For some years College Ministry was seen as something you passed through while getting enough experience for a "real ministry job". Then, that changed as people realized the value and need for experienced College Ministers. But, we are now seeing some shift away from long term "College Ministry Pros". Part of this relates to cuts in finances and more and more expectations on campus based College Ministers. But, I believe the need is greater then ever for the long term College Minister. It is no surprise that many of the larger campus based ministries are led by College Ministers in their 50's and 60's. It comes down to experience, respect, and trust.
So, if you are a young or middle College Minister that feels called to College Ministry, what do you do to make it into the 50's and 60's?
1. Identify, Understand and Work the Different Seasons of Campus Ministry.
One of the great things about College Ministry is that each year has clear beginnings and endings. There is often a different and slower routine in the summer. There is a break at Christmas. If you will do different things in the different seasons, it will add balance to your ministry AND be restorative to you. Speaking outlines developed in the summer make for less stressful and more fulfilling falls. Donors thanked personally in the summer make better givers in the fall. More family time at slower times builds into your personal reserves. More quiet time in your relationship to the Lord builds you up and reminds you why you are doing what you do.
2. Have Projects That You Look forward to Doing That Give You a Sense of Satisfaction and Accomplishment.
This is part of working the seasons. As the year goes along, identify some projects that need doing and lay them aside to the time you can do them....plan a time to do them. One of the frustrations of the ministry is often working like a dog and never feeling you are done or have accomplished anything. Projects that have starting and ending points are a great antidote for this. Look what is just finished!
3. Regularly Re-Visit Your Calling to College Ministry.
Why and how did you feel called to College Ministry? Remind yourself of that and re-visit it. Are those things still true? Keep touch with this experience in your life.
4. Have One or Two Go To Friends in College Ministry.
I have a College Ministry friend in another state that we talk every week....sometimes every day.....ok; sometimes we have talked three times in one hour! We can and do say "anything" to one another. I believe no one gets College Ministers like another College Minister. Do you have someone like that? You can trade ideas; you can process thinking. You can scream your frustrations! Work at developing a relationship like that. It will
benefit your ministry....but much more....it will benefit YOU!
5. Go to Church.
I don't mean preach somewhere. I don't mean visit all your supporting churches. Go to church for you. Worship. Hear from the Lord. Sit with your family. Allow others to
speak into your soul and life. Work at turning off your "ministerial side" while you are there. Don't worry about the lag time between songs or evaluating the preacher. I
have to remind myself to do this...a lot. I don't want to be just a "church professional". Serve on a dumb committee. Let a church know you and love you. There are many who will do this, if you let them.
6. Work a Three Year Rotation in Your Ministry.
One of the things that kills College Ministers is doing everything they know to do and needs doing EVERY year. Part of the answer to that is to develop a three year rotation of special events and projects. One year we do a big foreign mission trip and the next we do a simple trip with less logistics, etc. What are some things that need to be part
of your ministry....just not every year?
7. Have both an Individual Ministry and a Larger Ministry Which You Lead.
As the years go on and your administrative skills develop, it is easy to oversee the work of others or organize the details, but do little of what you actually initially felt
called to do. Do both! Supervise and train others, but work individually with students too. Do pre-marital counseling. You meet with the Freshmen Leadership Team. Sometimes, we hand off the most rewarding things. Make sure you are doing some of those yourself.
8. Find, Acknowledge and EMPHASIZE the Strengths of the Age You are Now.
The long lasting "It Factor" for a College Minister is RESPECT. Nearly all the super successful college football coaches who are paid millions each year could not make a tackle or throw a 50 yard pass if their life depended on it. They are paid and recognized for their ability to teach those who can. As you age in the ministry, you
know more; you likely have grown in your ability to teach either in a group setting or one to one. Teach and share what you know. You are not paid or called to be the best ballplayer or midnight conversationalist. Today's young adults say they want to learn from those older than them. I believe it.
When you are thinking about quitting, maybe you have just finally learned enough to start doing it really well! One of the strengths of being older is you get over the idea of
trying to impress people.....then, God can use what he has put into you through experience and growing wisdom.