It’s the dreaded college triangle. If you choose a social life and sleep, you sacrifice good grades. If you choose good grades and sleep, you give up the social life. If you choose a social life and good grades, then you won’t be getting sleep anytime soon.
The moment I thought I had the college triangle figured out, I began my life as a youth and college minister while still in school. At the age of 22, I was a senior in college, engaged to my high school sweet heart, and began serving as the new youth and college director. My college triangle now turned into a rectangle. So what do I choose now? Social life? Good grades? Sleep? Or ministry? What would be sacrificed because of my decision? These very real questions began to haunt my everyday life.
Entering the world of youth and college ministry while still in school created a paradigm shift like no other college class could produce. I would find myself thinking about the next sermon series when I should have been thinking about the lecture my professor was giving right in front of me. As I preached on Wednesday nights, I carried the burden of a final exam happening the next morning. If I wanted to go hang out on a Friday night, I had to choose between my friends, college freshmen, or 6th-12th graders. Life as I knew it would never be the same.
From stressful group projects, to family crises with students, it was difficult to find peace, rest, and spiritual renewal. When my world demanded so much from me, there needed to be an unshakable foundation in my life: that was Jesus Christ.
Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I had to trust that seeking God first meant that everything else will fall into place. Social life. Family life. School. Sleep. And yes, even youth and college ministry.
Anyone called to the ministry would agree that Kingdom work contains much more motivation than homework. But is there a way to combine these two worlds in a way that glorifies God and maximizes our time?
1. Time management. If you don’t have a planner or calendar already, you need to start using one. Plan out each semester in advance. Set aside time for your friends, studying, time with God, and ministering to your students. Sometimes you will be able to make the college football game, sometimes you won’t.
2. Reward yourself. I know you would rather read Guy Chmieleski’s new book than read for your Cultural Perspectives class. Set some goals or tasks and reward yourself when they are completed. Read a chapter of Guy’s book after you finished your homework for the night.
3. Build the bridge. Now, more than ever, you are able to relate to students! Use this to your advantage. Not only do they have homework after church, but you do too! Set the example for students. Sometimes you can’t play video games with the guys because you need to study for that exam.
4. Never sacrifice your time with God. We are able to create time for Facebook, Twitter, homework, family, sleep, and even catching the latest episode on TV that all your students will be watching. The last thing you should sacrifice is your time with God. How do you expect your students to grow spiritually if you aren’t growing either?
5. Family first. Ministry second. Veteran pastors and mentors always give me these words of wisdom: Minister to your family first, and to your ministry second. My wife is pregnant with our first child due in August, and I must remember to put them first, and ministry second.
As we minister to students, while being a student, let us strain toward what is ahead and press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).