Carrying Ministry on a Tightrope pt 2
(This is part two of a two-part article. You can find the first one here.)
As the title suggests, you can easily lose your balance while leading a ministry. If you ignore what the Lord is doing in you and in those you are ministering to, there is a danger not only for you but for those you lead.
Paul mentions in Galatians we should not just live in the Spirit bearing the corresponding fruit from that connection (Gal 5:22,23), but also that we should “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). For those of us leading in ministry, carrying each of these “poles” on a tightrope is truly spiritual work as we seek to stay connected to the Life of the Spirit while taking small and big steps into God’s plans for each season of life and ministry on campus.
Here are two more poles to consider as you move forward in this season:
The Leadership Pole (Staff Supported vs Student Driven)
Often those who enter into full-time or bi-vocational college ministry do so because they genuinely enjoy seeing the impact the gospel can make on the lives of young people. More often than not, college ministry workers were impacted in the past by a campus ministry or a local church during their time in college. We see the value of this season of life and the mission field walking around our campuses living separated from a revelation of God’s goodness, mercy, and grace.
College ministry workers generally find joy in participating in college life as well. Activities like sporting events, befriending students, sharing the gospel, praying for others, having late-night hangouts, eating in dining halls, leading Bible studies, conversing about solutions for world problems, rocking free t-shirts, taking spontaneous road trips, and competing in intramural sports are what we live for! Come on now, what could be more fun than loving God and ministering in this context to young people with so much energy, talent, and potential?
Problems can arise though when campus workers enjoy doing ministry so much that they never consider if they are the ones doing all of the ministry. Campus workers can love ministry and disciple-making so much that we forget that equipping and empowering students to minister and become disciple-makers is a vital part of our heavenly job description as ministers (Ephesians 4:11-13; 2 Timothy 2:1-2).
Students should see staff or volunteers leading them in ministry, but not think that the latter are the only ones who can minister. Students should feel like ministry is not just something that is done for them or to them, but through them by the power of the Spirit. If only “professional” ministers with seminary degrees can minister to a particular campus, we are not recognizing potential laborers in our midst.
It would be akin to an orchestra conductor who loves to play music for an audience, but does not think the orchestra can ever play as well as them! A good conductor knows their role is to pass on their love for music while also getting others to practice and play their part. Great campus workers know they have a role to play to reach a campus that their students cannot play, while the students equally have a role that their campus workers cannot play. It is not an “either/or” situation, but both are needed to reach a campus!
Jesus, Barnabas, and Paul are great examples of spiritual leaders who not only showed what powerful ministry could look like, but they took others alongside them to prepare them to do the same. This allowed them to reach more people than they could have ever reached by themselves. While there were times it looked like each of these was the stronger and more mature leader, in reality, they were developing others to minister by observing their ministry.
-Currently, is our ministry to students more staff or student-driven? Why would you say this? -Take a second and list in your ministry “what staff or volunteers can only do” compared to “what students can only do.” What do you notice? Does it line up with what either is currently doing?
The Rhythm Pole (Rest vs Work)
While ministry to college students seems seasonal, the reality is we have the unique potential to minister to this demographic around the clock. Where else can you minister to the age demographic missing from churches by staying up until 1 a.m. conversing at a local Waffle House and then turning around to have a coffee with another student at 7 a.m. before classes start? Between social media, email, and various messaging apps, students can now be connected with campus workers no matter the time zone or location around the world.
Not only are college students more accessible than ever, but campus life as a whole is like a city that never sleeps. There is always something happening—both righteously and unrighteously—on or off campus. Even our most faithful students can run themselves into the ground with a steady combo of all-night study sessions, binge streaming, social media scrolling, online gaming, and social events worked around typical class and homework times. The inertia of our busy students’ lives can make it easy for campus workers to overextend their personal schedules to come alongside the students we are trying to reach.
Unfortunately, our lives can only handle so much before our bodies, minds, and emotions eventually need to rest. When we, as campus workers, fail to stay restful, the first thing to exit our lives is the most important things, starting with our devotional life and time with the Lord. Our time with friends, mentors, and family outside of “work” can fade leaving us in an unhealthy place lacking healthy relationships or identity apart from our ministry fruit. If campus workers cannot find emotional, mental, and relational health, how can we help lead a generation fighting the biggest mental health battle in modern history?
God’s answer to our busyness is to return to Him and find Sabbath rest in what He has done through Christ, not what we can do next (Hebrews 4:9-11). We are free to have full nights of sleep and rest because we are really branches whose main job is to “remain” or “abide” in Him for nourishment (John 15:1-17). We will most naturally bear fruit when we are staying connected to the vine!
When Jesus was asked what was needed to do the work of God, Jesus replied with an unsatisfactory answer for most campus workers: just believe in Him (John 6:28-29). He did not instruct us to work harder or smarter but to work with more confidence in Christ. When we do not take time to rest, we are showing where our confidence lies—in ourselves. The classic spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, worship, solitude, and fasting, when done in faith, are all designed to help us find rest for our souls. Far from boring, there are incredibly creative ways to do each of these within a community so these “means of grace” are not stale but life-giving!
-Think of your rhythm in ministry this past semester. Did you have a day you took off each week from doing ministry? How was your devotional life?
-How do you “refill your bucket” outside of ministry?
-How do you stay healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally?
-Do you take quarterly or annual ways to intentionally recharge?