Published previously on the Faith on Campus blog on August 2nd – http://faithoncampus.com/ready-and-clinging-to-god/
This past week I gathered with a group of young clergy and as we were checking in with each other and I began to describe this time of year in the life of a campus minister I compared it to Advent or to an extended Holy Week in terms of the demand on one’s time and mental, physical, spiritual and emotional resources. We’ve heard the research about how critical and crucial the first few weeks are in terms of plugging students in and getting into their habit of the semester. There’s so much that goes into these first few weeks and it often feels like if you miss this first boat, you’re going to be stranded on the island with a few students that may have been hiding in the bushes, but you could be looking through the binoculars seeing what some of the other boats are doing and think wow, where did all the students go? Are we lost for the rest of the year? Do we measure up to “x” campus ministry? Should we have put more thought and planning into this? Is there any way we still have a chance to pull it all together?
We have to get out there and meet students and connect and invite and have those real, authentic interactions. You’ve got to take every opportunity (or at least send a student leader). If there’s a student org fair, you need to be there. If there’s a welcome cook out, you need to be there. If there’s a chance for you to reach out and connect students to your community through food or worship or playing corn hole (is that just in the South?) or tailgating at a football game or through a day of service or a mission project or whatever it may be – you need to be there. Ready. And with a smile. Not the creepy, too over eager kind, but the one that says I really want to get to know you and your story and here’s how you can feel plugged in here.
Going into my seventh year in campus ministry, you would think that maybe by now I would have figured out some sort of secret method to lure in students. It’s not so much a secret, but the planning and intentionality as well as the authentic and genuine interest is key because no one likes to see someone running around unprepared and frantic. Sure there are those times when things come together on the fly and the Spirit of God moves in powerful ways for it to look and feel seamless. Praise God for those moments. But there’s also a bar of excellence and quality that we have to have as professionals in campus ministry. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they have a bunch of great ideas, but those ideas never seem to come to fruition because you’re being pulled in so many directions.
I don’t know about you, but for me, where I am spiritually has a great deal to do with how I approach the beginning of the year. Where I am in my walk with God has a significant impact on how I or this ministry seem to fare in the gauntlet that is the beginning of the school year and whether it seems smooth or frantic. If I’m feeling exhausted, worn ragged and torn between family and campus ministry and preaching on Sundays and how we’re going to pay for all the beginning of the year hoopla – I can’t fully engage with new students or any students for that matter. There are so many missed opportunities and regrets and frustration when the “stuff” gets in the way of the heart of why we’re here and why we do what we do.
So, rest. Rest in God. Catch up on your sleep. Rest in the hope that you have made the preparations, that you have students and leaders and board members that are ready to help and that this is God’s. I have a post it note on my desk. As we have faced changes and challenges, it helps center me. As it gets lost in the piles that sometimes grow on my desk, I know that it’s time for me to shape up and get focused again. The post it says, “God has done this.” God has done this. God is doing this.
Often I feel like I get in the way of that. At other times I feel blessed beyond measure and in awe of how much God is in the midst. I didn’t write this to say that I have this giant cop out or loophole where I can not do any planning, preparation, or prayerful visioning and blame it all on God. Nope. But I can remind myself that it’s not all on my strength, personality, or how nice or smart or hipster or cool or attractive or funny I am. It’s not based on whether I’m a mac or a pc. It’s based on us going into these seasons of introductions, newness or renewal of relationships with the grace and passion and groundedness of the One who has called us to what we are to do in this time and in this place and who will be with us through the events that go super well and those that totally bomb and we vow never to do again.
My challenge to myself during this time is to yes, do the work. Get ready. Be prepared to hit the ground running during that beginning of the year crunch time. But also know and trust and feel that the Spirit of God is at work not only in our ministries but within each of us. God seeks to move in mighty and transformative ways on our campuses. God has done this and God is doing this and amazingly, we get to be a part of it!