Nov 26, 2018
Do Not Fret the End of the Semester
Darrick Smith provides great reminders to keep you from fretting at the end of the semester.
It’s that time of the semester. The time where students have just finished mid-terms and are in the final stretch. They can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there’s still more work to be done—finals! Final exams, term papers, and group projects; the things that every student enjoys. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?
For many it’s the most fretful time of the year. The end of the semester can be a really stressful time of the year for students and college ministry leaders. The time of the year that creates a lot of worry, anxiety, and even depression. For collegiate leaders, this is one of the most frustrating times of the year. It’s the time of the year where your large group gathering shrinks. Students stop showing up to activities. Small groups and discipleship groups are poorly attended. You stop getting replies to text messages. And for some odd reason, it’s the time of the year where student’s phones stop working. You know the whole, “I didn’t see your call” thing? It’s just a challenging time of the year for everyone!
But in the midst of a time of worry, stress, anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, and bitterness; what’s going on at the core of your hearts? What’s contributing to your students’ worry, anxiety, and depression over their grades? What’s contributing to your frustration and bitterness towards your students when they stop attending gatherings? What’s contributing to your students’ obsession over their GPA? What’s contributing to your assumptions that your students don’t care about ministry during this time of the year? What about your anger towards them?
At the core of our hearts we have an unbelief problem that leads to these attitudes and actions.
The ability that something has to provoke stress, worry, anxiety, anger, frustration, and bitterness in you is most likely connected to unbelief—you are not believing the promises of God nor the truths of the gospel. But what are you possibly believing? What are your students believing?
In my own heart, I’ve discovered that often I was prone to believe the worst about my students that led to sinful attitudes and actions. I also discovered that my students were believing certain lies that led to their actions. For all of us, we needed a heart check! We needed to ask ourselves the hard questions. We needed to ask ourselves what we were actually believing in those moments of worry, anxiety, and frustration. We needed to remind ourselves of what was true.
I found that as a collegiate minister it was easy for me to believe these two lies.
1. Salvation and sanctification belonged to me, not the Lord.
I often acted as if it was left up to me and my performance to see students saved and growing in Christ. The truth is…I thought students needed ME. I thought they needed the Bible studies that I worked hard to plan. I thought they needed my programs and events. I thought their maturity in Christ was dependent upon me. The truth is, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” (Psalm 127:1 NLT) Salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8), not you. Yes, you need to be faithful in sharing the gospel and planning discipleship events that matures your students, but your student’s spiritual maturity and sanctification is dependent upon the One who gave His Son for them, not you. You’re not the key ingredient; God is.
2. I am sovereign over the lives of my students.
I once read a quote somewhere that personal sovereignty is delusional. The idea that we are in control of our lives and those we are leading is delusional. We have no control. We can’t even control whether or not we will continue breathing for the next thirty seconds to finish reading this article, so why do we fight so hard to control our students? Why do we think that if our students don’t do what we ask them to do then they are doomed? It’s because we have a god-complex—we think that we are god and are in control of our students. I’ve learned that the students God sends to me are signs of his grace. God saw fit to graciously send me students to shepherd and point them to Jesus. We are the under shepherds, not the Great Shepherd. We must fight against believing that we our Lord over our students.
But what’s going on in the hearts of our student’s? How do we help our students answer the hard questions about their attitudes and actions? Behind every unanswered text and skipped meeting could be a deeper problem. Their actions are the smoke but down below is a fire—what’s really driving their behavior. Your students could be believing the following lies.
1. God isn’t good therefore I must control my life.
Perhaps what’s driving some of their actions is the fact that they believe that they are in control of their lives and know what’s best for them. Perhaps they believe that God is not for them and thus, they need to ensure that they are doing everything in their power to have a “good” and “successful” life. Honestly, this was a lie that drove my life for a number of years. I didn’t trust that God was for me and had a plan for my life, therefore I took my life into my own hands. I became “god” of my life. I needed the truths of Scripture to point me back in the right direction. Your students may need to be asked the simple question, “Who’s Lord over your life?” This could help you identify where they have misplaced their affections, hope, and worship.
2. Academic success is the most important thing.
This can be a hard one because they are students and their job is to be a successful student who honors and loves God with their mind (Deuteronomy 4:6-7). However, we know that for some students, academic success is the god that rules their lives. Their unhealthy desire for success and achievement can lead to worry, anxiety, and depression. It’s important for you to help your students see this idol and point them back to what is true.
The end of the semester can be a challenging time, but It’s important to remember that our ministries do not exist and thrive solely based upon our efforts nor our student’s efforts. It’s the Lord. It’s God’s Spirit that works in and through us, and our students. We can trust God with them and our ministry during a challenging time of the year.! As Paul reminded the Church at Philippi in Philippians 4:5-6, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is the promise that you and your students can rest in during this time of the year—God is near to us, therefore we do not have to fret!