Rudy Hartmann writes about why you might need to “kick the bucket” in order to focus your energy on reaching college students.
About a year ago, I had the privilege of writing an article for the Collective called “Be the Bucket” in which I talked about what it means to be the guy who leads college ministry and wears a couple other hats within their ministry context. Honestly, to that point, it was all I knew. It was a joy and an honor to get to be on staff at a church right out of college, and to get to see God do some really cool things through the college ministry, and to get a wide breadth of ministry experience by wearing a number of other hats. I’m convinced that without that time, I would not be half the leader, man, or Christ-follower that I am today, and the cross-training of ministry was immeasurably valuable. These are some of the sweetest memories of my life.
And now, reflecting on this past year of being focused solely on College Ministry with The Salt Company, I would have this to say: Kick the Bucket
No, I don’t mean die.
Well…maybe I do, a little.
Die to the comfort of the bucket you’ve become. Die to thinking you have to play five roles within your context to validate reaching the most strategic mission field on Earth. Die to thinking you have to somehow validate a call to college ministry by working 80-hour weeks and risk bombing relationships, forgetting your family, and neglecting your health.
Die to thinking that college ministry is a “junior varsity” calling.
Die to the fear of taking a risk and actually betting the farm in faith on giving everything you have and everything you are vocationally to college ministry.
July 20th, 2016 was the day I turned 24. It was also my last night in Florida before moving to Ames, Iowa. I loved my city. It was where I’d grown up. I loved my campus. It was where I’d gone to school, really fallen in love with Jesus, and had learned what it looks like to make disciples. I loved my church and my Pastor. I had real community and amazing mentorship and leadership. I loved my students and our leaders. I’m still filled with incredible hope and expectation as to what God might do through these men and women. I loved the different roles I was in, and I loved being in them. FBCTT has some of the most amazing men and women that I’ve ever had the joy of knowing and serving and doing life with.
And yet, it was a conversation at Hitchhikkers: Salt Company months before where God had planted the seed of a thought that had sprouted into a clear vision: What would it look like to focus only on college ministry? What would it look like to direct all my attention, affection, and efforts vocationally toward college ministry? How could I not?
It was a Wednesday night. I’d slipped away to a Starbucks for an hour between goodbyes and a going away party to turn my phone off and just think, read, and pray. I felt, for the first time, the weight of what was happening. I was trading everything I knew, leaving deep relationships, leaving family, leaving Florida to move to Iowa and join a team.
In that moment, for the first time, I felt fear. The risk was revealed and sharpened. I was leaving. I wasn’t the bucket anymore. What did it even look like to do college ministry without being the bucket? Would I be able to? Was this a mistake? In a flash of a moment, I doubted myself. I doubted God. Ultimately, I forgot the Gospel and the sovereignty of God. The weight of the moment was incredible.
But then I remembered.
I remembered that God was entirely sovereign. I remembered reading time and again how God would use what seemed to be big risks to bring Himself big glory. I remembered the Gospel that revealed that all my approval and comfort was found in God through Christ. I remembered the active sovereignty of God. I felt so fathered by God in that moment as He gently reminded me exactly who had opened the door to Iowa and exactly who had put me there – Him.
And now, as you’re reading this article, it’s been ten months since that moment. My first year in the Salt Network is coming to a close and I’m a few weeks into leading a team of students overseas to reach college students in an international context. When I return, by God’s grace I’ll move into a new role at one of the churches within the Salt Network as the Salt Company Director – and I am reminded yet again how we have this ministry by the mercy of God, how undeserving I am, and how in control He is.
This has been one of the most shaping years of my life – so much so, that I deeply desire it for everyone who may be feeling the tension of the bucket and wondering what a change might look like. There are approximately 20.5 million college students just in North America and 403 campuses with 10,000 or more students. These are the future leaders of the world and they’re all in the port cities of the 21st century.
For some of you, there may be room for your bucket. Keep grinding – your work is so valuable and so needed!
For others, you may be reading this and realizing that there is no room for your bucket.
And so, to close this article, I don’t have any points for you. I don’t have any clever phrases. I don’t have any strategic applications. I don’t really have much nuance.
I just have some questions: What would it look like for you to kick the bucket?
What would it look like for you to focus only on college ministry?
What would it look like to direct all your attention, affection, and efforts vocationally toward college ministry?
Does it look like a conversation with your leadership about what your role might look like in the Fall, focusing more on college ministry than your other roles?
Does it look like a conversation about fundraising to supplement your salary so that what you would have been paid by the church could go to hiring out a part-timer or contract worker to handle your “bucket” while you focus on College Ministry?
Does it look like you tossing out your schedule and leveraging your hot hours for college ministry? Maybe doing your additional roles in the student center on your university?
Does it look like moving to a context that is different — and maybe scary and sacrificial — but has a focus on college ministry that is compelling, credible, and clear?
You have one life. One.
Leverage your life.
Kick the bucket.
Pray and listen.
Fix your focus.
And see what God might do through you.
Oh, that God might teach us to number our days.