Jan 29, 2018
5 Guardrails for Lasting in College Ministry
Christopher Millar shares five guardrails for keeping your pace in check so that you can last as a collegiate leader.
“College ministry is a sprint and not a marathon.” These were the words that were shared with me in my first few weeks of collegiate ministry and became a defining phrase that allowed me to push through grueling hours and dizzying weeks of late nights. But after three years of “sprinting,” I am becoming less and less convinced that sprints (at least how I was sprinting) are the appropriate pace for longevity in collegiate ministry.
This past semester was particularly challenging for me for a variety of reasons, but I knew I wasn’t healthy (physically, emotionally, and spiritually). When folks would raise concerns, I would simply respond, “I will get healthy after the semester is done.” After the semester finished, I began some informal pastoral counseling and met with five different mentors to discuss the past semester.
If your pace is such that you “can’t get healthy until later,” that probably isn’t a healthy pace.
Our church often talks about what a “healthy church member” looks like, and maybe yours does as well. We base our model off of Jesus’ teaching in John 15 about a healthy relationship with Jesus, with the church (or “one another”), and the world. In a twist of irony, I had actually allowed my relationship with the church and with the world to become more significant and pressing than my own relationship with Jesus. If you and I are to be healthy members of the body of Christ, we must first and foremost live at a pace that allows us to be in a healthy relationship with Christ. The truth is, I want to be doing college ministry for a lot longer than just a few years, and I am learning that I cannot afford to sprint every day or every month. I am seeking to cultivate a pace that has longevity in mind, not simply immediate results.
I certainly do not have all the answers in regards to pace, but I would like to offer some guardrails that I will be practicing this coming semester:
1) If my family is encouraging me to slow down, I should listen and respond. If you notice that your spouse or kiddos are seeming more like stressors than blessings, carve out some intentional time to just enjoy them. Have a day outside, build a fort, cook a family meal; whatever it takes to simply enjoy the good gifts God has given you.
2) If my time with the Lord in reading, studying, and prayer, is like a “grab-n-go” breakfast on the way to work, I should reorient my schedule. We’ve all been there. Whether we are rushing to an early morning accountability meeting, or sleeping in a bit from last night’s late gathering, we cannot afford to cheat the Lord of quality and connecting time.
3) The Lord has given me, not college students, the responsibility of managing my time. This has lead me to begin etching out a weekly rhythm in the first two weeks of the semester, so that I am then set up to tell students my best availability and what times are simply off limits. There will always be students to minister to and there will always be work to be done, but I cannot do the work if I have made myself a slave to everyone else’s schedule. A good question to ask here is “how am I creating space for the Holy Spirit to move, guide, and work in the schedule I am setting forth?”
4) If my body is telling me to slow down, or I am neglecting physical health, I need to remember who made my body and why He made it. Romans 12:1 calls us to “present our bodies” to God, and I am becoming more convinced that God wants me to care deeply for my physical body, as it is my primary tool for relating to others.
5) I am not the head of the church, Jesus is. And He is doing a perfect job guiding and guarding everything that I spend my time fretting over. A right theology of the church is surprisingly significant for our pace. When I live as though I am the head of the church, I convince myself that I need to be at every meeting and know every detail. When I know that Jesus is the head of the church, I find a freedom to trust and submit to His leadership and guidance of all things.
We all long for healthy pace in our ministry and we all feel the pains of when we know our schedule is far too cumbersome. Instead of waiting until “next semester” to make things right, what are things that we can start implementing this week to help practice a healthier pace? If we are going to reach campuses that become gateways for us to reach the world, our task will require longer than a one to two year sprint. Our task will take well-paced practitioners of gospel ministry living their lives alongside of college students over a long period of time.
What step can you take this week in practicing a better pace?