Dec 11, 2017


The Discipline of Celebration

Rudy Hartmann encourages collegiate leaders to exercise the discipline of celebration as they spend time over winter break reflecting on God’s work through their ministry this semester.

Another semester is coming to a close.
Another Kickoff.
Another Follow-Up Season.
Another Retreat.
Another Freshman Class.
Another Teaching Series.

Thanksgiving was just practice for what’s quickly approaching – Winter Break. Y’all, there have been so many incredible articles on the Collective written on how you can send your students into break well, and how you can leverage Winter Break strategically.

But I want to ask a different question with this article, in light of the end of another Semester:

How’s your soul?

How’s your soul? How are you? Are you riding a win of a semester, where you saw leaders flourish, culture established, students discipled, record breaking baptism numbers, and have a Freshman class that is just itching to get back in the Spring and storm the campus?

Or are you nursing wounds of hard conversations with leaders who didn’t want to repent of their sin?

Are you trying to wrap your head around numbers being lower than last year?

Are you caught up thinking about why no one applied to go on missions in Spring Break or Summer?

Are you pondering how, in light of your faithful preaching of the Gospel and faithful shepherding of students, no one came to know Jesus this semester?

Maybe your ministry went well this year, but it feels like you’re fighting an uphill battle at home with your family.

Maybe there have been relational struggles with other staff members or significant financial partners are dropping off inexplicably.

College ministry leaders often find ourselves billed as those who dream big, have spanning vision, and incredible expectations. We are often incredibly skilled at looking so closely at the things that didn’t go as we expected them to, that we miss the proverbial forest for the trees. We get caught up in the expectations, and miss the opportunities for celebration.

Maybe your soul is crushed right now. Perhaps it isn’t. However, I would be willing to bet that in some of those slower moments during the coming winter break, all of our minds will gravitate toward those things that could have been different or gone better, in our estimation and expectation. That’s natural – leaders are evaluative creatures, seeking to develop and improve that which we’ve been graciously entrusted to steward. In those moments, I would implore you to evaluate how you evaluate and not be so lost in what went wrong, but discipline yourself to celebrate in this winter season.

That sounds nice – but how do we actually do it?

I would encourage you to approach this rhythmically, thinking in three categories: Once Over Break, Once A Week, and Once A Day

1. Once Over Break
I would do this on the front end of your break – personally, this will be the first Sunday afternoon after our last college gathering of the year. Block off roughly two hours, head to your favorite spot in town, and review the semester. I wrote about one way I do this, but it will be imperative that as you walk through the semester week by week that you are interrogating your calendar to find things worth celebration and make a list. We could likely have a discussion at length at what is “worth celebrating”, but I would say this should be focused on looking for moments where you saw God move your ministry closer to actualizing the mission and vision as well as when students embodied the values of your ministry. Discipline yourself to review the whole semester and find what’s worth celebrating!

2. Once A Week
Now that you’ve pinned down some moments to celebrate, you can share that joy with others. Have a conversation with someone in which you celebrate what God did in your ministry. Have lunch with your senior leadership, and just enjoy what God did in the last months with him or her! Call one of your financial partners and celebrate what God did with them! Write a letter to one of your leaders, celebrating what God did in them this semester! Take a member of your staff or a key volunteer and their spouse out to dinner, and make it a point to celebrate what God did! Discipline yourself to celebrate what God is doing with others each week!

3. Once A Day
Go back to your list of things God did that you should celebrate. I don’t care if it’s five things or fifty things – cycle through the list each morning as a seasonal addition to your time with God. Take one thing each day and thank God for it – celebrate the One who is allowing you to celebrate what he’s done in your ministry. Then, faithfully ask Him to continue to do it in the Spring. Shamelessly pray tremblingly large prayers and ask Him to do more and more for His glory. Discipline yourself to celebrate what God’s done this semester each day.

I was once told “what’s rewarded is repeated.” I think it’s true – but I think it’s equally true that what’s celebrated is cultured. What you celebrate, others gravitate toward. Beyond that, you’ll gravitate toward it. It will mean that you can evaluate rightly, both in light of what God’s done and in hope that He would continue to do more.

Be disciplined.
Take hope.
Celebrate well.


about the author

Rudy Hartmann

Rudy Hartmann is a church planting candidate with the Salt Company in Ames, IA. He previously served in college ministry in Tampa, FL.