how my campus minister impacted my life

for my dad's 60th birthday, i made a list of 60 snapshots i have of my dad…ways he impacted me, funny experiences with him, pleasing memories. it was a fun list to make and really expressed to him how much he means to me. 

when i was making the list though, i was not expecting to realize how much it would challenge me to be a better, more intentional father to my children. i want them to be able to make the same kind of list for me when i turn 60.

and this has bled over into other areas of my life as well, including my work as a campus minister. i got to thinking back to my days as a student involved in a campus ministry. what do snapshots do i have of my campus minister, joe? and how can that help me be a better campus minister. 

here is a list of 20 things i remember:

  1. fishing with joe at the pond behind his house.
  2. receiving a couple of hand-written notes from him of encouragement and discipleship.
  3. his kids making me a hand-made "happy new birth day" card on the day of my baptism.
  4. laying with him and several others face down in his living room, learning to listen for God's voice.
  5. joe praying over me as i lay in my bed, barely coherent from a wicked illness.
  6. him giving me the last few dollars in his wallet, encouraging me to go get a cup of coffee and a meal and detach from my stressful world for an hour.
  7. watching him love on his wife in their home.
  8. watching him love on, and discipline, his children.
  9. listening to him remind me to call keri (my then girlfriend and now my wife) by her name. and not "my girlfriend" or "my fiance" or "my wife." she has a name.
  10. receiving a blank journal from joe as a gift. it had a note for me in the front.
  11. hearing him say to me, as i met and got to know younger students, "you're in your element." i have come back to those words of life often every since.
  12. spending more late nights than i can count at the local greasy spoon cafe, talking about what we were reading in the Bible and how God was moving in our lives.
  13. hearing him to say to me, "i put my pants on just like you do." i was afraid to share my thoughts on a particular Bible passage with him, because he was, after all, a minister!
  14. him listening. when we first met, i was neck-deep in an incredible personal tragedy. he didn't offer answers or excuses or reasons…just a listening ear.
  15. going to a wedding with joe. i was a complete stranger to the couple getting married, but he knew them. i was just along for the ride. the time spent with him was so encouraging. and, because i was sitting on the aisle, i ended up in every single picture of this couple.
  16. watching him make a batch of chocolate chip cookies for us to share. from scratch.from memory.
  17. praying with him on a bridge over some train tracks. moments of holy silence punctuated by moments of holy power.
  18. him being fully present when we talked. i felt as though i were the only person in his world in those moments. and then, i was amazed to see him giving the same respect and attention to someone else after we were done meeting. he was engaged.
  19. hearing him, on many occasions, be honest and open with his thoughts and struggles and issues. he wasn't inappropriate and he didn't share more than i needed to know. but i realized he was a human with real struggles in life.
  20. one message joe preached on a sunday morning. he used a communion cup as an illustration. 
to me, there are a few significant things about this list.

  • i only remember one sermon he preached. only one, out of 100+ sermons i heard him preach. and this is not because joe was a boring preacher. 
  • almost every single snapshot listed above reflects time spent together. much like the list i made for my dad, this list is all about intentional time shared.
these simple realizations have caused me to shift how i invest my time each week. i spend less and less time on message preparation and more and more time intentionally spending time with students. this is what will impact them and this will be what they remember.

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