One of the realities of campus ministry is that it has its own rhythm and flow – it’s own schedule and pace. It usually comes down to four months of going full-throttle, a month to rest and re-organize, four more months of going full-throttle, and three months to do mission trips and discipleship projects, solidify support, rest and re-energize, and prepare to do it all over again.
But this time of year has it’s own feel. We are five days away from the start of my 30th fall semester with Christ on Campus at the University of Arkansas. The telltale signs of a new school year are all around:
* The football team is in the middle of two-a-days.
* The band is in the middle of two-a-days.
* Parents are moving their new freshmen into residence halls.
* Traffic is crazy. The mile and a half drive to Wal-Mart now takes 30 minutes.
* Road construction – the city always waits until August to do street repairs around the University.
* Freshmen girls are lined up in front of sorority houses while they go through Rush.
* International Student Orientation is gong on and our staff helps to provide transportation from the airport and hotels to permanent housing, banks, events, Wal-Mart, and other trips as needed.
* Older students returning from home, internships, study abroad, mission trips and projects and are excited to be reunited with friends they haven’t seen over the summer.
It all adds up to the most exciting time to be on campus. Worship services will be starting up this weekend. Small groups will be going next week. Events will be taking place to help new students make connections. Retreats and mission trips are on the calendar.
But the most exciting thing – the thing that gets my heart pumping and my mind working – is the thing that I know and don’t know.
I know that during this school year, God is going to transform the lives of students from all over the world. Some will give their lives to Christ for the first time. Some will begin to grasp the implications of really following Jesus and it will change the way they think and live. Some will come to the realization that God is calling them to something bigger than their major or the goals they have set for their lives. I know that God is at work on our campus. I know that God is going to change lives. And I know that God wants to use me and our staff and our students and our ministry to be a part of what He wants to accomplish.
But I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet. I have learned over 29 years of doing this is that it is our role to plan and prepare and pray. But God has His own agenda and His own plans and we need to be ready to follow His leading. Many of the students whose lives will be changed this year we haven’t met yet. We don’t know where they are from or what they believe or don’t believe or how we will get involved in their lives.
And for most of them, the last thing they are expecting right now – as they are moving in and buying books – is that they are going to have an encounter with the Almighty God while at the University of Arkansas. But they will and they will never be the same.
So right now I plan and prepare, but mostly I pray. As has been my custom over the last several years, I will take pray walks around campus – often late at night. Won’t you join me in praying for Christ on Campus and for campus ministries around the US as the new school year starts? Pray that God will use us as His instruments for transforming the lives of university students, staff, and faculty and for furthering His purpose in our world.