Moving People onto God's Agenda
Say it with me: How is it already October?!?!
As a teacher, I learned that October was the time of year when the real personalities came out of my students and I would have to buckle in for what I liked to think of as "the month of re-establishment." I.e., re-establishing classroom rules, re-establishing who is in charge, re-establishing the value in actually doing the work, re-establishing a vision for building relationships with all classmates (aka embracing new seating charts), and so on. It was a jarring--you could say awful--experience that first year, but honestly, I came to really value it in the later years because it was an opportunity for me to cast an even clearer vision for my students for what we were all really going to be about. In different ways, October in college ministry has this same "rubber meets the road" kind of feel.
Students have gotten into the swing of their classes, they are settling into their friend groups for the semester, they are more comfortable with their roommates, and they're just generally starting to have more room for the "real" selves to come out. In their core groups, some of our leaders are beginning to hear things like "I don't know if I can be a part of this group because I don't believe everything exactly how you believe it," or "I'm not sure if I will keep coming to core because I don't have time for FOCUS, my sorority, intramural volleyball, and the EMT organization I've joined," or "I am just feeling really stressed and depressed right now, so I want to take a little more time for just me." These are all (almost) exact quotes I have heard from girls in the last week! If I didn't have a calendar to let me know, these kinds of comments would clue me in on our arrival into October. Much as in teaching, I have learned to embrace this season as a valuable opportunity for real ministering.
In each of these scenarios, girls are thinking through their priorities and really, who they want to be in life. And study after study has shown that who we choose to be and how we choose to live in these inchoate years of adulthood shapes who we are and how we live for the rest of our lives! Ministering into these moments at this pivotal time can put people on a trajectory for good for years and possibly even generations to come!
So my job is to mentor these core group leaders, teaching them how to pray, think, and respond as a minister. One of the values we try to instill in our leaders for these very scenarios is the simple commitment to "Moving people onto God's agenda." We are not here to promote our own interests or to shell out advice just because it makes the most sense to us. We are not God, so we should not act like we are! We aren't about moving people onto our agendas. But we do have responsibility to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ to "rebuke, correct, and encourage, with great patience and teaching" so that we may one day "present everyone as fully mature in Christ." (2 Timothy, Colossians). What we know is that God is indeed working in the lives of every person we encounter! And we, as his people full of his Holy Spirit, speak into these situations, praying God will move in the hearts and minds of the people he's put us with. We move people onto God's agenda.
As a campus pastor, here's what I hear in those students' comments: "If I'm going to be a person who sticks to my convictions, I can't engage with anyone who disagrees with me." "I have a lot of things I want to do, and I can't get too invested in just one faith organization if it keeps me from some of those things." "I want to really value my wellbeing, so I'm going to protect that even if it means I only have the capacity to look out for just me." Of course, there is so much to dig into with each of those individuals, and motivations can be hard to discover! But often, these are not the explicit thoughts coming out of students' mouths. Often, they do not even realize those are the thoughts that are there. They're not necessarily aware of the value and character building that is happening in those moments. So I've learned that so much of moving people onto God's agenda is simply helping people see their own current agendas. It's helping them hear these values they're living out and really consider, "Is this something I want to value? Is this who I want to be?"
So my student leaders and I have been talking a lot about these kinds of scenarios and thinking through what it looks like in each case to move people onto God's agenda. I encourage them to ask questions and get people thinking about their own thinking. For example, in the case of girl number 1, I'd ask some questions like "Jesus says 'seek and you will find;' Do you believe God is big enough to handle your questions? If you end up with questions that come out of your interactions with others, do you think God or your belief in God is going to just fall apart? Which is stronger--faith that stems from blind conviction or faith that can stand up to scrutiny? The truth is a strong thing! Test God! Get to know him--the real him! You will not find him wanting."
Please be praying for these October conversations! They are daunting for core leaders and sometimes a little painful, but time and time again I have watched God work so much good through them. Please pray that the core leaders would be full of the Spirit's wisdom and discernment in what to say and how to communicate love, and that the students they are talking to would have ears to hear.
I'll keep it short(ish) and stop there, but here are just a couple photos of some of the other exciting things going on!
Thank you for supporting campus ministry and making this work possible! I remember you all in my prayers and pray for God to keep moving us all more and more onto his agenda.
Much love always,