Summer is in full force. Camps are going strong, days at the lake are relaxing, trips to the beach with friends and just around the corner for returning upperclassmen is the first day of fall classes. Our brains are still rejecting any type of return to the rhythm of school especially after two years of being confined to less travel. This article comes as a reminder of some things students can check off to arrive on campus and exponentially grow in faith.
There is a phrase that goes around in collegiate ministry circles that “good summers make great falls.” The quote has to do with summer planning for ministry. But can equally be applied to the life of a college student. A good summer of planning a few simple things in your spiritual life can make a great fall!
First, let’s start with the upperclassmen that are returning. There tends to be three types of returning upperclassmen:
Released: This was the moment that they have been waiting for as disciples of Christ. They were waiting and prepared. They jumped in and got after it. A few years ago, one of the best student leaders that have come up through my ministry got my phone number and called me. During the phone call, he introduced himself and quickly asked me what time our services were during the fall because he planned on getting plugged into the BCM and being active. And four years later, he killed it. He has been in leadership, helped lead mission trips, done countless youth retreat weekends, and even this past spring break mission trip, led four people to Christ.
The released student is probably serving in a camp or missions capacity. The only thing they need to do upon returning is a day’s rest and bring the energy from the summer to their college campus in the fall.
Redo: This is where a student really didn’t start strong in their freshman year. They were too reluctant to get plugged into a church or a ministry. In the spring semester, they turned it around but if they had to do it over again, they would do it differently. This might be you right now. The incredible thing about Christ is that at any moment that you ask it of Him He gives forgiveness, and you can walk in step with His will. As you read this, right now in this very moment it would be a great time for you to reach out to the church college pastor, campus ministry staff or friend who invited you to events where you could grow in your faith that you never responded to and tell them that you want to be all in this semester. And that you want to be part of whatever it is they have going on.
Regret: This is someone that messed it up big time. Most of their freshman year is full of personal and academic regret. The year did not go well. There was not much redeemable about it. And now they are left picking up the pieces and often looking for a fresh start. If this is you, see the end of the ‘redo’ section above. There is no better time to start on a fresh foot than now. It might even be helpful to make an extra trip or set up a phone call to really line out what ways you can be plugged in this semester so you can start preparing yourself.
The ultimate goal for upperclassmen coming back to campus is that they see the incredible mission field that God has placed them in and boldly use their life as an instrument for God’s beautiful kingdom-expanding work.
Now freshmen, get ready because it’s coming, and you are going to love it.
- Pray. Start praying that God would use your life in college to do incredible things. As a campus minister year after year and fall after fall—no exaggeration—I see students come in prayed up and ready to make much of God. And the crazy thing is, that they do. It works. They ask it of God, and He delivers. They want to be passionate, eternity-changing, God-loving, servant hearted, and humble followers of Christ and God blesses them with more of Himself than they ever imagined.
- Contact. Contact a campus ministry or church college pastor ASAP. It is so important to start planning where you will invest your time. You don’t have to make any commitments yet but trust me the sooner you make your mind up about where to invest your life spiritually the healthier your growth will be in college.
- Plan. Plan your classes around where you want to invest. This is such an easy thing to plan, yet oftentimes shipwrecks folks. They don’t plan ahead at all, and they end up taking classes at times that really hurt their ability to plug in.
- Collegiate week. This might not be on your radar, but it needs to be. Collegiate week is a national collegiate Christian leadership conference. It is the best in the nation. It has an incredible speaker line-up, amazing breakouts, soul moving worship, lots of people, and tons of fun. And you need to be there. Your friends in college make such an impact on your collegiate experience. Grab a friend and sign up to be there as fast as you can.
- Bring friends. One of the best things that happens in college is that you get a chance to make tons of new friends. Get ready because you are going to introduce yourself (name, where you’re from, and what you want to major in) probably close to 150-200 times in the month of August. And you are going to love it. Not only because you get to share about who you are becoming, but you get to see the starting point for what other people are becoming. And it is amazing. Start by doing the above and bringing friends along. It can be someone you just met but you both are in the same major. Bring them along. Sow the seed of friendship and growth in God liberally. Bring anyone you can and share all you can about God.