Author info: Blane has served on staff at AU Chi Alpha for several years and became the Director in the Fall of 2014. This New Mexico native is a proud graduate of the University of Alabama but has fallen in love with the big city. He and his wife (Hannah) moved to DC to complete the DC Chi Alpha CMIT Program under Mike & Jen Godzwa. They are parents to a pretty amazing toddler, Jeremiah. You'll find him biking around DC in search of a coffee by day and pouring over a book by night. You can find him at, and connect with him via our AU Chi Alpha Staff Page.

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How do you define excellence? 

You’ve heard it before and you’ve probably used the term as you trained volunteers. I know that I have.  At times, it feels like the perfect word to describe the efforts of a well-orchestrated team accomplishing a project but at other times, it feels like a source of frustration as it is ever elusive. But what does it really mean? How do we actually define it?

Sure, I could quote Webster’s or lookup something from Seth Godin but I think my concern over the term being used in the creative arts arena is that it can’t be defined. Or better yet, it can be defined in a multitude of different ways.

It’s not quantifiable and even though spreedsheets aren’t always sexy, they at least provide us objective means of evaluation and feedback. Now, I am in now way going to try and create a system by which we grade our projects and creative endeavors. However, I do want to make an observation.

Everyone has their own working definition of excellence as defined by their experience. For instance, if you asked me about a moment when I witnessed excellence in church communication, I might mention the time that I saw an interactive, multimedia presentation in the middle of a Christmas service. However, you might mention a moment in which you were served communion, while an orchestra played behind a chorus of singing children.

Everyone has their own working definition of excellence as defined by their experience.

I know, the illustration is not perfect but I hope that it illustrates my point. It is difficult to use the term excellence as a goal when the definition is so varied. People will come to believe the project is complete or more than satisfactory while you are scratching your head wondering how in the world they considered the project anywhere near completion. Sound familiar?

Now, I must admit – the term can seem helpful at times. And no, I don’t think we should remove all mystery or idealist values from the creative process. I just think that, for whatever reason, the term can become the proverbial carrot, always out of reach and never grabbed. Or worse, it can wind up being used as an easier to swallow synonym for perfection. If that’s the case, then those around us will be robbed of times of celebration which I believe are crucial to both a team dynamic and a creative individually.

For the majority of us, I don’t think we mean for this to happen. I know I don’t. But I’m just unsure of how to use the term to effectively communicate expectations. Perhaps the solution is to define it and invite others to utilize that definition. I’m not entirely sure. I’m merely asking if there is a better way. A way in which we can facilitate art to a certain standard without every having to critique a piece with the words, “It just doesn’t feel or seem right.”

How do you navigate this? What are ways that you’ve seen the term used?

Originally published on November 29, 2012 • Short Link:

Jesus was a master teacher and in creating our own culture of discipleship, we'd be wrong to stray too far from his example.  He invited those who would follow Him into a pattern of transformation. Dallas Willard in Renovation of the Heart describe His 3 basic steps: vision, intention and means.  

Jesus shares the vision of the kingdom through the parables.  They’re in a sense the doorway for a new way of thinking about God and the world.  That's great, but by itself a doorway serves only a decorative purpose. It does nothing unless it’s used. That’s where the intention comes in.  

 Written by Mike Godzwa          Facebook     | |     Twitter  

 Written by Mike Godzwa

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Intention is catalyzed when our will responds to the vision presented. Jesus shares a parable, a teaching, performs a miracle and presents a picture of the world first century Israelites were unfamiliar with, but at the same time were captivated by.  There were those who chose to just relate their experience with others. “Do you remember the time when Jesus healed that guy who was born blind--that was amazing!”  There were those who stood on the sidelines keeping track of the rules.  “Yeah he may have been healed, but it was done on the wrong day.  Jesus is a phony.”  Then there were those who knew Jesus’ actions and teachings were pointing to something more.  As Jesus spoke, they recognized the seed of truth and responded to the stirring that was in their hearts.  They were the ones who pushed through the crowd, who dropped their nets, who asked the questions.  That’s intention at work. They weren’t satisfied to sit on the sidelines and criticize or capture a memory--they wanted to be changed.  

Then Jesus presented the means: “Follow me.” And that’s what they did, literally. They gave up their old way of life and followed Jesus around, absorbing his teaching, discussing the details of the kingdom and helping to bring it about through their direct action.  Little by the little that action, coupled with the means changed everything about them.

That same process is available to us. Jesus' teachings are compelling, but they're not meant for just inspiration, they're meant to produce action. As you allow your intention to respond to Jesus' vision you begin to put his words into practice. Where there's a step of obedience to take, you make it. Where there's a habit to implement, you start it. Little by little the kingdom grows in us in both our understanding and our action.  

When we do this as individuals, we grow to be more like Jesus.  When we share this pattern with others, it develops a culture of discipleship that can deeply impact the society around you.  

AuthorBlane Young

I often struggle with the idea that I have something to offer others.  Now I’m doing a job in fulltime ministry, where I lead worship and a small group and mentor students.  Funny how things work out that way, huh?

Written by Natalie Hill   Facebook  ||  Twitter

Written by Natalie Hill

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Sometimes I leave a coffee date with a student scratching my head with my mind reeling because I just have absolutely no idea what to say her about what she’s going through.  I easily feel insecure in the knowledge and authority that I have.  And I’m afraid of messing up or letting people down.

This might all be true, but obviously those feelings aren't strong enough to keep me from pursuing a career surrounded by one-on-one mentoring and discipleship.  Because students are important, and I believe campus ministry is strategic.  This internship was full of opportunities and tools that equip me to speak knowledgeably and lovingly into students’ lives.  I'm eagerly looking forward to this upcoming academic year, because even when I don't feel like I'm an expert - I know that God uses us when we position ourselves in the lives of others. 

AuthorBlane Young

One of the things that I love about the summer months is that there's a little more time in our schedules (as Campus Missionaries) for personal and leadership development. Well, as I talked to students at the end of the semester, I realized that I kept recommending the same short-list of books in nearly every conversation. So, I thought I'd share them here just in case anyone is looking for reading material. 

Book 1 - Want More? 

Now, I'm actually reading this book with a few students this summer because I haven't read it before. But it came highly recommended to me from a few friends on staff at Chi Alpha at the University of Virginia. Basically, it's a practical yet theologically rich book about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer today.

We have students from dozens of different theological and denominational backgrounds, but I think what Francis Chan identified in Forgotten God is completely accurate. Christians today have a low view or little knowledge about the Holy Spirit. This book does come from a pentecostal perspective and as a pentecostal myself, I do my best to encourage our students to explore this theological topic personally. It's not that I want everyone to believe in the same things that I do, but I'd like for more people (myself included) to build our theology from biblical doctrine instead of from our experiences. It takes time and careful study, but it's always worth it. 

Amazon Link || Want More? by Tim Enloe

Book 2 - The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership 

I know that everyone isn't a John Maxwell fan like I am but what I appreciate about this book is that it provides a basic framework for processing information about leadership. In turn, it allows for people to get a handle on what it means to influence people so that they can assess themselves, have conversations about leadership and identify strengths they have as a leader that they may not have had language to describe. 

Of course, information doesn't make someone a leader (or even a better one) but most college students I know haven't read any books on the topic of leadership and I think this one is a solid place to start. I had a mentor walk with me through the content of this book via VHS lectures from John Maxwell about ten years ago, but I'm looking forward to a refresher course this summer and a chance to discuss the topic of leadership with a few of the guys I mentor. 

Amazon Link || The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

Book 3 - Habitudes (Chi Alpha Edition)

If you haven't read anything by Tim Elmore, Habitudes is a wonderful place to start. He basically shares a leadership principle and discussion questions based around a picture. For instance, he shares the lesson of the starving baker. And in short, it's describing the person that gives and gives but never takes care of themselves. So, in Habitudes, he has a picture of a sad, starving baker and goes into depth to tell this parable before sharing the principle. 

My favorite part of this book (and the series as a whole) is that the format really lends itself to people committing these stories and principles to memory for the long haul. I used one of the Habitudes books as the curriculum for a small group a few years ago and to this day, I've had conversations with those guys and they've at least remembered a handful of the lessons we discussed! 

Well, just a few weeks ago, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries partnered with Tim Elmore and Growing Leaders to put out a new edition of Habitudes that specifically discusses the leadership principles we hold most dear in our organization. The price is a little steep and I think it's only available in print, but I think it's worth it! 

Purchase Online Habitudes (Chi Alpha Edition) by Tim Elmore & Harvey Herman 


Which one of the books above look most interesting to you? What other books are on your summer reading list? 

AuthorBlane Young