A few weeks ago I had a really helpful conversation with Clare Hogan whose the student worker at St John's Hampton Wick. I felt she was able to empathise with a lot of what I'd been hearing from disheartened student workers, and yet offered a grace-filled challenge to fix our eyes again on Jesus. I had to get her to share, enjoy her thoughts below:
I don’t know about you, but I’ve not felt like a very good student worker over this past year.
Everything that I would normally measure my success by – numbers of students at church/in our midweek groups, seeing students developed as leaders, meaningful connections and discipleship built through regular personal interactions, creative outreach events on campus and a core of young adults passionate about Jesus and eager to share him with their friends – seems to have completely diminished.
It’s hard to be honest, as I’m naturally such an optimist and often want to present the best of what’s going on, but I think as Christians it’s important to be real if we are to connect and truly discern where Christ is moving in a situation.
Fellow student workers – if your student work is thriving in this time, this is incredible. Please please be encouraged that it is no mean feat to be doing what you’re doing in a pandemic, the rest of us are so so thankful for you and your ministry and praise God for what he is doing in you and through you in your role in your location! However, if, like me, you are finding student work really quite difficult and disheartening at the moment, know that you are not the only one. Please please be encouraged that it is by no means easy to do what you’re doing in a pandemic, the rest of us are so so thankful for you and your ministry, and praise God for what he is doing in you and through you in your role and your location.
I don’t think I need to remind any of us that we are in ‘unprecedented times’ and that we are pastoring students in a context in which everyone is receiving bad news at levels that are just not normal. Not only will our students be struggling, but also we ourselves will be working at much-reduced capacity levels, even if subconsciously – this is to be completely expected and requires us to give ourselves a lot of grace.
What all of this does achieve, however, is point us back to the Father. If I think about it, I’m aware that sometimes my actions and goal posts for success are based more on ‘being a good student worker’ than the true aim for why we do what we do (and care so much about it) which is to seek more of God’s kingdom here on earth. When I was upset that we only got 2 new students from our freshers season this year, was it because I thought God had stopped caring for the young adults on my local campus? Or when some of our key members stopped replying to messages and coming to events, was I sad because I believed that he no longer had plans or purpose for their lives, that he had stopped pursuing them?
God is still at work in the Covid-19 Pandemic. And he is the same God as we’ve always known. He is still equally as powerful, as loving, as just, as in control, as good, as caring. And he knows our students better than we do. This season is difficult for our student work, but I wonder if it’s one that will grow us more than the last. When we are stripped of the comfort we get from a ‘successful’ student ministry, we get to the core of the matter. We’re reminded of the power of intercession, of the joy of the small baby steps of faith taken by the one and of the need to really seek God and truly abide in him to see where he is leading us next. We learn the point where we have to stop relying on works and faith steps in.
These are just a couple of the thoughts I’ve been having recently, and my hope is that off the back of this time of wrestling and growing in the wilderness, we will be entering the new season (which will come!) with a depth of trust in the sovereignty of Jesus we could only have dreamed about before. Until then, however, friends, we do this mission together; let's continue to connect and encourage one another as we take each day in faith.
If you're a student worker who would like to chat and be prayed for, we would love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org