It’s December. You’re tired. And you should be. 

December 1, 2016 — 3 Comments
It’s December and maybe your fall feels like:

As Ive said before, College ministry is hard.


It can get discouraging turning over rock after rock with sometimes little to show for it. This fall I texted one freshman 6 times and got no response. On the 7th text he responded and we got lunch. I shared the gospel with him. I asked him how college has been for him spiritually – he said “I really feel like God is pursuing me since I’ve been in college. I mean – you’ve kept on texting me and I really feel like that was God pursuing me.”


In college ministry we’re constantly turning over rocks to see where God is at work. I love Winston Churchill’s “encouragement” – “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”


College ministry is hard emotionally. There’s something incredibly humbling about having a too-cool-for-school 18 year old freshman smugly shut the door in your face as you attempt to tell them how they can know the supreme God of all creation.


On a deeper level, working on the cutting edge of culture can be exhausting. For most Christians, dealing with complex issues like LGBTQ, racial inequality, suicide, transgender, Trump, depression, and mental health are distant hypotheticals to yell about on Facebook. For college ministers, you interact with students on these issues as part of your daily job. 


Paul Tripp summarizes well the difficulty of ministry:
“There are few things that will reveal to you the full range of your sin, immaturity, weakness, and failure like ministry will. There are few things that will expose your weaknesses to others as consistently as ministry does. There are few endeavors that will put you under public expectancy and scrutiny like ministry does. There are few things that are as personally humbling as ministry is. There are few endeavors that have the power to produce in you such deep feelings of inadequacy as ministry does. There are few things that can be such a vat of self-doubt as ministry is.”


There are a few things that help me keep going.
1) It’s December. You’re tired. And you should be. You are doing ministry in one of the most difficult environments, on the cutting edge of culture – the college campus. The reason there’s not many people up on campus sharing the gospel in greek houses, in the dorms, on practice fields – is because it’s hard!
A recent survey of a college ministry showed that
  • 80% of team leaders would say “I feel overwhelmed by my job”
  • 75% expressed feeling emotionally drained from their work
  • the majority have seriously thought about quitting their job
Hopefully you find this oddly encouraging. It’s good for me to be reminded that I’m exhausted because what we’re trying to do is hard. And you’re not alone. We all feel it. 


2) Your job is complex. But that’s a good thing. You want some job complexity – it’s what makes your job fun. Meaningful work is always complex. You’re not screwing three screws into the back of a computer for 12 hours/day (as I did one summer in college).  In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says meaningful work has three distinct qualities:
  1. Complexity
  2. Autonomy
  3. And a clear relationship between effort and reward
You (and your team) need those three.
To embrace the complexity.
To have the freedom to innovate and really lead.
But the last one is key. If all you and your team can see is the complexity and your ministry’s shortcomings, THAT is when discouragement sets in. Your team needs to see that you are making real progress toward a tangible goal. Even if that progress was learning 4 ways of how NOT to reach freshmen, that is success! You stepped out in faith and are learning. Which leads to number 3…


3) Celebrate! Last week my regional director sent to our regional team leaders an email that spotlighted what God was doing through the Central Arkansas team to launch a new campus and raise up 4 staff from that campus. I emailed their team leader about how encouraging that was. His reply – 
“I had two thoughts when I read this. 1. I didn’t know some all that stuff. 2. I need to learn to celebrate more!”
In the midst of the craziness of fall it’s so easy to let your less-than-stellar weekly meeting or flaky leaders to hide the fact that God is using you in significant ways to change lives for eternity. You’re team is intimately acquainted with all the things that are going wrong in your ministry. We need to stop and raise our team’s eyes to all that God has done.
Bill Hybels has some wise words on celebration: “How do you inspire people to stay on the journey from here to there?
Refill their vision bucket. Everyone’s vision bucket leaks. You have to celebrate every mile-marker you possibly can on the way to the destination.”
More on celebrating here.


4) It’s good for me to be reminded that it’s worth it. We delicately talk through difficult cultural issues with students. We boldly proclaim the gospel and often endure contempt and rejection. Many of us raise support and trust God to provide 100% of our livelihood.
Why? In Spanish, if something is “worth it” you say it is “vale la pena”. Literally – “worth the pain”. It is worth the hardships so that hundreds and thousands of future world changers can encounter Jesus. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory thatfar outweighs them all.” – I Corinthians 4:17. Faith is believing that in the midst of the hardness of ministry, it’s worth it. Christ is worthy of our lives. And we know that this good news WILL be proclaimed to all nations. And we get to be a part of it. Ministry is hard. But es vale la pena.


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  • Steve Shadrach always!! THANKS for sharing your heart with us!!!

  • Mikey Lynch

    Just read this with out staff and forwarded it around to all the other staff working for the AFES here in Australia (May in the S Hemisphere is our December!). super encouraging!

    • timcasteel

      That’s great to hear Mikey! Thanks for taking the time to let me know.