As our college students finish up for the year, some of them will head home for the summer while others will participate in a variety of different missions trips, summer projects, and camps. Regardless of how each student uses his/her summer break – these next few months can be a challenge. And, although a nice break from school, the summer can pose a threat to the spiritual growth that many of these students have experienced over the course of this year. Here are a few suggestions for how to avoid the danger of summer and how to make the most of the next few months.
1. Don’t get disconnected.
One of the many joys of being the college pastor is that I get to see so many college students invest deeply in the life of Mercy Hill Church. This includes attending and serving at the weekly gathering on Sunday and, of course, community group. It’s in these avenues of community that we see deep and lasting discipleship. But home, or camp, or wherever you go doesn’t always guarantee good community.
For some, the summer is a hard time to find community. One week you’re studying and praying alongside of fellow believers and the next you’re sitting on your couch watching re-runs of Saved By The Bell for eight hours. Don’t assume community is just going to happen. Make it happen. If you’re not a part of a church-going family, then find a local church near you and get plugged in (we’ll even help you find one – e-mail Jon Sheets at email@example.com). Three months away from community can be devastating to your walk with Christ. Don’t let that happen.
2.Invest where you are.
Ask yourself a simple but profound question…this summer, what’s my mission field? For some of you the answer is easy. It’s the missions trip or summer project that you are participating in. For others the answer might not be so obvious. But that doesn’t negate the fact that every one of you has a mission field. If you’re spending the summer at home…that’s your mission field! Find a friend, a younger sibling, or even a parent and begin discipling them (yes…I’m being serious…do it!). If you have an internship this summer, find ways to share the gospel with your co-workers. Don’t buy into the lie that ministry only happens in church, or in your campus ministry. Ministry happens where you are…all day, everyday.
3. Do the dreaded “R” word…read.
That’s right I said it…read. I know reading is not the cool thing to do, but it could be worse. It could be a chemistry textbook or a statistics handbook. Pick up a Christian classic like Cost of Discipleship (by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) or Knoweldge of the Holy (by A.W. Tozer) and drink from the wisdom of these godly men. If classic works aren’t your thing then grab a book like Gospel (by JD Greear) or A Holy in our Holiness (by Kevin DeYoung).
Don’t just read any book, though. Read the Bible as well. During the school year it can be hard to have a consistent devotional time with papers and class and Call of Duty breathing down your neck. But the summer provides a different routine…one that often allows for more intentional Bible study. If you don’t know where to start, start by reading the book of Galatians. Tim Keller has a great resource to help you mine the depths of this great biblical text.
*next week we will be posting a more exhaustive reading list that will give you a variety of reading options for your summer months.
4. Don’t procrastinate…plan ahead.
I know, I know…that’s almost like telling you not to breathe. But planning ahead can be really helpful…go ahead and give it a try. Have you ever set goals for yourself? Have you ever sat down and thought about what the next year will look like and what you would like to accomplish academically, relationally, or even spiritually? Take this summer and just dream a little. Pray and ask God to give you direction and wisdom for the next school year and then start writing stuff down…like on paper.
Another way to plan ahead is to simply pray for your campus. One of the easiest ways to develop a love for your campus and for your fellow students is to pray for them. Genius, I know. Stop living out of regret for not doing (fill in the blank) last year and start asking God to help give you direction to do (fill in the blank) next year. Imagine walking onto campus for the first day of classes with a full notebook, a full heart, and a plan to see God use you to bring His kingdom to your campus.
Here’s your final warning…don’t be fooled by the danger of summer. Before the Cheetos stains and sunburn sinks in…take a minute to think about how you will use your summer. Have a great break and know that all of us at Mercy Hill will be praying for you and we can’t wait to hear all the stories of how God has used these next few months to continue shaping you into the image of His Son.