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A Mid-Year Pause: First Semester Reflections

Three college guys pose in front of the gingerbread house they have made.

Whether this is your 25th year in college ministry, or your first, it is good to stop and reflect on what God has taught you as you have worked with college students. Here, two campus missionaries in Vermont share their experiences from this first semester. Read them, be encouraged, and take some time to encourage your fellow college ministers who are just starting out!

“First and foremost, when you are packing and preparing to step into your ministry, whatever that may be, please do not pack comparison or bring it with you in any shape or form. Before I even began work as a CMI, I had already formed some preconceived ideas about what it was going to be like, and I took inspiration from my alma mater. It’s fine to have wishful thinking, but in comparing other universities and ministries to the one I was actually working with, I unknowingly set myself up to be disappointed and discouraged. It was quite shocking coming from my university where there was a decent amount of interest in spiritual life, interfaith organizations, and campus ministries, to a campus that currently has nothing of the sort. I had never seen a campus with zero religious organizations or an interfaith center, and it was rather discouraging knowing that the students might not see the importance of having said things on their college campus. It was also disappointing to see the student body’s reaction, or lack thereof, to different outreach events on campus. At my university, there would almost always be a big turnout for events and tabling on and off campus. In seeing the similarities between my alma mater and this university, in both student population and values, I assumed that events would resonate with this student body the same way. After co-hosting several events and doing tabling outreach on campus, I realized that that was not the case. On a good day, we would maybe have a turnout of twenty students, and instead of viewing this as a success, I was allowing the comparisons I had made, rob me of my joy. I had to learn that while universities may seem similar, each is unique because each student body and faculty are unique. The same goes for college ministries. I had to come to terms with the fact that pioneering a campus and laying the foundation for a campus ministry to emerge looks completely different than one that’s been well established for some time. The work that I am doing as a pioneer is going to look different than that of my colleagues, and that’s okay. It took time to stop comparing and start accepting the university, and the ministry, for what it is. All of that being said, college ministry is packed full of lessons. This whole semester has been a journey of acceptance, discovery, patience, endurance, and growth. In all honesty, there are days where you’re drained and wondering why you’re even here, but then there are moments that overpower and silence all the doubts and concerns. Moments of actively experiencing God’s faithfulness and hand at work in your life and the lives of others are the moments that make it all worth it. So, if you’re reading this and you feel led to go into college ministry yourself, here’s a word of advice: do it! Take the leap of faith, and I can assure you that you’ll discover more about yourself, God and ministry as whole through your yes to God’s call on your life! 

– Lavery Gibson, Campus Missionary Intern (CMI), VT

This first semester as a campus ministry intern has been challenging and rewarding. My Contentment, happiness, and calling have all been challenged; however, every time I have been challenged, I have been rewarded after I have endured. I recently moved from South Carolina, where most people consider themselves Christian, to Vermont, where no one really cares about Christianity. Back home, people grow up, go to college, and stay to work. Here, people grow up and move away. The typical post-college Christian community consists of young families and empty nesters. In South Carolina, there is enough urbanization (and subsequent gentrification) to draw young people to the state. In Vermont, environmentalism reigns supreme, so the state’s urbanization has been neglected and remains rural. So, not only are there fewer Christians than I have ever been around, there are also fewer young adults. Because of this, I can truly say that my contentment, happiness, and calling are consistently attacked by the adversary, but the Lord gives me strength where nothing else can. A mentor once told me that “you can endure anything for 10 months,” and he is exactly right. The only way this 22-year-old college minister can do that is by enduring in the Lord, in His word, and in community. By these things, I have been rewarded. Endurance has been the only thing that has kept me in ministry this past semester. I have felt genuine loneliness. I have people, but it has sometimes felt like no one has me. I have felt the desire to abandon the field, but I know God has called me to minister to college students. I am constantly reminded of this calling because I endure in the Lord, in His word, and in community. Satan makes it difficult to delight in these things, but the Lord rewards me when I do. When the devil has caused me to feel isolated from or abandoned by my friends, I had to examine what I have done to isolate myself or abandon them. The blame has fallen on both myself and my community because we are sinful and selfish humans. Therefore, college ministry is a breeding ground for discontentment, unhappiness, and doubts about your calling. When God leads people away from their homes, He does not call them to feel satisfied, happy, or sure about where He leads them. He just wants obedience. I must remind myself every week, sometimes every day, that I am not called to be happy but obedient. Delighting in the Lord, His word, and the little community I have rewards me with contentment, happiness, and certainty. The Lord satisfies my desire for contentment; His word restores my happiness and gratitude in what He has blessed me with; and his people reaffirm my impact on the campus I serve. Campus ministry is not a walk in the park. In some cases, the cons seem to outweigh the pros. After Jesus commissions His disciples to make disciples of all nations, He reminds them that He will be with them until the end of the age (Matt 28:20). This promise stands today. The age is not over, and the nations have not yet been reached; therefore, the commission stands, and Christ is still present. We work only to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That reward never seems to be outweighed by the challenges of college ministry.

-Christian Bowers, Campus Missionary Intern, VT

Are you new to college ministry? If you have been serving in college ministry for three years or less, consider joining our monthly “New Campus Minister” calls! Sign up here: https://bit.ly/48EM0mJ

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