Parachurch ministry Challenge 3: 'So umm, what exactly does your husband do then?'
Chatting during the week to some friends who are also involved with university ministry, one of the challenges is trying to explain what it is you're actually doing all day (not that dissimilar to a stay-at-home-mum or a church minister, 'But don't you only work on Sundays?'). In many ways it doesn't matter all that much if others don't understand what my husband does. Most people think that librarians read books all day so it's not unusual to misunderstand one another's jobs. I guess the tricky thing with parachurch stuff, is that you are trying to raise financial support for a job that people don't really 'get'.
It's usually easier to understand if you at least went through uni yourself and were involved in this type of work as a student. It can be really tough to explain to someone who hasn't been to uni and just sees that uni students have long holidays. It's not like church work where you do tend to see people week in week out all year round. It has a different rhythm to it.
However, much of the day-to-day life during a uni semester is the same as working in a church. Preparing talks, meeting up with students to speak to them, hospitality, leading meetings (lots of meetings in our case - our students do love the meetings), attending events. When the students are on campus it is (what I call) 'people frantic'. Frantically trying to keep up with all the students while they are around. But it certainly doesn't stop when they stop.
When the students stop, the staff do everything they can't do when it is people frantic. It then becomes planning, fundraising, preparing, conference frantic.
I've got to the point in my life where I'm quite deliberate now in explaining what Rowan's up to if they assume he's doing nothing. Not defensively, but just assuming that they don't know and if they're interested in our family they might like to know.