.

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1 comment:

Shane Deike said...

Well said - I think the subtle reality is that our 'change' in 92 was not nearly as big of a change as we thought - at least not in overal perception of the way we go about ministry. Currently over 85% of our resources are still devoted to the way we did things in '92.