One of the incredible benefits of being a pastor is the opportunity to be around and learn from so many different types of people. It seems each person and every type of person can be not only a valuable member of a church family, but an important teacher in our lives. In this and future posts, I’d like to consider what we ought to be learning from the people around us.
This past weekend was our annual CORPS winter conference (CORPS stands for collegiate organization of reformed presbyterian students…acronym makes it easier, doesn’t it?). As it is every year, it was very blessed by God. GR’s own Rutledge Etheridge came all the way from Geneva College to teach on the subject of doubt. His lectures and sermons were wide-ranging and powerful. But, as often is the case, I left learning as much from the college students around me as from anything else. Here are some of the things they continue to teach me on a regular basis:
Be a humble learner. Although it’s certainly not true across the board, most Godly college students I know are wonderful examples of people who are eager and humble to learn anything God wants to teach them. Whether it means taking good notes during theological lectures, listening to a “stump the pastors” panel for way longer than it should have gone, or asking lots and lots of great questions to their pastors, they really are students in the broadest sense of that word. Perhaps like me and many others, some of you may have slipped in your desire for learning since college; maybe you’ve lost the drive to learn or been tricked into thinking that you’ve arrived and don’t have much to learn anymore. Spend some time with students who love to learn. They’ll show you how.
Tell your story. In training the college students in ministry, we often have them learn how to share a testimony of God’s grace in their lives. At the conference, we have two or three of them share that testimony with the large group and without fail, such testimonies are varied, thoughtful, Christ-honoring and stirring. If the rest of the church isn’t actively learning to share their stories and listen to the stories of others, we are definitely missing out. Whether informally or formally, our stories of God’s grace are how we can sing “O glorify the Lord with me, let us exalt His name together!”
Invest in your friends. Of course, the college years are often marked by the friends one has. But when Godly students are friends, something happens beyond sharing interests and having fun. They take incredible amounts of time to listen to each other, to pray for each other, to challenge each other, and as a result their friendships becomes a true source of God’s life-changing grace. Like many in their thirties, friendships for me can be quite difficult. They take a lot of time I don’t always feel I have. They seem to be a little self-indulgent when in reality they are deeply important for us. Simply watching the college students live out their friendships is a reminder to me that none of us are done needing that source of encouragement and help.
Use your time for good. Lest I be accused of some delusion, let’s be clear: not all college students are great at time management. It is a skill many are struggling to learn. However. Beyond the day to day time management, there is also the question of how we are using our days, months and years. The college students in our local churches so often are humbling examples of what it looks like to use your time for good. Whether it’s serving tirelessly on behalf of the unborn (Have fun in Washington this week, you guys!!), being available to help our church family in many different ways, or finding other worthy causes to serve with their time and energy, they are definitely using their time for good. I am fond of reminding our students that they have more free time now than they will ever have again; whether or not they believe me, many rise to the challenge and are using their college years for extraordinary growth in grace and service to the kingdom.
Which is all to say, I’m thankful for our college students. They are great teachers for us.