“Make disciples of all nations” is the overarching mission that Jesus has given to his followers. As a campus minister this is one of my core goals, but it’s not happening.
These past years in campus ministry I’ve been frustrated at not having started up a lasting and sustainable small group in which students are growing in discipleship. Student leaders have seemed non-existent. And discipling students? Forget about it. I pictured myself meeting with students and having intense conversations about the Bible and spiritual disciplines. I set up meetings over coffee, start asking questions about their lives, and never get to connecting their stories with the Bible or their faith journeys. I tell myself that I’m not an expert in discipleship and really haven’t done the greatest job in my own life. So, I’ve been holding back from going deeper until I have a foundation of a full discipleship curriculum. Then, I reason, I can make disciples.
At one of these coffee conversations, a student and I were talking about the need many graduate students have for support during their grad school careers – especially as their individual research and writing begins. She described how developing an original proposal, conducting the research, and then writing it up is daunting. Somewhere during this conversation I suggested starting a support group. I didn’t know what it would look like, but both of us thought it was doable and needed.
Over the past year we’ve continued to meet to discuss our vision for the group and her journey through qualifying exams. In these conversations, I don’t feel that I’m forcing an agenda or need to spout out a list of spiritual disciplines. Instead, we are two individual followers of Christ listening to one another and dreaming up ways to reach out on campus – be it through a writing group. Writing is the center of this group – from how to begin the process to receiving comments from fellow students. We will write and support – and include prayer.
Reflecting on these conversations it hit me – this is discipleship. It happened without my planning for it. It’s walking with another in their faith journey – encouraging and challenging at times. It’s also developing a group that is based on the interests of students. Where I can help is bringing in some questions that help students think about faith in relation to their lives, specifically their research. It doesn’t have to be a loaded curriculum of the ten must-have discipleship practices. Instead it meets individual students in their stories.
This is a conversation I would like to repeat. Spending time listening to students’ dreams, their stories, and finding ways together to grow in faith and reach out on campus. When I come with an agenda, it seems forced and rarely turns out. But when I question and listen, God does work. Now to open my eyes to more of these divine accidents.