As I sit here in my office, I look forward to the upcoming semester as a professor with joy and anticipation. I love the beginning of the academic year and the opportunity to meet and get to know my students. The new year is like picking up a book that I have never read — and I absolutely love to read. How will this year go? What will be the challenges and obstacles I face? Where will I get the opportunity to see God show up in extraordinary ways?
It is hard to believe that I have been a college professor now for 10 years. As I look back over those ten years, God has taught me so many things. He continues to graciously show me who he is and how much I need an intimate relationship with him. I cannot be the husband, father, friend, mentor, and professor that God created me to be without God’s power and guidance. It is only through him and by him that I am here and can share with you what he has taught me.
I work for a large public university where there are a number of Christian campus ministries, which gives me the opportunity to interact with, mentor, and support students and ministers from several campus ministries. I love the opportunity to work with campus ministers because of their love and passion for seeing students come to know Jesus. Some of my favorite people and closest friends are campus ministers.
That brings us to the question of the day – What do I wish my Christian campus minister knew? God has brought so many things to my mind as I have prayed over this topic. Much of which I am sure you already know but still may find helpful to consider again before you start this next school year. Here we go.
Everyone is Seeking Belonging and Community
The longer I am a college professor and the more time I spend at a university, the more I am aware that everyone is seeking belonging and community. Everyone wants to belong somewhere. This is not surprising because this yearning for connection was placed in our hearts by God. As image bearers of the triune God who is the perfectly unified Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we too are made for community. The problem is that a lot of times students find community in the wrong places. We have this deep desire and inherent need to know and be known and deeply respected (the Hebrew word is Yada) by someone. As campus ministers, you have this wonderful opportunity to provide a place and a community where students can know and be known by others and most importantly by God. Psalm 139:23 says, “Search me, O God, and know [yada] my heart. Try me and know [yada] my thoughts!”
Brokenness is All Around Us (and in Us).
It is important for us to be aware that there is brokenness all around us. I have students come to my office frequently when they are disappointed with their grade in my class or disappointed with how they performed on a recent exam. The emotions tend to bubble to the surface, evidenced by their tears and sadness. Often, when I start to ask questions, it quickly becomes apparent that they have a lot going on under the surface of their well put-together exteriors…parents getting divorced, a difficult relationship, financial concerns, illness, addictions…to name a few.
With our students and staff, remember there are lots of struggles going on that we do not know about. Lead with grace and compassion. Remember that everyone desires to know and be known. Get to know your students by asking good questions that get underneath the well put-together façade. The best way to get to know someone is to lead with vulnerability and share our struggles and how God has been with us every step of the way.
Oftentimes, helping students work through their struggles brings to the surface our own brokenness and the things that we are struggling with. Let’s make sure to deal with our brokenness and struggles. What do you need to do to work through your struggles or wounds or brokenness from your past? Get the help you need from a trusted friend or a professional counselor. God will help you work through those deep wounds that you may feel like are not able to be healed or recovered from. This will help you to be able to respond to students’ brokenness with more compassion and authenticity.
Remember Who the Enemy Is
It is an easy path to head down to compare ourselves and our campus ministries to other people and their ministries. I strongly encourage you to avoid comparisons. It is also easy to get in this mindset that we are in competition against other campus ministries, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Remember who the enemy is. Ephesians 6:12 states, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Unfortunately, it is fairly common to hear students or campus ministers or other Christians comparing campus ministries and discussing their flaws and shortcomings. Let’s be honest, every campus ministry, and church for that matter, has flaws because they are led by us humans.
Together let’s remember our purpose, which is to serve God in reaching the lost on our campuses and be the aroma of Christ to everyone around us. The other Christian campus ministries have the same purpose. This is not to say there will not be times where you need to have important conversations about God’s truth with other campus ministers. But let’s be peacemakers and not peacekeepers by speaking the truth in love when God calls us to. Let’s work together to reach the hearts of our students so they can have an intimate relationship with our loving God.
Finally, I would like to end by saying, “Thank you!” Thank you for being obedient to God’s calling on your life and fighting the good fight of the faith. As a father of seven, three of whom have already experienced the love, encouragement, and community from a college campus ministry, I am deeply grateful for the ways that you serve our college students. It is so fun to see the transformation before my very eyes of so many college students. They begin as wild, anxious, and lost freshmen and end their college career as mature, loving, and Christ-following seniors. Through God’s power and your obedience, you have impacted so many students. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Brooke Beyer is a husband to Sarah (27 years), father of seven (Anna, Leah, Faith, Julius, Cameron, Lance & Landon), and an Associate Professor of Accounting at Kansas State University.