Saturday, July 5, 2014

Summer Work

I've been reflecting on the main two things I do in the summer--fundraising and putting together a leader team for the next year.

Forming a Leader Team
One of the most important things we do as campus pastors each year is select, equip, and launch the student leader team for the next school year. I ask myself, how was Jesus able to accomplish so much in only 3 years? And the answer always comes back to His ability to develop leaders who would carry on and expand His ministry. It's out of that conviction that we are always working to develop leaders. We realize that problems and conflicts are actually opportunities to teach students how to minister. We understand that our example is always being watched and followed by the students. They will examine not only how we act, but how we think through things. With a constant stream of students enrolling and graduating on only a few years, it is doubly important that we equip our student leaders to train up their own replacements so that the mission can keep going.

This summer the FOCUS staff has been meeting up with all the students we've identified as prospective leaders. And it's an outstanding group! I wish you could be a fly on the wall in some of these discussions and get to hear these students' passion for the Lord and desire to bless their peers. Holding a "core facilitator" role in FOCUS isn't the right fit for everyone, but every one of them can minister this year in meaningful and fruitful ways. Please pray that all of our leaders will remain in Jesus and bear much fruit (John 15:5).
Just a few of the great UTD students we've been talking to about leadership this summer. We expect to have more than 40 student leaders at UTD alone!
I wanted to share a couple reflections on what makes a great leader--the kinds of things we are looking for as we put together our 2014-2015 leadership team:

1. Character matters. I believe the axiom "Character is more caught than taught." A question we ask ourselves as leaders is this--if everyone in the ministry actually followed my example, what would the ministry look like? How often would we be together? How many visitors would be welcomed? How many people would be prayed for? How many lonely people would find new friends? How many students would be invited to real community? How many students would we share the scriptures about Jesus with this year? How unselfish would we be with our money, our time, our friendships, our dating? How many people would be encouraged? How many problems would be addressed? How many damaged relationships would be reconciled?

And on a more personal level, if everyone followed my example, how devoted to Jesus would we be? How much would we know His Word? How serious would we be about repenting of our sin? How kind, gentle, compassionate, thoughtful would we be?

We know none of us look like Jesus in all of these areas. The question is more about direction than perfection--where are we heading. I encourage you to consider these questions about your own ministry in your family, social group, church, etc. Our hope and prayer is for a leader team who will set the pace for the whole community this year.

2. Commitment matters. It's so easy for us to live with double standards. So many students would never think of missing work or class, but it's easy to justify skipping the opportunity we have to minister when the body of Christ comes together. At UTD, a student in Student Government automatically loses their seat if they miss more than three meetings, and Greek organizations charge large monthly membership fees.  These things are expected, but we don't expect the same things of ourselves when it comes to serving Jesus. (Of course, being in Student Government or a Greek organization can be a great opportunity to serve Jesus in and of themselves--that's not my point.) My point is that for so many, consistency is only present in our lives when it comes from one of two sources: threat of external consequences (failing my class, losing my job, getting kicked out of my club) and what sounds fun (I don't have much trouble getting students to consistently play video games or watch movies!).

But there's a more important source of consistency when it comes to Christian leadership--conviction. We are looking for students who make decisions to serve because they are convinced it's what God wants for them, because they are convinced that to have a deep, lasting, positive impact on another life, you have to show up. We are looking for young adults with the ability and willingness to make and keep promises, because it is our conviction that God is rarely spontaneous in His love for us, but is a planned and purposeful God whose love is expressed in making and keeping promises (2 Peter 1:4).

Lewis Smedes wrote a great meditation on this called "Controlling the Unpredictable--The Power of Promising" that I highly recommend. It would make a great personal devotional time! He writes, "When a man makes a promise, he creates an island of certainty in a heaving ocean of uncertainty. Can any human act, other than the act of forgiving, be more divine?"

Raising Support
The second thing I've been reflecting on is fundraising. I've been reading a booklet called The Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen. He has some powerful insights that have been banging around in my head. It's been great to consider both as someone who gives money to other organizations and as one who asks people to invest in the vision I have been given for campus missions.

"Fund-raising is also always a call to conversion. And this call comes to both those who seek funds and
those who have funds. Whether we are asking for money or giving money we are drawn together by God, who is about to do a new thing through our collaboration (see Isa. 43:19). To be converted means to experience a deep shift in how we see and think and act. To be converted is to be clothed in our right mind."

"If we raise funds for the creation of a community of love, we are helping God build the Kingdom. We are doing exactly what we are supposed to do as Christians."

"As long as our real trust is in money, we cannot be true members of the Kingdom."

I love the idea that God is calling me to be converted in my relationship to money.  I know that will be a lifelong process, and I'm praying for continual growth and renewal in that area.  I want to say "Thank you" to those of you who have contributed funds to create "a community of love" on campus.  It's so needed, and it's making a huge difference.  

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