Collegiate Ministry Students – Don’t Waste Your Christmas Break

keep-calm-and-make-it-to-christmas-break-120It was Christmas break 1996 – that wonderful four weeks off in the midst of the college academic year – when God’s call came crashing down on my life.

Having spent the previous summer as a summer youth director in a local church and swearing that I would never have anything to do with local church ministry ever again, I felt the rush of God’s Spirit break through my frustration and disobedience so that I finally surrendered to His divine call.

The actual date was December 28, 1996.  Nearly 20 years ago.

The college Christmas break is truly a winter wonderland.  Whereas elementary, middle and high school students have roughly 10 days off, college students have nearly a month in-between semesters.  This long break allows some students to squeeze in a J-term class, but most stay at home and veg out with family and friends.

For collegiate ministry students, I suggest you use your Christmas break differently.  I suggest you take this time away from classes and books and put it to use for God’s glory and for your future in Christian ministry.

Here are a few suggestions of things you can do over the break.

1.  Reconnect with your home church.  Offer to sing in the choir.  Be a part of the Christmas Eve service.  Ask to fill in for anyone out on vacation in the youth or children’s ministry.  If you are feeling a call to pastoral ministry, offer to preach a Sunday evening service for your pastor or cover one of the Wednesday night small groups.  Offer to go and serve communion in a nursing home or to shut-in members.

At the minimum, ask one of your pastors if you can shadow them for a day or two to learn.  Fold bulletins in the church office or sweep floors in the food pantry.  Get your hands dirty in some ministry function, even if it seems like nothing at the time, I promise you it is something in the kingdom.

2.  Update your ministry resume.  A ministry resume is more than a simple piece of paper describing your education and past experience, it is, in many cases, your first impression to a church or para-church ministry.  Therefore it is not something to be slopped together in one sitting.  It should be created and updated with excellence and diligence.  The Christmas break is the perfect time to sink some significant time into this document.

For help on this task, I have written several posts offering tips on creating solid ministry resumes. Find them here, here and here.

3.  Setup your summer ministry internship.  During the break, make a few calls, schedule a Skype meeting, even make a visit to the location of your summer ministry internship.  Talk at length with your intended supervisor.  See if there is anything that you need to prepare for during the spring semester.

Collegiate ministry students must, and I can’t emphasis must enough, take advantage of every summer to serve somewhere in ministry.  Three good summers in ministry will nearly assure you a ministry placement upon graduation.

4.  Visit a seminary.  Even if you are not considering seminary at the present time, make a visit anyway.  Take the tour.  Make a day trip out of it.  It will at least get you out of the house and possibly open your mind up to the possibility of theological education.  If you are already planning to go to seminary, these visits are huge in helping you discern God’s will for where you are to study.

I suggest to my students visiting at least three seminaries before making a final decision.  You can’t get the ethos or vibe of a school just by visiting a website or browsing a brochure, you must get on campus and pray onsite with insight.

5.  Network. Network. Network.  There is nothing more important in ministry placement these days than building your ministry network.  We all know the cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”  I would add, “It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.”

Invite a ministry leader, denominational representative, former pastor, retired chaplain or missionary, whatever ministry you are feeling called to, to lunch.  Ask them question after question.  Bring a notebook and take copious notes or ask if you can record the conversation on your phone.  Before the lunch, write 10-15 good, thoughtful, insightful questions and then fire away.  Make it more about them and their experience than puffing yourself up.

If possible, do this a couple times over the break.  Most leaders, even if you offer to pay, will want to help a poor ministry student out and will pick up the check.  In the end, you glean from their knowledge, build your ministry network, and possibly even develop a new friendship and mentor in the ministry.

All in all, college ministry students, don’t waste your Christmas break.  Use it wisely and purposefully.  Besides, you can play Call of Duty and catch up on Netflix when you get back to campus.  This might be your only shot to get out in the world and make those critical ministry connections for the long haul.

5 Things To Do BEFORE You Send Out Your Ministry Resume

My primary work and ministry is with young adults who are about to embark on vocational ministry for the first time.  They have sensed the call of God on their lives and are studying to prepare themselves for real-life ministry in churches and ministry organizations.

For that reason, I get lots of questions about the creation of a ministry resume and how the whole placement process works.

I have written a couple pieces on how to create and improve the standard ministry resume, but I also wanted to add another component that is often overlooked.

What should you do before you send that ministry resume out?  Before you hit send on that email or drop the resume off in the mail, what should you be thinking about and making sure is in proper order.  So here are…

5 Things to Do BEFORE You Send Out Your Ministry Resume

1.  Notify all of your references.   You probably asked several key mentors in your life to serve as one of your references.  You’ve gathered their contact information, titles, current place of service, etc.  Now that the ministry resume is put together and ready to go, send your references a finalized copy and notify them that you are officially on the search.  I also suggest that you notify them if and when you receive a position, thanking them for whatever help they provided and informing them that the search is done.

clean12.  Clean up every aspect of your social media life.  Take down any inappropriate pictures, delete tweets, remove comments that your friends have made on a pic, toss out any controversial status updates, inflammatory remarks about a denomination,  a particular pastor, an author, or a church.  Even Cosmo magazine supports this spring cleaning approach to your social media.

It might sound extreme, as if you are removing a portion of yourself from your online existence, but your digital presence presence is highly evaluated in determining whether you get a first call or not.  Make it G-rated all around.  The more sanitized and clean, the better.

3.  Contact your home church pastor or youth minister.   Your home church leaders are going to be huge advocates for you and the ministry God has called you to.  They will probably have more experience seeing your spiritual gifts and talents on display in the service of the King.  Send them a final ministry resume and share with them what you sense God is calling you to do.  You may find that they are your greatest asset in being placed.

 It’s often not what you know, but who knows you.

4.  See if you know anyone on the inside of that particular ministry.  Think long and hard about who leads this ministry, who attends this church, who already serves on that team, and see if you can work through an inside connection rather than sending a cold email.

Again, the internal relationships and networks are far more effective in building trust and establishing a connection than flatly sending a standard email with resume and cover letter attached.  Do some investigative work.  You might be surprise how small the ministry world really is.

5.  Lastly, study the website thoroughly.  Read every page of content.  Read every document uploaded.  Read every blog post.  Like them on Facebook and be a follower on Twitter.  Look at previous newsletters, organizational documents, anything that will tell you what this ministry is all about.

You need to be more than casually informed about their vision and mission, you need to be able to articulate if that vision coincides with your own.  This is what captures attention and moves the process along.

Overall, you might believe this type of intentionality and diligence removes the hand of God or lessens the work of the Holy Spirit in placing His servants in His kingdom’s work.  I would disagree.  I believe taking these steps simply makes you more involved in the process and gives God more room to work in you and in the ministry you are seeking to find.

Blessings on your journey and may God use you greatly for His great name.