5 Things To Do Over Winter Break
Winter break can be an awkward time for campus ministry leaders. It is short enough that you could easily waste it. The winter break also provides a great opportunity for you to work on your ministry rather than in your ministry. Here are five high impact activities to engage in during winter break.
1. Invest in Your Family and Friends
This should be your highest priority during the break. There are few better opportunities to be fully present with your family than over the winter break. During the summer there are mission trips, family reunions, weddings and kids birthday parties galore. As a collegiate leader winter break may be the best time to plan a family trip just for fun or plan some “cabin days” at home where you disconnect from the outside world and play board games, watch movies and enjoy one another. You will never regret investing in your most important ministry – your family.
Don’t forget about your friends! You know…those people who are actually your age. Those of us who invest in college students often find it difficult to build friendships with people in our own stage of life. Most people our age don’t totally understand why we spend 3-4 nights a week hanging out with college students ’til midnight. They may admire us, but they are often also intimidated by us as a “ministry leader” which can make them more hesitant to engage in friendship with us. This means it will require more intentionality on our part to invest in these friendships. I have talked with several campus ministry leaders who admit to being very lonely outside of hanging out with fellow staff and college students. Why not take some extra time this winter break to hit up the golf course with your friends or have a meal with different couples you would like to get to know (without setting up a support appointment with them).
2. Seek Opportunities to Learn and Grow
“If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success.” Ecclesiastes 10:10 (NASB)
Imagine spending an afternoon over coffee with Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators, to learn about making disciples or Bill Bright, the founder of Cru, to learn about sharing Christ and leading with bold faith. Wouldn’t it be inspiring and insightful? Actually I could guess what these leaders would say to you because I have read their biographies and several of their books. I have had the privileged of being mentored by many giants of the faith such as David Brainerd, George Muller, Hudson Taylor and others through their autobiographies and books! Reading is one of the only short cuts to gaining wisdom in life. If you invest in reading good books it will provide a depth of insight that will pay off massively over the years as you lead. Reading is an essential spiritual discipline for any leader. Yes books cost money and take your precious time but they are a worthy investment. I often quote this verse to myself as I walk into a book store. “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7 (NIV84) Would you spend $10 to get 6 hours with George Muller!! You got be kidding me!
What books are you going to read this winter break? In the appendix of my free ebook “Tips For Starting A College Ministry” (download by signing up here) I have a list of suggested books that might be helpful for a college ministry leader to read.
In addition to reading great books I would strongly encourage you to write down a series of 5-10 questions that you have about leading your college ministry. Then seek out leaders that you respect and set up some 30 minute phone or face-to-face grilling sessions. I have done this many times with leaders that I respect and have gained invaluable wisdom. Shoot for the stars! You will be surprised about who will give you some of their time if you ask. Last year a few of my brothers and I had the chance to get two hours with Rick Warren! I was glad that I had my list of questions ready. If you can’t think of any topic that you need advice about then you probably need to grow as a learner and may be in danger of arrogance.
“Fools think they need no advice, but the wise listen to others.” Proverbs 12:18
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 26:12
What do you need to get advice about? Who could you set up a time to gain some wisdom from?
“Don’t forget to think!” When getting advice prior to planting our ministry one of my mentors John Kelsey the director of the OU BCM encouraged me to make sure to fight for my “thinking time” as a leader. As a highly motivated leader it is easy for me to simply move from one task to the next without giving things adequate thought. It can be easy to emerge from a busy and fruitful season of ministry and say “What just happened?”
It will be extremely helpful this winter break to take extended time to get alone with God to think. Take time to prayerfully think over the direction of your personal life, family, and every aspect of your ministry. Think through your leadership style, your systems, what you are doing well and what needs improvement. Make sure to ask God to give you wisdom as you process these things. (James 1:5) Make sure to also dream about the future of your life and ministry and imagine potential new kingdom building initiatives that The Lord may be calling you to attempt. Take time to let God burn your vision deep into your soul so that when you step onto the campus this spring you will lead with a noticeable purpose that people will want to follow.
4. Set faith goals and develop a strategic plan with your team
Take a day or two with your staff to dream and strategize about the future of your ministry. Don’t be afraid to set what Jim Collins calls “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAG). Once you dream a bit and set some audacious faith goals it is wise to implement some sort of strategic planning process to “reverse engineer” you desired outcomes. After taking significant time to pray, dream, brain storm and nail down some faith goals it would be wise to build a practical strategic plan to accomplish those goals. For example maybe your goal is that by this time next year you will reach 40 freshman and connect them to your ministry. What steps would you need to start taking right now in order to accomplish that goal? This might include fundraising, recruiting, raising up small group leaders, evangelism training, learning best practices for reaching freshman and tons of prayer.
Make sure to model an attitude of bold faith to your team. If the vision you are pursuing doesn’t seem intimidating and impossible then it is not big enough. It is ok if you don’t reach every one of your faith goals. Our team falls short of our goals regularly but we have also accomplished things as a team that I am still having a hard time believing God did! Take the risk of declaring as a team what you are trusting God for. A wise leader does the work to plan as much in advance so the ministry is set up to maximize it’s fruitfulness each consecutive year in order to build a movement over time. Just because your students don’t plan what they will be doing the next hours doesn’t mean we should be haphazard in planning how we lead our ministries. The mission God called us to is too urgent for that!
5. Fast and Pray
I rarely talk with a fellow leader who is satisfied with the depth and consistency of his or her personal prayer life. This winter break might be a great time to engage in an intense season of fasting and prayer for your students and campus. For me, being “faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12) takes discipline. I frequently need to make new prayer goals to stretch myself in prayer. There are seasons that I have attempted to pray for an hour a day, pray over specific prayer lists, go prayer walking or discipline myself in the area of fasting. I am haunted by a statement found in James 4:2b “You do not have because you do not ask God.” I am not really sure exactly how that works but I do not want this verse to be true of my life. I know that God does stuff when we ask Him that he won’t do if we don’t ask Him!
As kingdom leaders we are wise to model our priorities after the leaders of the early church “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4 (ESV) If we prioritize anything lets make sure we devote ourselves to prayer and the Word! As missionaries to our campuses we must also take to heart the passionate prayer request of Jesus for more laborers to engage the ripe harvest field in Matthew 9:36-38.
Prayer is one of your primary ministries!
“No one should expect to see much good resulting from his labors if he does not spend time in prayer and meditation. Only a life of prayer will render him a vessel ready for the Master’s use and fit to be employed in the conversion of sinners and in the edification of the saints. I am glad that I learned the importance of ministering in God’s power alone. I can do all things through Christ, but without him. I can accomplish nothing.” George Muller in his Autobiography
How is your prayer life? Are you faithfully interceding on behalf of your students and campus? What is one goal you can make to fast and pray for your students and campus this winter?
Which of these activities will you engage in this winter break? Any questions? Anything you would add?