I probably mention this annually, but it’s an important reminder and (hopefully) an encouragement…
Who plays a shepherd role in your ministry? In smaller ministries, that might only be you, the college minister. Maybe a few staff members basically divide everyone up into shepherd-able pockets. Or in most ministries, shepherding duties are likely divided among some small group leaders, disciplers, and other volunteers or staff.
Whatever the case, those shepherds are still the individuals who know the sheep best, even when they’re away for the summer. And even when we’re discouraged by growth during the school year, there may be no better time for our students to grow than in these three months.
While they’re away, I hope that each of your students do have the chance to be impacted this summer. I hope many are on a Summer Project or working a Christian camp or sowing for Jesus in a foreign field. I hope that all of their home churches have really strong college ministries or other ways to welcome them in. I hope they have role models and disciplers back home. And, as always, I hope they’ll all take responsibility for their OWN spiritual growth, especially in these few relatively flexible months.
But even if all that is the case, their shepherds last month can still have lots of impact on helping their spiritual growth happen – even when they’re international, let alone when they’re simply toiling at a summer internship. Those small group leaders or other shepherds can push those students toward taking ground with the Lord. They can push them to be involved with ministries or mentors who will help, too.
Those shepherds know those students – where they’re likely to fall, where they most need to grow, what trials and temptations they face at home, and what will help motivate them in the Lord. There’s a relationship there; why wouldn’t we keep that impact going? (And the same goes for continuing to shepherd our student leaders, who are themselves “sheep,” too.)
I know summertime shepherding of the summer-gone sheep isn’t the pattern in the field of collegiate ministry. But as a friend who serves in a Christian school environment reminded me yesterday, real relationships don’t take a break… and that’s all the more true when God has entrusted shepherds with sheep!