As we know, many members of the collegiate ranks are excited – theoretically – about service, compassion ministry, social justice, and the like. But I agree with some other college ministers that college students might like the idea of service a bit more than they like actually serving. So yes, they will serve when service opportunities come along. But they’re not naturally going to invest much in making sure that the service they undertake is all that it could be.
The same can be true with any area of their Christian lives. They need help in growing up into Christ. So that’s why we shepherd them, right? We train them in Jesus-following and all its glorious, tough, blessingful facets.
So why would we be unwilling to shepherd our students when it comes to service?
Like prayer, kindness, evangelism, Bible study, or any other facet of our students’ spiritual lives, it’s not enough just to give them space and opportunity to do service. It’s never enough just to put a service project on a calendar… at least not if we want to produce lifelong servants.
I mentioned yesterday that I worked an aid station once again at the local White Rock Marathon this past weekend. And after four years of that effort, I’ve certainly learned that there are better and worse ways of serving in that capacity.
There are better ways to give cups of water to runners, better ways to cheer, better ways to mix the Gatorade, and so on. If I’m in it just to have a good time, I won’t care about those things. But if I’m in it to serve the runners, I have to attend to the necessary skills, as simple as they may be.
Of course, we can’t know all the skills our students will need for all the ways they’ll serve the world. But we can produce true servants, people biblically motivated to serve at all times “with the strength God supplies.”
On the other hand, if we don’t shepherd our students, we risk producing only “people who serve on occasion” – and people whose selfishness or lack of skill greatly diminishes their impact on a hurting (and watching) world. That’s no good at all.
Service, like the other things we urge, is an area that needs our shepherding – not just our encouragement.
Are we raising up servants who are really good at helping in ways that meet actual needs really well? Are we raising up students who will work hard to serve best?