Last week I wrote about the difficulty many students face this time of year, as they are being asked to consider positions of leadership in campus ministries.
It has been my observation that this process causes a lot of tension and confusion for students. In their immaturity, many students say “Yes” to these leadership opportunities for the wrong reasons and many say “No” to these leadership opportunities for the wrong reason. When students say “Yes” or “No” for the wrong reasons, they actually end up hurting the ministries and hurting themselves.
Last week I wrote about letting your “Yes” be “Yes.” I described good and bad reasons to say “Yes” to opportunities. This week I will write about how to let your “No” be “No.” Here are some good and bad reasons to say “No” to opportunities.
Bad Reasons To Say “No”
Sadly, many students decline ministry opportunities out of fear. They feel that they are inadequate to accomplish the tasks being asked of them, even while the ministers that asked them to consider such tasks asked them because they thought they were capable. Of course no one is capable in and of themselves. God alone gives us grace to do what He has called us to do. He does not call the equipped, but He equips the called.
As an aside, I find fear is a primary factor in keeping students from leading missional communities. The idea of getting outside the Christian bubble to spend time with students who are not following Christ is too risky for many students. Fear is a major reason why only 20% of Christians at UT are active in missional communities.
This is an epidemic problem. Students like to “keep their options open.” In my opinion, this means they simply want to decide what what to do at the last minute based on what is most appealing at that time. This is certainly not how God would have us choose what to be involved in or not. There is no commitment in this view. It is a whimsical wandering, creating a culture of consumerism in our ministries.
Wouldn’t God prefer we see the needs presented by ministries and “pre-commit” to serve faithfully? Trust me when I say that students who wander and wait to decide about their level of participation until the very last minute do not really help the campus ministries. Ministries cannot make plans until they know who is on board and committed. Playing the field and waiting to decide hinders campus ministries’ plans and creates a culture of uncommitted, consumeristic Christianity.
This is a tough one because the very next point I argue for protecting your time. Still, I believe that many students have protected their time for the wrong reasons. God wants believers to honor Him with their studies, but some followers of Jesus have made their studies too high of a priority and thus say “No” to ministry opportunities. You’ll see that I argue for below for not being too busy, but I speak about being too busy with ministry. If school is what keep believers too busy, then it is possible that school has become an idol.
Good Reasons To Say “No”
As I mentioned above, there is a time to focus. Just as students can make school an idol, they can also make ministry an idol. Some students are involved in two or three different ministries. They say “Yes” to everything. Instead, they should learn to say “No.” It is perfectly fine to say “No” to a ministry opportunity so that you can give a true “Yes” to another ministry opportunity.
It is also perfectly fine to say “No” to ministry opportunities because you are better gifted to say “Yes” to another. Again, this is also a subtlety. As I mention above, fear is a bad reason to say “No.” So I am not saying students have to feel adequate to say “Yes” to opportunities. I am saying they can look at opportunities and choose to serve in the way that best matches their passions and gifts.
Justin Christopher is the director of Campus Renewal Ministries at the University of Texas and author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.