Big Ideas & 'Best Of'BlogathonsLeadership Development

What Are We Doing Here?

For me and my campus ministries colleagues, the summer of 2013 has been an unusual one with time-intensive administrative reviews, reports, and budget prioritization spreadsheets. So, while there are very few students around, it has been less of a change of pace than we typically experience. For that reason, I have been especially excited about this end-of-summer family vacation. Time in the Colorado Rockies with lifelong friends I made in college. Sweet stuff.

One of the families is into geocaching–a fun adventure I have never experienced before. One morning (we called it the “lazy morning”, although it turned out to be a serious hike at an altitude of 8800 feet), we set out on a geocaching adventure. A few adults and six kids between the ages of 8 and 11 years old. Hiking and biking in the mountains. Again, sweet stuff.

On the geocaching trail, I learned a little something about community, trust, and discipleship.

Geocaching is an outdoor activity of searching for hidden objects by using Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates posted on the Internet. There are apparently thousands of great resources, but seems to have the best stuff–including an app which my friend used to find local geocaches. Incredibly, there is an entire community out there who hide caches, provide the GPS coordinates, and describe them for others to then seek out and discover. The instructions are complete with helpful tips on finding the cache and requests to take good care of the surrounding area.

Our first one was hidden in a rock pile. A plastic peanut butter jar with a dozen tiny trinkets, coins, a mini-notebook and a pen (for checking in and recording your presence). Our veteran geocaching family helped us rookies understand the rules and ethics of this self-regulated, wonderful little sport. For example, it was quite refreshing to hear an eleven year old boy politely share with his friend (my son) that he couldn’t take anything out of the jar unless he also put something in (the quarter in my pocket came in quite handy at that moment). Everyone signed in, made their trade, and the jar got rehidden under the same pile of rocks–for the next geocache adventurers to discover. Sweet stuff.

In this era of ubiquitous bike locks, car alarms, security cameras, infrared scanners, and general mistrust, there is a community of people out there who–for the sake of adventure–implicitly trust each other. They trust each other to follow instructions not to climb fences, or to stay on the trail, to watch for traffic, and to leave the cache where it was found. There isn’t a sign nearby listing the rules and there certainly isn’t an official “referee” stationed to watch for violations or nefarious geocaching saboteurs. It’s simply a self-selected group of people who love the same thing, set up some simple and helpful rules for each other, and then enjoy the shared experience.

It all made me start thinking about my campus’ discipleship community. That network of faculty and staff who have agreed–among other things–to develop students in their walk with Christ. To disciple students to encounter the Living God and navigate the transformation that naturally results from that encounter.

Most of our campuses are knee-deep in the hoopla of outcomes and assessment. Do these high-level plans get translated and contextualized into the daily work of discipleship and spiritual formation–that work done by receptionists and PhDs, by coaches and campus ministries professionals, by deans and adjunct faculty members, by facilities staff and resident directors?

On your campus it may look a little different, but your campus culture no doubt contains assumptions about discipleship.

A series of questions emerged from my inspiring geocaching adventure. I offer them to you for your own reflection–and input for the rest of us (comment!).

When it comes to your campus’ community of “disciplers”…

  1. What is our common goal? Do we all know and agree on some simple and achievable picture of what a disciple of Christ looks like? (Online geocaching ground rules)
  2. What are the “rules” or standards? Generally speaking, can we count on each other to expect the same biblical foundations, accountability, and challenge to our students? (That implicit understanding between geocachers)
  3. Do we regularly talk with each other about what we’re all trying to do with/in/to our students? (Interactive maps with user tips and comments.)
  4. Do we trust each other that–even when we are not together–we’ll all cooperate and follow the implicit (or explicit) rules outlined for this discipleship adventure? (That intangible culture of trust between geocachers.)


Please offer your thoughts and comments.

God’s richest blessings to you all as you set your coordinates for the upcoming adventure this year!



  • Emily

    Well written – great article, MR! 🙂