How Not to Waste Your Winter Break
Winter break can be an awkward time for campus ministry leaders. It is short enough that you could easily waste it. However, these several weeks while campus is quiet also provide 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 your break.
Invest in Your Family and Friends
Making intentional investments in the people you love should be your highest priority during this time. 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, the holiday season may be the best time to schedule 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 initiative 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)?
Seek Opportunities to Learn and Grow
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 privilege of being mentored by many giants of the faith such as David Brainerd, George Muller, and Hudson Taylor through their autobiographies and books! Reading is one of the only shortcuts 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 bookstore. “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 gotta 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” I have a list of suggested books that might be helpful for a college ministry leader to read.
“Don’t forget to think!” When getting advice prior to planting our ministry, one of my mentors 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?”
Take extended time over the break to get alone with God and think. Prayerfully think on 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) Dream about the future of your life and ministry. Imagine potential new kingdom building initiatives the Lord may be calling you to attempt. Take time to let God burn your vision deep into your soul so when you step back onto the campus it will be with a renewed sense of purpose.
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). Take the risk of declaring as a team what you are trusting God for. 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” your desired outcomes. Build a practical strategic plan to accomplish those goals. 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. Model bold faith to your team. If the vision you are pursuing doesn’t seem intimidating and impossible, it’s not big enough.
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. In various seasons I have attempted to pray for an hour a day, prayed over specific prayer lists, gone prayer walking and disciplined myself in the area of fasting. I am haunted by a statement found in James 4:2, “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 God does stuff when we ask Him that he won’t do if we don’t ask Him!
Which of these activities will you engage in this winter break? Anything you would add?