-- The most important thing is just to start!! Worrying
about which model to use, or getting it all right at the beginning
can be more than a hinderence
than a help. Don't let a vision of the ideal keep you away from the practical!
-- Colossians 1:28,29
Where do I start?1) Prayer and Fasting!
2) Find like-minded people for support and accountability.
Teamwork is part of God's plan for us. (Matt 18:19) Working together increases strength geometrically!
3) Don t despise the day of small beginnings
But don t limit your vision either.
"...admonishing and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ."
From my experience every person who s life has been transformed by Jesus Christ arrived at that point through a meaning ful friendship with someone else. Fostering an environment where Godly friendships can form, with rea l community - the body of Christ--, is the key to lasting fruit. In this ministry friendship is much more significant than "technical" skills.
2) Needs of Christian I-students:
a) Main need is to learn how to serve:
*A key to returnee success is learning how to serve
* We learn primarily by doing
*A fellowship can provide opportunities for learning how to serve God and each other that are unavailable back home
* keep initial barriers low
* Provide an atmosphere where people can make mistakes
*It is important to learn how to fail
* Decentralize! Delegate! Let go! Even if you think you d do it better.
* Pair younger believers up with older ones in leadership roles.
* Break up tasks into small ever increasing steps so people can learn responsibilities incrementally.
* Encourage, encourage, encourage : People thrive in an atmosphere of encouragement; they shrivel up in an atmosphere of criticism.
* Look for leaders who are FAT:
--Faithful (2 Tim 2:2) -
--Available - does the person prioritize time for spiritual growth and service?
--Teachable (2 Tim 2:20) open to change
--Experience and/or knowledge are secondary
b) Create an atmosphere conducive to building Godly friendships.
3) Needs of Non (Pre)-Christian I-students
* Here again, the primary need is one of friendships
* Initially, people come back because of friendships.
* Create an atmosphere where they are listened to: not us vs. them, where no question is out of bounds, no matter how simple or hostile.
* At VISA/Alpha, Christians are encouraged to say only testimonial things, no theological things.
* Plan social activities to which you can invite your non-Christian friends
* Love them! But as people, not evangelization objects
4) Some details matter; Some don't. (Effective leadership means knowing
Details surrounding following people up, welcoming them, and making sure they have rides are details that matter. So is the accessibility and time of your meeting. How "nice" a place you meet in, a very smooth program and having everything worked out ahead of time are details of lesser significance.
5) Network with local Christians if possible
For us an entirely student led group it is hard to recruit, train and motivate local volunteers, but can potentially be very valuable. Finding a local person to help with that can be very benficial. The key to working together is to develop relationships. If you have a vision for starting a postgrad fellowship, share it
with your church leaders and keep them informed and up to speed.
6) Retreats are a great way to build community
We've found they re not too much work to organize as long as you radically delegate things and aren't afraid of a little chaos. The busyness of school makes it hard to build new relationships. One retreat can do more than a whole semester of Friday nights.
7) Be intentional about cross-cultural dynamics:
"Conflict arises not only from personal and cultural differences, but also from the fact that people often attribute moral force to their priorities for personal behavior and judge those who differ from them as flawed, rebellious, or immoral"
"Do nothing out of vain ambition or selfish conceit, but in humility
consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only
to your own interests, but also to the interests of others"
-- Philippians 2:3,4
"To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy which so powerfully works in me"
In the early church things were hard, but not boring. The opposite
is true today!
Don't expect that reaching out to I-students is easy. You ll have to sacrifice many things, it s hard work. But hey, who really, deep down inside, wants to live a boring life?
--At the same time, how can you keep from cracking under the pressure?--
1) Time: the bane of student existence:
Perhaps the main reason Christian students don t get involved in ministry is fear of not having enough time or energy. But the key lies in the verse above: We struggle with all his energy, not our own which is so easily depleted.
-- Here are some pointers: --
* Pray before saying yes. Is this a "God idea" or merely a "good idea" ?
* Be ruthless and prioritize.
* Don t sow on hard ground (Mark 4), don t throw pearls before swine
(Mt 7:6); there are way too many unreached people out there already.
* Be intentional with whom you spend time.
* Don t neglect your studies.
-- In the end time management is a constant struggle with no easy answers. We must continuously bring this before the Lord --
2) Accountability -- don't be a lone ranger
It's important to find someone or a group of people for regular prayer and support, and to keep one another accountable. Look for people who are not afraid to ask you the hard questions. Ideally these would be in your church setting. Ask your church leaders if they would be willing to meet with you regularly.
3) Don t neglect your own walk with God!
It is easy to do this when you re busy helping others. Don't let others' problems dig into your time with God. Be careful, never "coast".
4) Loving many people can hurt.
``The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the perturbations of love is Hell
-- C.S. Lewis
Reaching out to people brings multiple opportunities for love, and with it multiple opportunities to get hurt, especially when working with new or pre-Christians who are not yet very ``redeemed . There's no way around this one. An accountability partner or group is a good place to deal with these issues
"Pray continually" -- I Thessalonians 4:17
I can't stress this enough. Working with I-students means spiritual warfare, it's on your knees that the battles are won. Never slack. Prayer is indespensible to effective leadership.
6) Rely on the Holy Spirit.
"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. -- Psalms 127:1
This is the starting point. God asks us to do our part, but we must in turn rely fully on him. In the end, he's responsible for the results, liberating us from the fear, stress and pride that so often trips us up. So believe God for a great work on your campus!
* Strengths of student led groups:
1) Empowerment of students!
- We learn so much more by doing than by hearing.
- The lack of staff support forces everyone to get involved.
- Staff-time dilemma.
- Low barrier to take on leadership roles.
2) Students are naturally in tune to the rhythms of college life.
3) Students take on real ownership.
4) Reinventing the wheel can be invaluable experience: The process is
sometimes more important than the result
5) Back home there will probably be no staff workers.
* Weaknesses of student-led groups
What happens when the current batch of leaders leaves? Groups often have informal and unofficial leadership structures that collapse when students graduate. Be intentional about bringing new people on a.s.a.p.
2) We are all peers.
Thus there is often no ``higher-up to mediate conflicts or help counsel difficult situations (e.g. marriage problems).
3) Lack of outside input and connections. This is especially true of International mono-ethnic groups, most of whom are completely student-led. The internet can facilitate outside input and connections