This article was originally posted on 4/3/17 via Collegiate Collective
One of the biggest mistakes I see college ministers make is putting themselves on College Minister Island.
College Minister Island is a place many collegiate leaders live. It’s an island that appears safe. You always have the best ideas on the island. You are always successful because you create the metric for success, and if you don’t meet the metric, you just change it! It’s a pretty easy going place because there is no accountability. You can do what you want without the voice of others. No one really knows what you do with your day or time because it’s just you out there. Sometimes others stop by and ask if you need anything: help, resources, encouragement, etc. But, no, you’re good. If you let them on the island, then they may speak into your life and ministry, and that’s uncomfortable. Even worse, they may get a peek into who you really are and notice red flags and sin that have crept into your life since you’ve been alone.
But sin and repentance are not even on your radar because you are your own standard. God is obsessed with the ministry you’ve created on the island. In fact, you may even believe he doesn’t have much to say about your personal walk with him because he’s just as focused on the college ministry as you are. It’s now been some time since you’ve been on this island. You’ve become cynical of others that you see in the distance. You judge their ways and practices in an attempt to make your way of life and ministry look better. You’re beginning to lose your joy, but you ignore it. You’re constantly out of energy, and you don’t know why. However, you just keep pushing through your way of the life on the island.
This eventually takes its toll. This isolation affects your family, your ministry and your personal walk with the Lord. You reach a place where you’re ready to get off the island at whatever cost. You might even contemplate committing an act of sin that will surely kick you off this ministry island all together. You have no idea where to start. You’ve neglected outside help, community, resources, and you have no one to run to, no one to talk to. You’re done.
Are you there?
College ministers don’t intentionally put themselves on this island of isolation, they drift there. By nature of my position, I get to see college ministry in Texas at a 30,000 foot view. I talk to a lot of ministers. I didn’t realize this when I took the position, but I feel like a portion of my job is to talk ministers off the island and help them see life on the mainland. Sometimes this happens because they put themselves there, and other times the church or their organization has not been a resource for them or doesn’t share their ministry philosophy which causes drift.
If this is you, I want to encourage you in four specific ways:
1. Don’t neglect your time with the Lord
God is not obsessed with your ministry. He’s obsessed with you. Don’t attempt to do ministry without him. Make Scripture reading, prayer and service a consistent part of your personal walk with Him. Join God in his Mission. You can’t have joy in ministry without the Lord.
2. Find an Encourager
Find someone that is an encourager to you and meet with them weekly or monthly. This likely has to be someone outside of your church or ministry. If you can’t locate this person, please commit serious time to prayer for this. Once you have this person in your life, give them specifics on how to keep you accountable. Tell them plainly: “You have permission to speak into my life and say hard things I NEED to hear.” This will help rid you of cynicism in ministry.
3. Work to Network
Work hard to network with other college leaders in your area. This doesn’t happen by accident, so be intentional. You have some good ideas but so do those around you. You will be surprised how much this will enhance your ministry. I live in a world of conferences. I’ve learned that what makes a good conference is not necessarily the content but the people you meet. This step will help you see that you are not the only one with struggles. You will develop a community of like-minded friends.
4. Collegiate Collective
In my five years working at the SBTC, I’ve had experience working with pastors, associate pastors, youth pastors and now college ministers. I’ve never met a more innovative group than college ministers. They’re usually under-resourced and face a lot of barriers. However, they find a way. Join the Collegiate Collective Facebook Group. There is incredible insight from over 1,200 collegiate leaders from all over the nation. If you have a question, it’s probably been asked. If it hasn’t, just ask! You will get plenty of insight from other practitioners who have faced similar situations. No question is too dumb.