An Open Letter to Campus Ministry Student Leaders
I’ve spent the last two semesters as an outreach intern for Wesley KU, a campus ministry of First United Methodist Church. I’d been a member of campus ministries before and I’d led student groups before, but this was much different. We were starting a community from nothing and that comes with many ups and downs. If you’re doing the same, I applaud you. I encourage you to do this, even if you’re afraid of failure. You’ll learn patience, you’ll learn optimism, and you’ll learn a whole bunch of other things that I may not have. Here are 3 lessons I learned this year (sometimes the hard way), dedicating my heart to the founding of this ministry.
Be propelled by your “wins”, not halted by your “losses.”
As I said, there are bound to be many ups and many downs. I won’t lie to you, sometimes the disappointments and the feeling of failure will consume you. This is a community you already love. Something you believe strongly in, but it might take others awhile to take the time to explore it. You know this will be good for people, that this could change their lives, but they may look at it as a nuisance at first. That can be heartbreaking. Putting yourself out there and inviting everyone you know to give the ministry a chance and then to only be met with indifference was the hardest part for me.
I took me too much time to realize that constantly being mad about the people who didn’t show up is wasting time. Even if one person shows up to worship, it should be celebrated and they should be shown only appreciation and gratitude. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, well a campus ministry can’t be either. So, instead of seething through worship that people you invited and maybe even people who said they’d come didn’t, smile and be joyous in the moment. It’s still a victory.
Be constantly in reflection and find where you are.
A huge part of my internship was taking time with our campus minister to discuss our personal faith journey and how we are developing that part of ourselves. Never be afraid to have these conversations with your leaders. Talk about your confusions, your frustrations, and your passions. You need to take time to reflect in yourself, but don’t think you need to do it all alone. People are there to help you. You’re not perfect. Take this time and use this great opportunity to learn something about yourself. If it’s a strength, rejoice in it. If it’s a weakness, continue to grow through it.
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do this internship was to learn more about myself and to further my faith. I felt confident that I was strong enough in my beliefs to share it with others and help them build their own. I learned that my spiritual journey is not finished and I’m the only one who could have seen that. I know I want to servce God, but I haven’t figured out how quite yet and that’s okay.
Speak up often, listen always.
In your meetings with your leader(s) and your peers, you’ll find times where you want to hold an idea or opinion in. Maybe you think it’ll seem stupid. Maybe you think it’ll be unwelcome. Make it heard anyways. Find a way to say it respectfully. They might ask you to explain and be prepared for that. If you hold words back, you could stew over them later in anger and that only hurts you. In the same way that you want to be heard, hear your leaders, peers, and any other community members. Everyone’s voice is valid, even if they lack your experience or knowledge in the matter.
I’ve never been one to hold my tongue. I’ve always been outspoken and loud. But I had room to grow when it came to true honesty. I was chosen to share my perspective, so I had to learn that even when it differed from my leader and my peers, I had to speak up and let my opinion be heard. Even if it changed nothing.