Friday, May 31, 2013

Flashback Friday: Tips for a Faithful College Life

The end of May means graduations for many. I know students with senior-itis have been counting down to this weekend for months. This is a repost from last fall.

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[Last September] the teen I’ve been mentoring for the past few years is head[ed] off to college. As a last blast before he left, I put together a series of studies to prepare him for the collegiate life. I based these on personal experience, having been converted in campus ministry and honestly, never wanting to leave. I figure some of you might find this useful.Consider it cramming, spiritually.

Time Management (Ephesians 5:15-16)

College is the first time many are living on their own. You don’t have anyone to hold you accountable for your time. Classes aren’t a set 8:00-3:00 schedule. One of the greatest blessings of college life is time. But like many other blessings, it can also be a curse if you do not manage it well. Success academically and spiritually on campus relies on your ability to manage time.

Homework: build your schedule, including all your classes, meals, and sleep. Don’t forget to plan out your weekends too.Compare with how time is spent now

Sleep (Proverbs 6:9-11)

Review: review your schedule from before. Did you plan for approximately 3 hours of study per hour in the classroom? Did you schedule time to eat, sleep, have a quiet time? When are you going to do your laundry? Even if you have every hour accounted for, things come up. The campus ministry wants to play volleyball on the quad Friday afternoon. There’s an all-night devotional Saturday night. Part of managing your time well is being flexible so that you’re not bit by putting things off until the last minute. I missed a community outreach/devotional one Saturday because I put off doing my homework too long and was behind in one of my classes. It happens.

All-night study crams, the exhaustion of long lectures, and just being on the go 24/7 introduces you to one of the benefits of your flexible schedule in college- the nap. It is an art that must be perfected. Because if not... well if Proverbs 6 didn’t convince you, read Proverbs 24:32-34 a point so important the Bible repeats it.

This scripture became a running joke in my campus ministry. Yes, it’s ok to rest when you need to, but don’t let it become a habit. The afternoon nap takes time away from sharing your faith, serving in the community, studying your Bible, and doing your homework.

Yet rest is critical to success. How many flame-out after the all-nighter? One time when cramming for a final, one of my friends stayed up all night by taking No-Doz (replace with 5 hour energy, Monster, or Red Bull these days). He crashed and slept through the final. When you are well-rested, you are more receptive and you stay healthy.

Homework: if you’re not doing it already (and this assumes school hasn’t started yet), start imitating the same sleep schedule you plan on following at college to get your body used to going to bed and waking up at the same time.

Responsibilities (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

Chances are when you go off to college you will be living with strangers, either in dorms or in an apartment or household. Even if you pick your dorm-mate, you will still have to build new relationships with neighbors and classmates. Ideally, your future roommate is another believer, but there are no guarantees. To minimize stress in those relationships, it is important to establish responsibilities in the house, apartment, or dorm. Delegate and assign. Accept responsibilities. Learn to do laundry, wash dishes, make dinner. Share the load. Nobody likes a freeloader. Make sure “each part does its work”

If possible, contact your future roommate in advance and find out who owns what. Who has a microwave, who has a coffeemaker, who has a DVD player. Share, and expect to lose DVDs, break dishes, ruin furniture. It’s part of being young and irresponsible. But you don’t have to be completely irresponsible.

Homework: Make a list of what you’re good at around the house. What is your favorite meal to fix? Are you good at cleaning the sink, but hate cleaning the toilet? List it out, let your roommate know. That way you can work to a middle ground.

Relationships (1 Corinthians 15:33)

College is a great opportunity to meet new people, but be warned that those influences rub off. Never again will you have the same opportunity to stay up late and muse life. I remember studying the Bible with a Wiccan, trying food I’ve never heard of at the multicultural center, being introduced to new music, and so on. While you’re making new friends, keep your closest relationships with those who share your values. It is important to keep an open mind, that is how we learn new things and learn to relate to others, but you need to be on your guard against allowing relationships to define who you are.

Homework: Before you leave, be sure to get the contact information (cell, email) of your closest friends. It is unlikely you're all going to the same place for college. but stay in touch. Facebook, smartphones, Skype, etc make it that much easier to stay in touch.

Prioritize your relationship with God (Psalm 143:8, Mark 1:35)

Make sure you plan consistent time with God.Even though I mentioned before that you will be blessed on campus with free time you never knew you had, that time fills up quickly. Homework, ministry events, just having fun will fill your days. Make sure you keep your relationship with God a priority. Wake up early. Pray. Study your Bible. (Want to know an easy campus evangelism tip? Open up your Bible and read during lunch at the food court of your Student Union. And watch people come to you!)

This also relates back to relationships. You will never be closer to a friend as you will be when you are in the battle together. There's just something about getting together with friends to pray while watching the sun rise that bonds. Funny story, that I admit didn't happen to me: a couple of people in my campus ministry were out early one morning and a cop stopped them because they were acting suspiciously. Seeing people out running before dawn was no big deal. But two people walking back and forth on a sidewalk praying looked funny.

And these times are the ones you'll be able to share when you've grown old and crusty and have your own blog (or whatever they'll have then)!

Make opportunities for evangelism (Luke 10:2, Acts 8:4)

This is a time in people’s lives when they are looking for meaning, for significance. They also have a lot of free time. There will be endless opportunities to share: on the way to/from class, lunch at food courts/student union, dorms, quads, intermurals, etc. Don't turn down the opportunities for the late-night talk, the diversions on you way across campus, and so on.

Also take advantage of on-campus activities and organizations. Those are perfect opportunities to meet new people, try new things, and get more out of your college experience. Activities like student-government, intermurals, community service, and on and on, there is literally something for everybody. (spoken by someone who used to be a campus activities director)

Put Romans 12 into practice

Be transformed, but not conformed by the world. Be humble, exercise your gifts (and discover new ones). Love, rejoice, share, practice hospitality. Endure persecution. Love your enemies.

Remember, you will never have a time in your life such as this. Make every moment count. Cherish the memories you'll make. Make new friends. Try something new. Above all, glorify God in all you do (1 Cor 10:31)

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