Jan 02, 2017

Lead

5 Plumb Lines for College Ministry from Jesus’ Prayer


Clayton Bullion finds five plumb lines for college ministry from Jesus’ prayer in John 17.

Have you ever thought about how similar Jesus’ situation was to the average college minister? Think about it. Jesus walked into his ministry knowing he only had about three years with his disciples. We’ve got five, maybe. He knew that after three years they would be separated from them and so he had to begin knowing his exit strategy and what they needed to know before he left.

Not only that, but Jesus’ disciples didn’t come to him as blank slates. Many of them had emotional, ideological, and theological baggage that had to be stripped away before Jesus could begin to build a sturdy foundation. His disciples came with strengths and passions that needed to be channeled so they could be used for the Kingdom.

This is our story! This is college ministry, folks!  This is what we do!

We have a limited time, unlimited potential, and immeasurable sending capacity! I’m struck by Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17. It’s similar to us as we look at our seniors leaving our ministry. Jesus is about to be crucified and then leave his disciples. Our students are about to leave and move on to what is next. In his prayer Jesus says a few things that he did with his disciples and his patterns with them. It is only fitting that we model those things as well.

1. I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world… (v. 6)

We don’t deserve the people God has given us. The students that God entrusts us with are gifts of God.  They are passionate, quirky, emotional, immature, insecure, over confident, hormonally-charged gifts – every one of them.  When they leave our ministry, have we manifested Christ’s name above everything else for them?  When they leave are they going to be talking about our ministry or the need for Christ among all peoples? Will they be talking about how relevant and well-done our services and sermons were or how Jesus was present and active in their lives? Is Christ and his mission made manifest to the people God has given us?

2. I have given them the words you gave me… (v.8)

What a great picture Jesus portrays! What I’ve heard from my Father, I’ve passed on. Jesus’ followers knew God’s words because Jesus was faithful to pass them on. Do our students know God’s word? Do they know how to read it, feed themselves, and memorize it? If we are not careful we have a tendency to create avid Bible study attendees and recruiters for events who are infants in the word.  Their spiritual diet consists of podcasts, devotionals, and Christian events. Attendance is not discipleship. There is no substitute for them being able to feed themselves and feast on God’s word. Are we steadfast in making sure our students know how to handle God’s word and learn from it themselves?

3. I am praying for them… (v.9)

What a comfort to his disciples to hear Jesus pray for them! To know that Jesus, the one who claimed to be the Son of God, was interceding for them! Do our students know that we pray for them? Obviously we aren’t Jesus, but do our students know that we pray for them by name? Do they hear us pray for them?  Have they seen steadfast intercession modeled for them? Do they know how to pray for the people they lead?  Do they know how to pray consistently for lost friends and family?  What better legacy could we leave with our students than them being able to say, “I never left his/her presence without them praying for me!” Are we leading out in what it looks like to pray for our students?

4. That they may be one…(v.11)

Does it strike anyone else as strange that Jesus mentions several times that the disciples would be one? I mean, they are the only one against an entire world. It would seem like they would unify under a common mission and make it work, right? If you’ve been in college ministry long enough to meet another minister then you’ve probably already been tempted to “not be one.” Jesus wants his followers to be unified. What’s the state of believers on your campus? Would you describe your relationship with other campus ministries and churches as collaboration or a competition? I’m not suggesting you and all your campus minister peers need to hold hands and skip through campus together singing Kumbaya, but unity is something you model for your students in how you talk about and pray for other ministries on your campus.

If unity was enough for Jesus to mention a few times in one of his final prayers then it should be a plumb line in how we measure ministry success. Are we modeling collaboration or competition with our other ministries on our campus? What is the vibe our students get from us about other ministries?

5. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe through their word… (v.20)

What happens when Christ is made manifest, his word abides, and intercession abounds? Multiplication happens! Jesus is aware that he is entrusting the DNA of the movement to his disciples. He knows they have what they need and they will have the Holy Spirit leading them, so the byproduct is going to be more disciples!

Do our students expect fruit? Are they praying for the coming generations, planning for the coming generation of believers and expecting multiplication? Or is their view of the Kingdom of God consist of just reading their Bible, being a nice person, and staying out of trouble? Our students pick up vision and multiplication from us. They take their cues from us. How do we talk about their life outside of our ministry? Is there the constant reminder of “when you do this on your own” or “when you reproduce this in your workplace” or “when you pass this on.” Is there an expectation of multiplication?  Are we expecting and praying for and towards the coming generations of believers that will come from our students?

Our students catch what is modeled for them. We reproduce who we are. From one of Jesus’ final, recorded prayer we see some foundations he is seeking for his disciples. We see the objectives he wanted to achieve and his hopes for them… the things he really wants them to understand before he departs. What would happen if every student who comes through our ministry knows and understands how to intercede, how to feed themselves from God’s word, and how to make much of Christ in their lives? If theses things happen the students whom God gives us will have no other option but to reproduce.

These things are great plumb lines that Jesus sets out for us. What are the things we need to implement or cut out so when our students are ready to be launched out from us we can look back and say we have done these things, we have prayed these things, and they are ready for what’s next?


about the author

Clayton Bullion


Clayton is the Chief Dreamer and Storyteller at the Baptist Student Ministry at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX. He is married to Bethany and they have four fantastic kids. Before coming to Tarleton, Clayton and Bethany lived in the Middle East helping college students engage the culture around them with the gospel.