I’ve never been on a campus for 8 years before. In fact, prior to coming to BU, I’d never been on campus for more than 4 years (and that was for my undergrad degree).
Previous to my current tenure, I served for 3 years on one campus, 3 and a half years on another, and 1 year on yet another campus. (And the half-year that was spent off campus was in a church — but that’s another story all together).
Truth be told, I didn’t know that I had this in me. That is, the ability to stay in one place for this long.
Having worked on four different campus over the course of my 16 years of serving college students (thus far), I honestly thought that my lot in life was to go to different campuses every few years, assess what they were doing well, not doing well, and simply not doing — and then to work with the members of that community to make improvements to the student experience. More specifically, to enhance the kinds of experiences and opportunities we offered students through which they could engage and grow in their faith.
And honestly, I was OK with that lot.
In fact, I was excited by the idea of getting to move around and never really settle down.
And I think after being at BU for just over 8 years now, I am finally realizing why.
It’s fun (at least I found it to be fun) to be the “new guy” — to arrive on a new campus, meet new people, establish new relationships and partnerships, create new programs and bring new ideas to existing programs… In many ways it’s like playing the role of hero, or expert, or (dare I say it) savior.
You swoop in with your passion, experience, education, and sense of calling… And in many ways still function as a guest in that place.
But you’re there and then gone — before the freshmen you started with even have a chance to graduate.
And the reality is that you’re not there quite long enough to see many relationships grow deep, or programs take root, or fruit from your efforts begin to appear.
What I’ve come to find out is that you only get to experience these things — at higher percentages and in more powerful ways — if you stick around. If you exchange your “guest” status for that of “teammate” or even better, “family member.”
But sticking around also means that you’re likely to experience some hardships, some struggles, some failed or strained relationships, and what feels like a total lack of fruit for all of your good efforts (because ministry fruit and success rarely come in the time tables that we think they should).
And there’s very little that’s fun, meaningful, or rewarding about that.
And rather than feeling like you’re a part of the team or a member of the family — it can be all to easy to feel more like you’re being rejected. Like what you’ve come to offer is being rejected.
You can begin to feel like the guest that has worn out their welcome.
Having gone through much of that — and choosing not to leave (even though I had the urge — twice) — I can now see with greater clarity the beauty and benefit of having stayed. Not only did I make it through the honeymoon phase of my ministry efforts at BU, but through what felt like a looooooooooooooonnnnggggg season of struggle and fruitlessness, only to now be at a place where God is revealing fruit in so many different areas.
I entered this academic year with more excitement and anticipation then I have had in any of my previous 8 starts on this campus.
I’m not naive enough to think that struggles and failures are all behind me now.
But by living faithfully through both seasons I feel as though I’ve earned my “member card” and entered a new season of ministry on campus.
And in many ways… I finally feel at home on this campus.