Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing conversation at The King’s University about the big callings God has for us. Inspired by the moment on an airline when God called Pastor Jack Hayford to start TKU, we want to know: What’s your 30,000-foot calling?
I remember having no idea how I would “get into the ministry.” I knew God had called me and had given me a vision for serving Him, but I was clueless as to how to ever get into a ministry position. God worked it out, but looking back, I realize there are many factors to consider in order to see our 30,000 foot vision fulfilled. The truth is, a big vision is only a fraction of the picture. Making it a reality takes a lot of work, practical steps, and concrete goals.
Coming to college is one very practical step to fulfilling the dream of ministry or of being in business. In fact, for many, college itself is a vision, a dream to be fulfilled. But what makes the college dream fit into the bigger vision? I suggest that there are several goals to be achieved during your college years enroute to successfully fulfilling the dream of ministry God has given you.
The first goal is to make college more about learning than merely getting a degree. Far too many students just have their eyes on graduating and moving on with life and miss much of what could have been learned on the way. The classroom material alone is invaluable, and hopefully you can strive to truly learn it for more than being able to pass a test. But, there is so much more. Spending time with the professors and gleaning the wisdom they have to offer is a great place to start. Sadly, I rarely did that because I never felt like the professors were interested. Now that I am a professor, I realize how wrong that assumption was. Most professors love it when students want to hang out and engage in deep and probing conversations. Make one of your goals to get to know your professors and to spend time with them and to learn from them beyond the lectures they give.
You can also learn a lot from interaction with your fellow students. Some of my richest times at college were when a bunch of the guys were piled in a dorm room and just hanging out. We were just guys and a lot of what transpired was just fun stuff, but we often ended up in serious discussions about some issue of faith or theology. I think that I learned as much from those times as in the classroom.
Studies show that 70 percent of pastors do not have even one close friend with whom they can share life. There is no better time or place than college to build deep and meaningful relationships, which is another goal to develop on the way to the big vision. Obviously, friendships are an important part of life, especially for a college student, but I do not think we realize how important they actually are. One of my district supervisors used to say, “relationships release ministry.” I am not advocating political posturing, but I am suggesting that the relationships you build during your college years will be vehicles that God will use to guide and direct the fulfillment of your vision. Make it your goal to develop friendships with people who share your passion for God and ministry, people with whom you can share deeply about God and life, and with whom you can dream about the ministries that God is leading you into. Make it your goal to develop close friendships now that will last a lifetime.
Find new and different ways to serve. You do not answer the call to ministry, go to college for four years and then suddenly become a successful minister. Use this time to serve but seek new ways to do it. Make it your goal to try new things; God might open your eyes to a vista of ministry that you never dreamed of before.
Graduate. The four year graduation rate for public universities is just 33.3 percent; it is a little higher for private schools at 52.8 percent. It is a sad truth that many students do not complete their college education. There is a lot to be said for the discipline and perseverance it takes to complete it. While much of the material might be gleaned online, there is much that is learned in the process of college itself. There is always the possibility of extreme circumstances that preclude graduating, but those are rare. Make it your goal to finish college and get your degree.
One last goal I want to suggest to you is that you never lose sight of the vision. Some statistics say that 60-80 percent of people who enter the ministry will no longer be in it in 10 years. Granted, there are some who realized that they never were called to vocational ministry, but not 60-80 percent. Realizing your vision is not a short term event; it is a lifelong journey. Make it your goal to be like the apostle Paul and be able to look back on your life and say, “I finished my course” (2 Timothy 4:7).