Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

Mid-Term Evaluation

After fourteen years teaching and campus ministering at Southwestern College, I have accepted an appointment to become the Chaplain at Southern Methodist University.  For anyone who has moved from a place they love to some place new, you know this feeling.  I feel excitement and grief.  Feelings alternate in the space of a millisecond.

My friends and colleagues at the college and in the annual conference are hearing that I’m moving on.  I’m receiving well-wishing and congratulatory expressions, which I deeply appreciate.  People are being so kind and supportive and encouraging.  

At this stage in my life, moving prompts some evaluating.  It makes me think of the mid-term grades that we professors submit.  Some people have said, “Southwestern and our conference are really going to miss you.”  They have have sparked this mid-term evaluation.  

The idea that SC or the conference will feel my absence is, of course, deeply gratifying.  It suggests that people have evaluated my leadership in (mostly) positive ways; that my work here has been significant and made a difference somehow.  For anyone, but especially for people in ministry, the conviction that one has born fruit for God’s Kingdom really, really matters.  

How does one evaluate one’s effectiveness?  There are the obvious empirical measures: numberical growth (members or students or programs or facilities) for example.  On this measure, my grade isn’t bad.  Every congregation I have served has grown numerically, but every one has been small.  It was small when I came.  It was some bigger when I left, but still small.  The chapel service in the school where I teach has grown by a large percentage since I started, but the actual number is not eye-catching.  I’ve raised no money (at least not directly) to build buildings or additions to buildings.    

One of my former students who is now on her way to becoming ordained, told me of the young clergy dinner at our annual conference.  She gave the number of attendees and then the number of my students in that group.  Now here is a number I really start to care about.  It helps me keep clear about my particular calling.    

I’ve told the story so many times.  One day, as we were worshipping in chapel and I was watching our students rapt in praise and prayer, I felt as if God spoke to me: “Your job is to pour your life into these students.”  Students graduate and go into all kinds of places to work and serve and some into full-time ministry.  If I share something of my love for Christ with them and that something remains, then I’ve done my job.  It really is that simple.  

So, for me, the mid-term evaluation is about intangibles, the hard-to-measure things: the quality of relationships, for example.  I think my mid-term grade is pretty good.  But finishing well is what counts.  As a track coach friend, now retired, used to tell his distance runners, “No one counts whether you win the first half of the race.”

May 21, 2009 - Posted by | Religion


  1. Steve,

    Congrats on your appointment to SMU. I hope your transition is a smooth one.

    Perhaps I’ll join you in a couple of years…here’s hoping.

    Dave Mowers

    Comment by Dave Mowers | May 22, 2009 | Reply

  2. Dr. Rankin,

    I’m deeply moved by this entry. I have to tell you that I was driving Dr. Stephen Manskar from the airport one evening in January and we were playing the game of who you know. He mentioned you with great affection and I told him, “I don’t need to know who else you know, ’cause if you know Dr. Rankin, you know everyone else.” And its especially true in this conference for you faithful work has impacted many, many people, especially those who call you their students. Thank you for being faithful and for sharing your life with us. I’ll be reading your blog to keep in touch with all God continues to do with you and to see how Jesus is being proclaimed in this new era of your life!


    Kim S.

    Comment by Kim Swartz | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  3. Gosh, Kim, thanks so much.

    Comment by steve rankin | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  4. Steve,
    I am so happy for you- what a great opportunity for you and for SMU! And yet I’m also saddened a bit to know that you won’t be just down the road at SC. I don’t know if I ever told you this or not, but you were one of the people who helped me to clarify my call into ministry, and because of that you will always hold a special place in my heart.(Thank you for that, I think! lol) I’ve always known you were available to bounce an idea off of, or to seek wisdom from. I will miss seeing you as often- SC Homecoming just won’t be the same anymore. –I wonder how many of your students can say that they took your courses in both undergrad AND graduate school! God Bless You!!! And thanks for everything!!

    Comment by Angela DeFisher | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  5. Thanks so much, Angela. We’re going to stay close to the SC community, even though we’ll be in Dallas. Let’s keep in touch!

    Comment by steverankin | May 26, 2009 | Reply

  6. Congratulations! Let me know when you start to get settled in Dallas.

    Comment by Amy Forbus | May 27, 2009 | Reply

  7. Steve! This is awesome! When I first heard about it, while in Alaska, I felt extremely sad because I know how much you impact the lives of the student that you work with at SC on a daily basis. Now that I’ve had more time to think about it, I realize that this is just one more exciting destination that God is taking you to and there is no better or safer place to be than in His will and His leading. So, yay! Praise God that it has all come together. I know that the student there will be extremely blessed by you. I’ll be praying. Please stay in touch Steve! And I’ll try to keep up with your blog on here. 🙂

    Comment by Christie Boote | May 29, 2009 | Reply

  8. Thanks, Christie. I’ve started packing up my office. Life is surreal right now.

    Comment by steverankin | May 29, 2009 | Reply

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