Three ways to empower students from “breaking bad” during break
One of the most highly anticipated times of the college calendar for both ministry staff and students are breaks. Christmas, spring, and summer breaks are strategic times to attend conferences, bond on retreats, or go on mission trips. Yet, there will be students who won’t be able to participate in your ministry’s formal break plans and will head back home. While semester breaks serve as time away from academic rigors, many students find relational rigors at home.
Family and friend dysfunctions await most college students who return home over a break, and it has the potential to stifle the growth of the gospel in their lives.
As campus staff and student leaders, how are we preparing them not only to endure relational dysfunction, but also to be agents of change in the midst of it? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Go on mission
Most students see a break from school as a time to detach from their schedule, sleep in, watch Netflix, get some home cooking, and “go with the flow.” While these activities have their place, my outdoor experiences tell me this is not an effective way to live. In any moving body of water, there are only two types of things that just go with the flow: things that are wounded and things that are dead. Neither option is appealing, which is why it is important to help students swim upstream and live intentionally.
We would do well to help our students identify and accomplish at least one ministry mission during the break. It could be as simple as sharing with a friend or family member what God has been doing in and through their lives in the past month. It is so encouraging to see the heart that Peter and John carried in Acts 4:20 as they declared, “As for us we can not help but speaking what we have seen and heard.” Though this verse is in the context is a response to religious leaders commanding them to no longer teach in the name of Jesus, it applies to us as we interact with those who are close to us.
Another ministry mission that would be very beneficial is to reconcile a broken relationship. So many times there are apologies that need to be offered and forgiveness that needs to be extended to a parent, a sibling, or an old high school friend. Heading home for the break, our students should be carrying more than dirty laundry. They should also carry a ministry of reconciliation. Speaking of this, Paul said,
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18–19).
We have received the ministry of reconciliation from God through Jesus Christ and must be diligent in not holding offense against others by extending mercy and forgiveness to them.
2. Go for growth
A break from school should mean a break from the books, right? Not exactly. While the required academic reading can wait until the return to campus, this is a great time to pick up a book that refreshes the soul. Though there are a plethora of good Christian books out there, reading the Bible is always the best place to start. Whether it is books or chapters, a condensed Bible-reading plan can go a long way on a short break.
A short call, text, or email from you to the student discussing what they are learning from time in the Word can provide camaraderie between us and the students. Being far away from their campus ministry influence does not have to stop their growth. What joy it would be if they returned to campus with their hearts in agreement with the Psalmist says, “I have meditated on your precepts and considered your ways, I delight in Your decrees: I will not neglect Your word” (Psalm 119:15–16).
3. Go low
Returning home, students may sometimes find themselves with the a parent who desperately missed them and is ready to bend over backward to make sure they feel welcome. On the other hand, they might re-enter an environment where the welcome wears off fast. Afterward they are left fending for themselves just like they do on campus. Whatever the case, this is a great opportunity to go low and serve. This is a reality we see so magnificently declared and modeled by our Maker when Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
While the bare minimum of making the bed and doing their own dishes is acceptable in most households, encourage your students to go above and beyond that, just as our Savior did. Honoring their parents through service over the break honors God and highlights His transformative work taking place in their hearts.