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Choose a Challenge This Summer (2/2)

Miranda Hands Up

Whenever I talk to college students about their summer plans, I so resonate with the desire to make a good paycheck. I totally understand the desire to go home to predictability and comfort. There is nothing wrong with those things and God has purpose for those jobs too. God moves in the normalcy of our everyday lives, so please don’t hear me say that God doesn’t want you to go home for the summer. Because He very well may!

What I’m saying is, try not to stunt the story that God may want to do in your life through a summer in ministry. I want to encourage you to consider what may be uncomfortable over what may be easy. Consider what may have great value but not much monetary gain. The three college summers I spent in ministry were the most defining seasons of my life and they helped set the trajectory of the rest of my life. 

Here are four things I learned by spending my college summers in ministry that I don’t believe I would have learned otherwise. These aren’t exactly novel ideas, but they became more true to me working in ministry than they ever had before.  

1. God is writing the story when you enter unknown territory. 

Hebrews 10:22-23 was my mantra during my summers in ministry. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” 

Each summer I spent in ministry was unknown to me. I did not know what challenges I would face. I didn’t know how hard it would be. If I had known the difficulty that was to come each summer, I may have thought twice. But I trusted that God was near. He assured me time and time again throughout each summer that He is faithful. 

2. Integrity is the product of a deep trust and dependence on God. 

When you work in ministry, the work you do is not always seen. There isn’t always a checklist, a routine or procedure to follow. Often times, you pray, ask God to help you and then you take steps forward in faith that He is holding you. 

Often when you work in ministry, there are things that need to be done that no one else wants to do. Or there are things that have never been done before. During my summers working in ministry, I learned that a job done well is honoring to God and honoring to others, even if no one is there to see it. The reward may not be earthly, but we can trust the Lord finds favor with the work. 

3. The story behind REAL relationships is that they are hard work, but it’s worth it. 

When you’re in school, friends are easy to make. You sit next to one another in class, sit together at lunch, play on a team together, etc. Friends come with the territory when you’re in school or in your hometown. 

When I went away for the summer I had to put myself out there to meet people. That meant I had to talk first. I had to start the conversation. The idea of being “intentional” with people took on a whole new meaning. What was my motivation for meeting others? What’s my purpose in making friends? 

Ultimately, I want to love others well for the sake of the Gospel. So that’s where the relationships stemmed from. And because that was the root, God made some of my most valued relationships grow. 

I began to learn through working in ministry that I’m not just spending time with this person, I’m BUILDING TRUST with them. And building trust with the goal of having a lasting friendship with them. And ultimately caring for them as Christ would. 

4. There is great value in rich experiences. 

“Where did you learn to do that?” No one has ever asked me this question about something I learned behind a desk or something I saw on TV. Most of the time, the things I love to do the most and the things I am good at, I learned I could do while I was on staff with a ministry. 

1 Peter 4:10-11 says: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 

The challenges that come with working in ministry are unlike anything I encountered working in a routine job. In ministry, when there is a need, you ask God to help you fill it. And often times, He fills it by providing a person with that gifting. 

I want to end with some questions for you, college student. What gift have you received? What piece of God’s grace could you demonstrate to the world by using that gifting to further His Kingdom? Could it be working in the inner city? Could it be building relationships with kids and their families? Maybe engaging people through games and play? Could it be serving the homeless? Could it be teaching? Or caring? Or listening? This passage from 1 Peter tells that everything can glorify the Lord. 

Can I ask you to consider how you will spend this summer? Would you pray about “giving it away” to work for a ministry? Would you consider the value of growing through uncomfortable situations? I could tell you hours of stories of how the Lord challenged me, changed me and grew me because of my college summers.

What do you want to be the story of your summer?