“What DO you do when students are gone for summer break?”
It’s a question that every Campus Minister is inevitably asked at some point or another. It’s true that a Campus Minister’s schedule changes as students pack up their dorm rooms, load up their cars, and drive off to other locations for a few months.
No longer do we have the regular 2-3 evening meetings a week with students. Suspended are the weekly committee meetings, monthly associational meetings, and week to week planning with student leaders. Small groups go on hiatus, as do regular one-on-one meetings with students.
So, all of that being true, what do we Campus Ministers do during the May-August break? While these answers vary from minister to minister, and campus to campus, here are a few universal things that Campus Ministers do during the break:
As exams wrap up and students leave campus, so goes the Campus Ministry equivalent of our Deacon Board: the Student Leadership Team. Campus Ministry is, at its core, a student-formed group. When these key leaders round the curve and can see the finish line, they begin to dream more about a break and less about what’s coming in 3-4 months. While we get as much planning in as we can before the rigorous exam schedule begins, there is still much to pull together and think through as the fall is ever looming. Much of the summer is spent pouring over scripture, lesson ideas, event reservations, and creative redirections for next year. We reflect on the year behind us and look more intently toward the year ahead.
Campus Ministry, like any vocation, can be relentless in its ability to keep one from finishing a book. If you’re like me you start in August with a few books you’d like to get to and arrive at May with a stack half-way to the ceiling. As breathability returns in May, many of us take the chance to catch up and sharpen our creativity and knowledge base so that we enter the fall semester with fresh ideas for the journey ahead.
For many of us, summer is when we travel to denominational annual gatherings, visit with partner churches and explore the world outside the campuses we serve. With our week to week schedule becoming more flexible, we find our calendars freed up to network and share the stories of the previous year’s journey. Summer also gives us a chance to travel to meet rising freshmen, network with youth pastors, and connect with other campus ministers for communal reflection.
There is nothing like an orientation organization fair. You post up at a table, hand out information about your ministry (pens, cups, flyers, etc.) to incoming freshmen and their parents, and then you do it all again. At one university where I served, orientation took place in 4 hour long sessions, twice a week for 5 consecutive weeks.
It may be hard to imagine, but ministry to a constantly changing (both in physical attendance, spiritual growth, and mental focus) congregation can be tiring. We’re not guaranteed the same community in August that we end with in May. Old students will graduate (or choose to leave) and new students will come. Throw in that most of our regular events happen in the evening, multiple evenings a week, and you’ll see that summer is about reclaiming some of that time. We walk our dogs to the park, eat dinner with our families, hang out with our friends, pick up a book we’ve been putting off since October, and we get away for a few days when we can.
Honestly, we do this all year but prayer for what’s to come stands at the forefront of our summer break. As we spend the summer months finally checking off our long to-do lists, we also spend time praying for students, faculty, campuses, and the path ahead. In doing this, we center our visioning in Christ and are reminded that our work is one of kingdom building more than anything else.
What did I miss? If you’re a Campus Minister (or former C.M.) add your thoughts in the comments!