Saturday, May 31, 2014

June Update

The past month has been primarily focused around our SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) trip - we took 70 students this year (13 from UNT and 4 from TWU)! SICM is a week-long leadership training course we take the following year's potential leaders to in Bellingham, WA. Each day is packed full of lectures, discussions, and hands-on-training for facilitating small groups, 1-on-1 ministry, developing custom Bible studies, evangelism, relating with God, and more. It was exciting to hear the students talk about what they were learning each day and see the passion that is growing in them for reaching their campuses for the Lord. I'm greatly looking forward to working with the UNT and TWU students next year.

One of the best things about this trip is simply the amount of time we all get to spend together. I personally enjoy my time getting to know these students since most of them have only been in the ministry for about a year. More importantly I get the perfect opportunity to learn more about the guys and girls who will soon be on the leader team. At the same time they get to know each other better. A lot of times these newer students have primarily developed friendships within their cores and while they may know of the other SICM attendees, it is usually only at an acquaintance level. This aspect is important too because it lets us start the year stronger with the leader team actually feeling more like a team. I've included a few pictures so you can see some of the students who came with us:

The guys I stayed with and our host family - some of the most amazing people I know!

This is what a typical lunch break looks like during SICM.

SICM graduation ceremony!

College students are weird!

Also this month marks the end of our 2013-2014 internship. Tonight we will be having a dinner to celebrate and encourage them as they transition to their new roles in the ministry or a new career. Please pray for them during this period of time! I have greatly enjoyed the time I had with the UNT interns. They will always be dear friends of mine as we have spent so much time together working hard for the Kingdom. It's often the people who you go through the hardest times with that mean the most to you in life.

UNT FOCUS Staff: Danielle Rodriguez, Grant Trotter, Matt Wills, me, Sarah King

Thank you again for everything you have invested into this ministry. Without your support we wouldn't be able to take students to SICM nor would we be able to train and raise up Christ-centered leaders on college campuses. God uses you to make a difference in this world. May He, who gives so generously, bless you and your family!

Yours for the Campus,


Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Update

Today is the last day of classes for UNT students, tomorrow is a "reading" day, and their finals start Saturday. These times are stressful for everyone, but I've been so impressed with our student leaders who have not slacked in their time ministering to their peers. It greatly encourages me. Truly, when I speak of the work these guys and girls have done this year it causes me to tear up (even now I am fighting back watery eyes in a public place!). I'm just so proud of them.

Some of Why I'm Proud

One of our student leaders was captain of the UNT Ultimate Frisbee team. She was good at leading that team and really enjoyed it. Facilitating a small group on top of that and school was overwhelming though. I remember talking to her once about how she was struggling with figuring out how to prioritize each of those things. Then I was dumbfounded when I discovered that she had quit the Ultimate Frisbee team altogether (except for when the team didn't have enough players to qualify for a game, she would still sacrifice her time to help them). Maybe this wasn't the hardest decision for her to make, but can you imagine doing that at 19 or 20 years old?

One of our TWU leaders has invested countless hours in reading books of his own accord (like M. Scott Peck's The Different Drum which is about Christian community) in order to enhance his effectiveness in college ministry. I've even read books per his recommendation and been challenged by his desire to learn.

A few of the student leaders who invest the most into their peers work around 30+ hours a week on top of being students and investing in the ministry. Regardless, these are guys and girls I can ask to do something and know it will get done. I asked one in particular to lead a few worship songs (though he doesn't do this normally) about 9 hours in advance for our end-of-the-year leader party. He not only came well prepared, but had taken a good deal of time to think through some challenging thoughts for us to consider while worshiping God. He framed our time of worshipful singing in such a way that helped the entire group (staff included) focus on praising our Lord with heart, mind, and spirit.

Yet another student leader is possibly the most busy with his music degree and marching band, but instead of being discouraged is all the more encouraged. His busy schedule has required him to develop disciplined time management with hours a day of practicing instruments, a few trips out of state to try out for a couple of drum corps, and more that I don't remember! The first semester of this year he was telling me that he didn't think he could continue being a leader in the ministry next year and I didn't want to press him because I was aware of how time intensive his studies are. After the Christmas break he had changed his mind. To him the opportunity to minister to others (inside of our mentoring support structure for student leaders) for the few years he is in school is rare and short-lived. This is something that I have challenged others to think through in the past, but this particular student realized it on his own and astonished me! He also has invested time into planning for reaching out to others in the Troopers Drum Corps that he has been accepted into over the summer.

The hearts that God has developed in these young disciples are awesome, as is everything that comes from Him. I share these examples with you so that you might be encouraged by the fruits of your investment. I know God moves in the lives of students at UNT and TWU because I see it personally. I'm convinced that they will take that with them into the rest of their lives to impact people for generations - some significantly more than others, possibly even myself. That's what gives me purpose in my role and instills courage in me to keep running the race.

One More Thing I Want to Share About Our Leaders

We celebrated the end of the year with a leader party that I had mentioned above. Our agenda for the night consisted of singing a few songs of praise to God, then lifting up prayers of praise and encouragements to the group. This is a true statement: it was the most encouraging part of the year for me personally. To understand the situation you need to realize that at the end of the year many student leaders are tired and stressed. It is not unusual for several of them to decide against leading again the following year. At the same time there are students who see the purpose in the hard work or who have been doing this for a couple of years already and know they have this propensity to want to quit. The latter group seized the moment and encouraged (instilled courage in) the others to press on and be careful not to give up on this opportunity. It really is an opportunity. It's an opportunity for them to take responsibility for advancing the Kingdom of God, which is huge. It's also an opportunity for them to mature as a person. So many of the skills I had learned that enabled me to excel at my previous job and eventually be promoted to supervise 10 other people (many of which had worked there 3-5 times longer than me and some had also applied for the same position) were developed from leading a small group in FOCUS as a college student. This is because leading a small group was much more than leading a Bible study. Bible study is one important element, but our small groups are about living in and leading community. Our student leaders are experiencing life with their peers. They are there through the thick and thin and all the while trying to lead them toward a life devoted to following Christ. A very complex skill emerges from these experiences: human relations. It's something that we obviously struggle with in the modern world considering we have Human Relations departments in most mid to large-scale businesses. The ability to have deep, healthy relationships with those around us is important and not often taught in our academically focused culture. Most of our schooling on how to build relationships seems to come from our families and television. This is another reason why I believe so much in what we do here on the college campuses. I'm convinced a difference is being made.

Upcoming Events

We will be taking our group of potential leaders to SICM (Student Institute of Campus Ministry) from May 15th - 24th. That is the ministry we have learned a lot of our ministry methods from and we take a group of students to Bellingham, WA each year for an intense, week-long ministry training class/conference. I'll have more to say about this in my next update!

All of our campuses will be meeting together over the summer in a centralized location, which is very exciting. In years past, the Denton campuses (UNT and TWU) have met independently because we are about 45 minutes away from the others. It's exciting that we were able to work out a new meeting place so that we can enjoy our unity. Most of our students have cross-campus relationships so I know they will enjoy getting to see each other regularly as well.

Since we will not have our normal small groups (called core groups, because we consider them the core of our ministry) over the summer, we normally have something called School of Ministry (SOM). SOM is also an attempt to provide our students with a graduate level, class-like small group about Biblical topics because they lack this sort of thing in the secular universities they attend. This year our SOM group will be over roughly the first half of Genesis using the NIV Application Commentary for Genesis.

Another type of small group we are offering will be going through the Experiencing God workbook study by Blackaby. This will be something that is supplemental to the sermons at our summer FOCUS big group meetings.

Thank You!

Thank you again for your support. I know saying this each month can seem less meaningful, but a thank you never goes without saying. I am compelled to express my appreciation at every opportunity. I thank you and hope that you are as encouraged as I am by the good things God is doing here!

Yours for the Campus,