This week, I am reading a book from the authors of Freakonomics called Think Like a Freak. In it, the authors argue two points. First, very few of us are willing to admit that we don’t know something. Even kids when given a question that they cannot possibly know the answer to will try to answer rather than admit that they don’t know. Second, admitting we don’t know the answer is hard, but admitting we don’t even know the right question is harder. A lot of us are asking the wrong questions or not asking questions at all and arriving at good, but not great solutions.
With these thoughts in mind, I want you to know that I don’t know a lot more than I actually do know. I recognize that I am kind of in the business that can’t truly proclaim it knows everything (mainly because when pastors do, it becomes a headache). Still, I am pretty comfortable right now, at this point in my career AKA the beginning, saying that I don’t know. However, I like to have people around me who are willing to admit that they aren’t sure either. I’ve gotten into a habit of asking people to explain things to me as if I didn’t know anything about what I’m asking about whether it’s bike maintenance or financial procedures. Part of this I realize is a lot easier because I’m new to this aspect of my position. You only get so long to pull the new card, so I’m milking it for all it’s worth.
Now, asking the right questions seems to be a lot harder for me. This week, I am trying to plan for fall and I find myself developing all sorts of questions. What have we done to reach out to campus in the past? How well has it worked? What groups have we partnered with? What groups always schedule things that overshadow our events? How have we engaged residence life, greek life, the band, and freshmen in general in our events we offer during welcome week? I still feel like these aren’t the right questions. I feel like questions like, Is it necessary to host events at Wesley during welcome week? Would it be more beneficial to participate in events already offered on campus? Do events help people connect or do people help people connect with a ministry? Even then, the questions aren’t quite what I’m getting at.
Fortunately, I still have a month or so develop my questions and figure out what I don’t know. Until then, I continue to poke and prod at the planning process. Praying each moment for God to move on campus and for each student to find a place to belong.
It’s been a year since I graduated from Iliff. And what a year it has been. I moved from Colorado back to Arkansas, was commissioned as a provisional deacon, worked as an aide in a preschool classroom, and took a job and moved to Jonesboro. That’s just June to August. The amount of “stuff” I’ve learned (for lack of a better term) this year is unbelievable. My education definitely did not end when I left an academic institution. I admittedly would love to be back where I could have weekly meetings with individuals reading and learning about the same things I am, but I get the best of both worlds right now. I get to learn about things I am interested in and try to put them into practice in my ministry setting.
The “stuff” I’ve learned this year would not have been possible without my senior pastor/boss/friend. He’s taught me practical things like floor installation and changing a bike flat. I’ve learned from him about the dynamics of churches and their relationships to one another as well as the Annual Conference. I’ve learned about campus activities and the yearly cycle of campus ministry. We’ve discussed ideas for the direction of the ministry at ASU, the possible solutions for the various UM crises, and even providing fair wages to Wal-Mart workers. It seems like I am constantly learning new things about ministry, life, and work from him.
At the end of the month (more accurately by the end of today) I am expected to follow in the footsteps of this friend who is leaving to take a new appointment. Boy, am I worried. I’ve gotten to sit back and learn from someone who has made an impact on countless students lives and experiences at Arkansas State. Now, it’s my turn. On good days, I am nervous about knowing where the key is to that closet we keep that stuff we only use once a year in. On bad days, I convince myself that the building itself will collapse due to my sheer lack of experience.
Last weekend, a family member reminded me of an old saying. “Do you know how to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I am so blessed to have had a year to learn under this capable and willing director. As I look toward all that I hope to accomplish in the year to come, I just have to remember to take it one bite at a time. I must continue to learn and to apply the lessons that I have learned. I know that I will make mistakes and that I will inevitably screw something up, but I also know that I had a great teacher who helped me to learn from my mistakes and move into this role with as much grace as I could. For that, I am very, very grateful!