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Should I serve in both church and in student ministry?

May 06, 2019 | Alex R

As a student, our responsibilities list from studying, meeting deadlines with school, working, chores, team practices, club meetings, etc. Take on serving in campus ministry and church, plus hanging out with friends and familyour week swells with to-dos! This made me ask, “Should I serve on campus and in church?”

Here’s a typical day for me:

It’s 5 am on Monday morning. I need to leave the house by 6:45 am to catch the bus, clock in at work for 7:30 am, catch the bus at 2 pm for my 3 pm lecture, then meet Michelle at 4 pm to review our schedule for our club meeting…

I rub my head, there’s an essay due in four days, a midterm in two, and I’m pretty sure I’m serving this weekend at church. How did I get here? Should I be serving on campus and at church?

If you’re like me, you know what it’s like to scroll through amazing opportunities and experience FOMO. In order to help us see what to do with our time, let’s rethink these serving opportunities:

Explore your opportunities

What is student ministry? Student ministry seeks to disciple and engage with students on campus, helping them grow in their faith, and even discover faith. Student ministries often partner with churches, which allows them to see students graduate, and continue to develop spiritually. In terms of serving responsibilities, you may lead a Bible study, play an instrument on the worship team, lead prayer times, bring snacks, or welcome newcomers. Oftentimes, you’ll find the friendships created in student ministry open a world of discipleship, mentoring, encouragement, and friendship opportunities.

What is church ministry? Churches aim to strengthen the community through sharing the gospel and teaching the Bible. Churches also establish ministries that focus on community outreach, through evangelism and sometime through food/clothing drives. Depending on the local church, you may find yourself able to supervise kids in the children’s ministry, or co-lead a Bible study group in the youth ministry. Some churches invite the congregation to serve in the parking lot, so newcomers can easily find parking spot; or in the worship centre as an usher. Like student ministry, you also get to serve alongside and befriend people you’ll grow with.

Do you have time for rest?

When I chose to take on serving in student ministry on my campus, I had already committed to serving at church. One thing I didn’t think about was rest. I often say “yes” way too easily because I see the need, my desire to help, my capabilities, and how much fun the opportunities are. Yet, I’m also taking on a myriad of tasks (work) that leave me feeling drained and empty.

I’m learning that I need to incorporate rest into my days and weeks so that I can love God, love others, and actually serve well. Hebrews 4:9-10 says, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest, also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” This “rest” reflects the seventh day of creation, when God took a rest after completing his work. In this way, God wants us to acknowledge that being in him means experiencing rest from work as well, like he did. He wants us to acknowledge that the work is finished.

What does rest look like? For some, rest involves spending time in prayer and reflection. For others, rest means spending quality time with friends or family, catching a movie, or visiting a museum/landmark. Whether painting, Pilates, or practicing the piano, our weeks should include times of “rest” to refill us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. We need rest in each of these three areas.

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, “Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Do you “labour”? Are you “heavy laden”? While we can apply these words to our roles at our job, school, and student ministry, we need to look at Jesus and remember his work. When God sent Jesus to earth, Jesus taught us how to love, work, worship, give, and pray. He also taught us what God values. It is not until Jesus’ death on the cross that he says “It is finished” (John 19:30). Taking on death, sin, guilt, shame, rejection, bitterness, loneliness, and fear, Jesus dies and rises, claiming victory. Jesus’ victory over the sin that so often entangles us means that we can actively take our sin, worries, feelings, and thoughts to him knowing that he will provide rest from them.

Often, rest looks like peace within our souls from brokeness.

Start with God

Have you ever heard of someone trying to climb a mountain and never eating one meal? No? Me neither. This is because our bodies need food in order to take on serious challenges. Like our bodies, we need to feed our minds and hearts with God’s word, in order to serve him. Jesus even refers to himself as the “bread of life” in John 6. There’s imagery in the Bible about God being our “bread” and his word being what ultimately sustains us. Jesus says that people cannot live on physical food alone, but on the words and truth that come from God, our spiritual “bread” (Matthew 4:4). This is something I forget.

I love writing down my weekly tasks, and crossing them out upon completing them. I rarely ever count spending time with God in my list for two reasons: time with God begins my day, and if it doesn’t, I’m too busy to notice. Last year, I didn’t prioritize reading the Bible or praying, and I slowly began to worry and grow anxious about the future. At this time, I thought working would calm my worries and silence my insecurities. Unfortunately, it led me to become more vulnerable to lies. Instead of finding peace in Christ, I found stress in an increasingly long list of responsibilities and weakened relationships. I learned the consequences of not spending focused time with God the hard way.

Is it possible that serving in church and on campus conflicts with spending time with God? It can be tempting to prioritize the work of God over God himself.

Things that can help you prioritize God could include a solid routine, reading the Bible regularly each day, and spending time with relationships that will help keep you accountable and help you grow closer to God. It’s so important to make sure you’ve developed a rhythm of turning to God before others, social media, or Netflix. A routine that incorporates God in your lifestyle ensures that you’ll learn more about God, and what to do. Ergo, you’ll have extra help in making decisions and a stronger relationship with God.

Think “How can we bring these together?”

Okay, let’s say you got your prayer time and rest scheduled out. What’s else should you consider?

Student ministry on Wednesday, potluck with old friends on Friday, and serving at church on Saturday, plus brunch with my Bible study girls (campus or church??) on Sunday.

Once, I was faced with this feeling of “trying to fit everyone” into my schedule. even though we could spend time together. I thought about the idea of merging different groups and bringing people from different “sections” of life together. There was an incredible opportunity to build more community and a network of people who could grow in faith together.

1 Peter 4:9 says, “Offer hospitality to one another…” so I hoped that by opening up my home, my friends and I could show love to one another and experience fellowship. My friend encouraged me to host a potluck, so I invited everyone, yep: highschool, university, church, and work friends! Guess what? My friends, Christians and non-Christians, had the best time! Everyone enjoyed the food, new friendships began, and they all stayed for several hours.

We often accumulate different groups of friends from high school, university, church, etc., and often leave them separate. How about brainstorming ways to bridge the gap between church and student ministry? You could do this at home, like hosting a study party, potluck, or a coffee date. Consider inviting your friends from school to church, or your church friends to campus.

Once, my church hosted a refugee family and asked us for donations to help them get settled into Canada. I prayed over how to give and God encouraged me to invite my university friends  to give, so we held a food drive on behalf of the refugee family.

Think: Is your church hosting an outreach event? Invite your friends outside of church to come. Is your university hosting a clothing drive? Invite friends over for dinner, and ask them to bring an item for the clothing drive.

Pray, plan, and think about it

I had a friend who led a student ministry on campus, a Bible study at church, and an evangelism team outside of church! Did I mention they also worked part time? Another friend decided to serve in her church’s AWANA program for kids, attend a Bible study at school, and serve her family by cooking dinner twice a week. With classes, projects, and exams, their schedules challenged them in many ways. Both of them experienced stress, feeling overwhelmed, and unhappiness. The personal effect their schedule had on them led them to rethink the responsibilities they took on.

Here are a few questions to help you decide how you can serve at church and on campus:

Do you need to prepare resources?

Are they leadership or contributor roles?

What time commitment do they require (once a month, weekly, etc.)?

Can you serve by doing life with people? (Sit together at lunch, go shopping etc.)

Do you have a like-minded friend who can partner with you?

Praying over these questions invites God’s guidance and leading into the mix. Know that God provides different opportunities, and it is our job to include him in the decision-making process. When we seek to serve the Lord, he wants to know that we prioritize remaining close to him, and walking in obedience. It is when we remain at God’s feet, receiving his grace, peace, understanding, and compassion, that we can serve fruitfully. Trust that by spending time with God you’ll learn how to love people at school, church, and beyond.

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About the Author

Alex R

Alex is from the University of Toronto Mississauga. She specializes in English Literature and her major is Professional Writing and Communication.

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