I hope you're all doing well and are staying safe! I don't know if you feel this way, but this year just keeps getting crazier and crazier. Despite all the turmoil and chaos, this has been one of the most encouraging summers.
I'm not going to lie, finishing the school year was so challenging. Switching to working at home/cancelling all of our events and figuring out a new way to do meaningful ministry virtually was overwhelming. Getting to the summer was both a relief and a stress. It was the former because it allowed for a break and the latter because the summer is when we begin planning for the Fall and building our new leader team. In this chaotic, constantly changing time, how do we plan for the Fall? That question is still a difficult one to answer, but, like I alluded to in the beginning, I have a few encouraging things I'd like to share while I've been in the process of trying to plan.
1. God has blessed us with abundance
I'm not even sure how to say that the best way. I know lots of people have been really affected by world events lately, so the sentence feels wrong. So excuse me if that comes off inappropriately!
Like I said previously we use our summers to build our leader team for the upcoming school year. In previous years this has been some discouraging work. Mandy and myself (the two main female pastors at UTD) would go and begin talking to woman about serving on our leader team, and we would consistently get told no. Mostly I believe that stems from fear, but there were definitely people who just couldn't do it. Being a Core Facilitator is a big responsibility. It takes up a lot of time, but more than that, leading people can be messy and challenging. When you step up into a leadership position, you have the capacity to influence people towards God and have a team of people there to help support you in the process of doing it. In so many ways that is good news and can be such encouraging work, but it can also be terrifying news! Students were worried that they wouldn't lead people well and wouldn't know how to help people. Mandy and I would talk through students fears with them, and let them know that they wouldn't be leading alone next year. Not only would they have another facilitator with them, but again, they have a team of people there to help support and train. Some people would change their minds and decide to commit to leading, and some people wouldn't.
I explain all this because it's hard to see how this year is different without knowing how some other years have been. The past two years, building a leader team has progressively gotten more and more encouraging. We started having more and more people who were excited to bless the community the same way their Core Facilitators had blessed them the previous school year. This year I was worried that the craziness of how the school year ended and the uncertainty of the next school year would put us back to the years where people wouldn't want to lead...
However we've experienced quite the opposite! I don't think I've had an easier summer trying to build a leader team. Almost every girl I've met with has been excited about the prospect of leading on campus this next year. In fact, this year we'll have the highest number of female corefas than we've ever had before!!!
I could honestly continue with explaining how God has been abundant with us, but for the sake of brevity I'll just finish with the thought. This year has been riddled with fear and disaster, but I've continually been blown away at seeing God still moving. Maybe that's my unbelief popping out, but there were definitely times where I feared how things would turn out and maybe that's why seeing God has felt even more special. A reminder that in the darkest moments, God has not left:)
2. While some doors are closing, new doors are opening
Part of my job for the last 6 years on staff has been leading outreach on campus, and for the past two years, I've also been teaching the apprentice class on Evangelism. The past few years we've used a lot of events to reach out to people, so I'm sure you can image all the fears that have popped up when trying to plan for the school year. How are we going to meet people on campus? I'm not sure that I have an amazing answer to that question yet. We still don't even really know if people will be coming back to campus yet! And if they do, how will we be able to meet them when there will probably be no events?
But with all this change of pace and increased ability to just sit and reflect, I think God has been closing a door in order to open a new one. For the past few years I've constantly felt like our outreach approach has been lacking, and every year I attempt to adjust. With more time to reflect, I realized what exactly has been the missing link. Our approach to outreach was event based, but we're not an event based ministry. One of our values is "one-on-one is how it's done." We know lives are changed through real, one-on-one relationships. Events help us meet new people in order to begin building these spiritual friendships, but the goal should always be one on one friendships. And we don't need events in order to meet people! While we still have work to do in figuring out the details, I feel like God wants to do something awesome on campus this year!
Hopefully that encouraged you as well! I entered the summer being very apprehensive, and I'm leaving it excited for what God wants to do on campus this year. It will definitely be a challenging year, but it will also be a year with unique opportunities. Thank you for all your support and prayers! I'll leave you with this student testimony.