One Simple Principle That Helped Me Survive Student Ministry

I was a bad fit for student ministry.

I had never intended to go into it. I was more interested in world relief or overseas missions as I went through college. My mind and soul were fed on the work of missionaries like Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd and Mother Theresa. I saw no purpose in entertaining students or having fun. Even worse, I was a happy introvert, who would much rather work on an essay than be at a party. The demands of Student Ministry seemed polar opposites of who I was as a person and what I felt called to do with my life.

Then everything changed….

I saw the need

Originally I signed up for Bible College because of two things.

  1. I read a poem by Amy Charmichael about humanity going into hell like a waterfall of souls. As I read it I saw it happen in the most vivid waking dream.
  2. The other image that launched me into full time ministry was a picture of a pastor in Uganda tied with a belt by his throat to a Palm tree and a gun against his head. I begged God that I could take that martyr’s place in His work.

These two images came together one Easter when I took my friends invitation to come to his small Korean church in Toronto. I saw the youth in the church completely lost and confused, like sheep without a shepherd. It was clear in my mind that in a short time none of them would be attending church or having anything to do with Jesus. They needed a leader who get would them through their teen years.

I committed without reservation to the Path that Love Demanded

I didn’t think I was the right person for the job but I was convinced that no one else was going to do it. Each time I closed my eyes, I could see the faces of those kids at the church. They were so lost and their families were working from before seven each morning to after 11 each night. They needed help and I was available.

For about 4 years I had been discovering God’s will using this simple principle. I would ask, “What does Love demand?” I didn’t ask what what was best for me, how I could be more fulfilled, or how to reach my potential. The question was, “What is the most loving thing to do in this situation?” I made choices that weren’t financially advantageous, lost me a lot of sleep, and left no room for self-interest. I believed it was my way to “deny myself take up my cross daily and follow Jesus.”

No turning back

Often this approach left me feeling burned. It almost always pushed me out of my comfort zone. When I wanted to be alone it usually pushed me to be with people. When it came to creating youth events, it meant doing what was best for the students not what fit my personality type.

33 years later I still try to follow the path that love demands. Its always difficult when two loves conflict or when people misunderstand my motives. It has also been difficult to sort through when making a decision that is good for me instead of others. I still struggle with always wanting to be alone rather than being with people. My temperament hasn’t changed.

Keeping My Eyes on Jesus

What has helped me is the example that Jesus’s set. He had very little concern for his own needs but was compelled by the needs of others. The principle that he lived by was to not to serve himself but to serve others and to give his life for them. He did this every day, not just the day that he allowed himself to be nailed to a cross.

I haven’t always been good at this.

My first reaction is to naturally want to be alone and do my own thing. After I have had a minute to reflect and pray, I normally give in to God and try to serve others. Keeping Jesus and his lifestyle in the front of my mind has been helpful. It has kept me serving even when it went against everything that I wanted for myself.

It may not feel good but I hope that this will work for you also.

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Ron Powell

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Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com

4 Comments

  1. Thanks Ron
    You are an inspiration.
    Hard core to the finish!!
    “How to build Christ’s Kingdom instead of mine” by R.B. Powell

    • Steve,
      I really appreciate your encouragement. I only wish I had been more consistent following through with this principle. Good intentions…sometimes hard to live up to!
      I’ve been following your roofing company on facebook you guys do spectacular work!!

  2. Joshua Yoonsays:

    Thanks Ron,
    I am a product of your, “What does love demand?”
    I haven’t fallen!
    I am one and I know there are others but I am one.
    Beaten at times, but not broken.
    Hurt but enduring.
    Struggling but overcoming.
    Made tons of mistakes but correcting.
    Crying still yet laughing.
    Thanks Ron.

    • Wow! Thanks for sharing that Joshua! I still remember the day I met you way back in 1986 and so many of our interactions in the years following! I’m so glad that you are still moving forward in Him!!
      –Ron

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