Pastor Joe Fant, Pastor at Community Baptist Church in South Bend, IN
Summer is just around the corner! For most of us, the word summer is synonymous with vacation, sleeping in (finally!), extra time hanging out with friends, and other activities that the school year’s schedule limits. For many, summer means working at a camp, going on a mission trip, or doing a required internship. Sadly, for some Christian college students, the word summer is associated with the reality of spiritual failure, lack of accountability, and reduced time in the Word, in prayer, and in church life.
As you head out for the summer or make plans for this summer, I would encourage you to keep three things in mind:
Stay in the Word!
It sounds like a basic given for any Christian, but this part of your life often gets thrown out first. You must plan effectively and be intentional if you want to keep your relationship with God vibrant throughout the summer months. Take a vacation; just don’t take a vacation from God. Sleep in; just remember to spend time developing your relationship with your Father. Use a little of the extra time that you have to keep your relationship with God thriving. Cleanse your way this summer by paying diligent attention to the truths of the Word and applying them to your life (Ps. 119:9). You are going to spend time developing and deepening relationships with friends and family this summer. The God of the universe wants to deepen His relationship with you. Give Him the time He deserves.
This summer, look for areas to serve. Just because your personal responsibility of school is on break does not mean that Kingdom work takes a break! Plug in and help with the VBS at your church. Teach a Sunday School class. Help your youth pastor with the teens. Seek out godly leaders in your church and ask them to mentor you. Make it a priority to be a blessing to your pastor by asking him how you can pray for him. Guys, maybe ask to meet your pastor for lunch every couple of weeks to just talk and pray. Girls, seek to do the same with your pastor’s wife. This next suggestion may sound silly but try to establish an exercise routine—bodily exercise profits a little and reminds us that spiritual exercise profits for eternity (I Tim. 4:8). Stay active in your church attendance. Every one of us needs to gather together with our church family on a regular basis for worship, spiritual accountably, discipleship, and fellowship. Don’t neglect gathering with the body of Christ. You need them and they need you.
In my years of working with college students, I found that the hardest time for young men and women to stay pure was when they left the discipline of their daily routine. The routine you have developed at college is in for a summer shake up. Expect to struggle! Have a plan. Stay accountable. Know the friends that you are going to have to avoid and have a plan to talk to them about what God is doing in your life. Know your danger zones and discuss with a spiritually-minded friend how to avoid sin and temptation. Above all, PRAY! Pray that God would deliver you from temptation. Pray that God would allow you to have ministry opportunities like you have never had before. Pray that God would give you the grace to stay pure.
What a wonderful blessing it would be for you to look back on summer 2019 with joy and no regret. Let this summer be a summer of spiritual victories!
Ben Peeler, Bob Jones Seminary Student
I do not know what mental image or emotions come to your mind when you think about summer camp. Maybe you are like me and would be homesick Monday afternoon, 5 minutes after you arrive. My friends never seemed to suffer from “homesickness” like I did. For many of them, camp was not just the highlight of the summer, but it fueled memories and jokes for the remainder of the year. But regardless of how nervous I was or how much I really did not want to be there Monday afternoon, Saturday morning rolled around—I would have to say goodbye to my counsellor and cabin mates whom I did not want to leave. There is something special about any camp that takes children and teens out of their normal schedule and gives them the opportunity to experience unique things, meet new people, and get away from life’s distractions. There is something even more special about a Christian camp. I was a frequent attender of summer camps during my junior high and high school years. I had the opportunity to work at three separate summer camps during my college years. I now have the opportunity to attend summer camp as a youth sponsor and am so excited!
I want to offer three reasons why as a college student, you should commit to working at least one summer at a Christian camp.
Serving becomes a lifestyle
Jesus explained to His disciples in the book of Mark, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:42-45) College is a very selfish time. Students are consumed with their homework, their schedules, their jobs, their friends, and their futures. Those are not inherently bad but can become consuming if not kept in check. Serving at a summer camp makes it obvious, quickly, that life is no longer about you. Your energy, time, and resources are spent serving campers who often use and abuse your good efforts.
While that goes against your nature, fed by college, eventually you adjust and even find serving others to be rewarding and fulfilling. Fellow counsellors struggle alongside you, encourage you, and work with you to accomplish one goal: pointing campers to Jesus. Then the summer ends, and you return to school, but you do not return unchanged. Rather, you carry with you that heart for service. You begin noticing the needs of your roommates, teachers, and friends, and try to help where you can. A life spent serving is never a life wasted.
Christ becomes your main motivation
I can remember meeting my camper who was able to attend camp because someone had paid his way. After about 3 minutes of talking with him, I realized that if someone had not paid his way, there was no way he would have chosen to come to camp. His language was foul, his jokes were crude, and his personality was abrasive. By Wednesday I was ready for him to get back on his bus and go home, because he was corrupting the other campers in my cabin. But I continued to pray that the preaching and personal time in the Word would change his heart. I had tears streaming down my cheeks as I sat with him Friday night and heard him cry out to God asking for forgiveness for his sins. What motivates someone to persevere and continue to pour into the life of a teenager? When you strip away all other motivations, the only thing that remains is Christ. Loving and serving others find their strength in the cross. You stop loving people because it makes you feel good. When you are running on little sleep and every part of your body aches, it no longer feels good. You stop serving people because it is easy, or it is the “cool” thing to do. You serve and love people because Jesus Christ perfectly demonstrated love and self-sacrifice by His death on the cross. Summer camp places a college student in positions to show the grace of God to those who are, like us, underserving.
The Gospel becomes real
This is not to say that a college student cannot experience the gospel in a secular job, but summer camp offers a unique opportunity. As the college student is submerged into a culture of constant spiritual warfare, the gospel ceases to be a nice thought, and it becomes one’s sole life-source. Every part of camp--from carrying a camper's luggage to playing a meaningless game for the hundredth time--immediately takes on more meaning. Steps are intentionally taken to break down walls so that the gospel can take hold of their hearts. As the college student returns to school in the fall, they cease to view the Dining Common as just a place to eat. They stop seeing societies as just a time to make friends and memories. These everyday experiences can and must be leveraged for the sake of the gospel. When they are, lives are changed. One final unique aspect of camp is that the college student has to verbalize their faith. One camp I worked at offered thirty minutes a day for a cabin discussion. I took each day and walked through a different aspect of the Christian Faith. We discussed the origin of sin, the narrative of the entire Bible, the life of the Apostle Paul, and why the Bible must be treasured. Through those seemingly large topics, I was able to meet my campers where they were at spiritually and proclaim the gospel in 4 unique ways every day. But for me to speak and teach, I had to study and confirm what I believed about the gospel. I remember coming back to school that Fall, and because those 4 topics were in my head every day for the previous 12 weeks, I could not help but share it with my roommates and friends who needed to hear. I have seen many summer camp workers return to school, and their passion for the gospel burns so brightly that they make an immediate impact. The gospel is not merely for the unbelieving, but it is truly for everyone. The good news of Jesus Christ never loses its power, and working at a summer camp positions you to be captivated by it all the more.
As I conclude, I wanted to make something clear. Jesus died on the cross and rose again, giving power to His church: the body of believers, fitly joint together. Jesus did not die for “summer camps.” He also did not die so that we could waste our lives going through the motions of “cultural Christianity.” All para-church organizations exist to encourage the church. Summer camps are an invaluable training ground for a young Christian. You will never regret committing a few weeks of your life growing, serving, and loving others as you stretch yourself and train for a life of ministry to Christ and His church.
Jordan Baun, Coordinator of Outreach & Evangelism
Have you ever wondered what God is calling you to do with your life? After all, no one wants to be a ship without a sail. But sometimes it seems like there are a few good options or even a world of possibilities from which we can choose. For me, it was two years ago. I was wrestling with what the Lord would have for me long term. Should I pursue international missions or continue to walk through open doors for ministry here in the States? Through the course of a 6-week mission trip, the Lord used His Word and the many encounters with missionaries and pastors to give me some clarity on the future.
I had been asking the wrong question. I had been so focused on the ‘what’ that I hadn’t been listening to my own teaching on the Word. The ‘what’ was decided for me the moment I decided to follow Jesus as his disciple. The what is the great commission. In short, make disciples (evangelism) and teach them to observe everything the Lord commanded (discipleship). The questions that I wanted answers for were ‘how’ and ‘where.’ I haven’t figured out where I will be long term, but for now, God has called me here to Greenville and my church in Hendersonville.
So, what does this have to do with you? How does my story intersect with you as you go home to work for the summer? Well, you may want to be headed home for the summer, or you may be wishing you had the finances to work at a camp or take a mission trip, but God has called you to go home and work. But just like in my story, as a disciple of Christ, you too have a clear calling for what to do this summer: evangelism and discipleship.
Don’t be the student that waste their summer on Netflix and video games or other time-wasting frivolities. I know because I was that student. My one summer at home was a wasted summer. I don’t get it back, and one day I will give account for it. Make your summer count for eternity. Get engaged in God’s mission for you.
Your summer will probably look quite a bit different than almost everyone else’s summer, but you can take advantage of different avenues for evangelism and discipleship there in your hometown that you would not have otherwise. I am going to separate some possible opportunities into two categories: work and church.
You can be strategic about the job that you take this summer. There are many factors that influence our decision for work: Location, salary, and job description to name a few. Of course, for some the decision is made for you or you may not have options. But if you do have a choice, what if you also considered the role you could play in evangelism in the job you choose? One of the biggest hurdles in evangelism I continually hear from students is they don’t know unsaved people. This summer you could build meaningful relationships for gospel advancement that perhaps you have never experienced before. Just imagine how rewarding a summer at home could be if you were having natural gospel conversations regularly!
As you make your decision, could I plead with you to also consider how your job might affect your church attendance and participation? Sometimes life is tough and takes our church attendance out of our own hands. However, when given a choice, Christ is always most glorified in our faithfulness as a part of His Bride.
As you find time to invest in your church, let me suggest a few ways that you can have an impact this summer. This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully, it will get your brain engaged in thinking through opportunities you may have.
First, ask your pastor and youth pastor. They probably know the church and its needs better than anyone. Tell them you want to make your summer count and ask them how you can best invest time into the growth of the church, both externally and internally. After they answer, be ready to serve! One of my close friends continually reminds me, “Everyone wants to be a servant until they are treated like one.” Be prepared to serve in whatever way you are called upon to do so. Remember that when we dictate how we will serve, we are only serving ourselves.
Next, volunteer for VBS. Lifeway Research revealed that 60% of adults in America attended VBS growing up. Their research also found that “78% of churches say they use VBS as their largest outreach to unchurched kids in a given year.” VBS can leave a lasting impact on a church and the community. If your church has VBS, be the first one in line to volunteer!
Finally, know and be known. What I mean by that is find someone to disciple and find someone to disciple you. Maybe you have a high school student or students you can spend time with regularly. Look for those opportunities, invest in their lives, and help them to take the next step spiritually. And then find someone that will do the same for you. At the end of your summer, you might find that you don’t want to leave your church and that’s a good thing.
How will you spend your summer? You only get one summer 2019. It will be here before you know it and will be gone before you realize it started. Don’t waste it. The world will tell you a million ways you should spend your summer. It will tell you that you have worked hard this year and you deserve some Me time. But consider your life as Paul does in 2 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Make this summer count for Christ because, after all, this summer is not yours but Christ’s. Enjoy your summer at home and glorify God through the way you spend it.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.