“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3-5 ESV
“We’re all like a turtle on a fence post. We didn’t get here on our own.” Robert Hooker
If you’ve been in college ministry for any amount of time you’ve got partners in the gospel like Paul writes. Or to put it another way for those who are from the sticks like me: If you’ve been in college ministry for long you know you’re like a turtle on a fencepost. Someone, or someones, helped you get to where you are now because you didn’t climb up there by yourself! Those people may be your staff, your adult volunteers; it may be key individuals or key donors. It may be some churches that have come alongside you for a particular ministry or an event. It might be the other campus ministries that are helping you reach your goal of making sure every student on your campus hears the gospel. Have you ever looked at the you faculty advisor and the Office of Campus Life as partners in the gospel? They are! Because without them, you would not be on campus! I think if you look around you will soon realize you’re overrun with partners. And if you can’t think of anyone who you’d call a partner in the gospel than chances are you’re doing college ministry wrong!
So we’ve got partners in gospel! Now the question: Have we been thankful for them or have you taken them for granted? People don’t often help you just for a pat on the back, but after some time if they don’t think their support matters or is needed than they will stop giving, helping, serving, praying, etc. We have to be diligent in being good stewards of the partners in the gospel God brings alongside of us. We can do this in a variety of ways.
WRITE THANK YOU NOTES
You need to buy stock in Thank You notes. Some one helps you pull off an event – write them a note. Someone donates to your ministry – write them a note. You find out someone has been praying for you, your family, or your ministry – write them a note. Put them on the corner of your desk so they are accessible. One of our staff printed up thank you postcards and leaves them on his desk. When someone partners with him he can instantly mail them a quick note saying thank you. Because of that, he doesn’t have donors; he has friends who partner with him to reach our campus.
CELEBRATE YOUR PARTNERSFind ways to give them gifts as a way of saying you care about them. Does your campus life office have a busy season? Spend a little extra and buy gift cards to a local coffee shop for their staff and send it to them. Send a book to your donors or key pastors or your adult volunteers. When was the last time you celebrated your Sunday School teachers or small group leaders? Yes, it costs money, but I’d rather spend a little money on partners than do ministry alone. Find ways to celebrate them and involve your students. Have a volunteer meal that your students cook for and serve at. If your budget and salary are raised then celebrate those who give. When you take a student out to eat and you pay for it, thank God for the ministries and individuals who gave so you could buy lunch for your student. In your large group sessions recognize those who serve and pray for them! Paul writes:
“Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12
How awful would it be for someone to serve your ministry through prayer, time and energy, or financially and never once you find a platform to thank them and celebrate them? Celebrate them or you may find you’re doing ministry without them.
MAKE IT AN ACT OF WORSHIP
This summer I’ve had to take over our ministry bookkeeping. It has been so good for my soul! Don’t get me wrong, I hate math and accounting, but I find myself worshipping as I deposit checks, write thank you notes, and look at bank statements. There is a little, country church that has ten members that gives $25 to us monthly! Talk about the widow’s mite! Believe me, we didn’t “earn” the right for that church to give; they value us and our students. I worship every time I get their check! We have an empty nest couple who come to most of our weekly events. Do we deserve them? No. Could they do college ministry without us? Yes! But they choose to do it with us! That is enough to make us praise God. People could pray for anybody else or not at all, but they choose to pray for you! They choose to give money to you instead of spending it on a nice night out so you can share the gospel with students . Your volunteers choose to spend time with flaky, hormonally-charged college students instead of their older, more stable peers. God is good! This simple fact that God has brought us all people to help us in our calling (and we haven’t done anything to earn them) ought to bring us to our knees in gratitude and cause us to revel in his goodness.
Paul writes in Philippians 4 to rejoice always. In 1 Thessalonians 5 he says to give thanks in all circumstances. ALL circumstances. We have very little control over college students and in some ways our entire ministry. We don’t get to decide who gets saved. We don’t choose for our students to follow the Lord or not. We can’t control if people give to our ministry or how much or how often, but we can choose to obey God and be thankful. It’s a command. Rejoice. Give thanks. Its expedited. So let it be said at the end of the day not that we were a “large ministry” or a “small ministry” but that we were a thankful ministry.
What are some ways you have shown appreciation to your volunteers, partners, donors? Who is someone you need to take the time to say “thank you” to this week for investing in you or your ministry?