First Year Students: 3 Things You NEED To KNOW!

You’re on your way to college/university for the first time – and for the first time in your entire life you will be out from under the protective influence of your parents and will be forced to make many of your decisions on your own.  As a Christian this can be an incredible time of preparation for whatever the Lord has for you in life, but it could also be the beginning of Biblical foolishness (a rejection of the Biblical wisdom that has been handed to you).  Your parents greatest desire would be for you to take what you have learned these past 18 or so years and become the Christian leader that they have prayed you will be.

But hold up – you never signed up for Christian leadership, right?  Maybe not – but as a follower of the greatest leader who ever lived (Jesus Christ) you will be responsible to follow in His sacrificial steps (1 Peter 2:21) and to be an example for all the believers in your sphere of influence in 5 areas (Words, Conduct, Love, Faith and Purity – 1 Timothy 4:12).  So, maybe to your disappointment, as a young Christian adult you will have no choice but to be a Christian leader.

But what exactly does this mean: “Christian leadership”?  Does this mean that as I head off to college/university that fun, meeting guys/girls and staying up as late as I want is suddenly off the radar?  Of course not – if anything you should be living up the ‘college life’ because this season of life will be short – over before you know it.  But you can’t sacrifice your identity in Christ in the midst of campus chaos.  Who you are in Christ isn’t just something to try to remember as you head out on a Friday night.  Who you are in Christ defines you.

It is John Maxwell that has told us that “leadership is influence”, which seems to be one of the best, succinct leadership definitions that exists.  Maxwell’s definition is not identifying anything ‘good’ or ‘bad’, it’s just stating that leaders are the ones that move people towards a call to action.  But a Christian leader is different – a Christian leader uses the place in life that God has given them to influence others towards Christ.  So on your university campus you have one overarching goal as a Christian leader: influence others towards Christ.  Everything else is secondary and incomparable.

In what ways would God have us to be godly Christian leaders on campus?  Glad you asked.  I’d like to use Romans 12:9-13 for the basis of my thoughts:

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Here’s some things that Paul tells us to consider in our relationship to other people, but also in our role as Christian leaders:

  1. Love Unconditionally (v9)No one likes a hypocrite – yet sometimes aren’t we the biggest ones?  The Christian leader doesn’t love selectively – he loves without conditions.  He isn’t concerned about what the person looks like or their ethnicity or intelligence or what program he’s in.  He doesn’t care if he’s in first year or fourth.  He loves the way that God loves (1 John 4:11).  This love is evidenced by “abhorring what is evil” and “clinging to what is good.”  This means that we reject what God rejects and we accept what God accepts.  When we have this approach to life we become the most loving, authentic people that others will see.
  2. Give Preference to Others (v10,13)Our first-world society has brainwashed us into thinking that we have to be consumed with ‘us’ if we’re ever going to truly make it in this world.  My dreams.  My goals.  My ambitions.  These are lies manufactured by a society that has no concern for God or His desires.  The New Testament love that Jesus and His disciples showed us was all about others.  As you’re heading off to college/university it has really been all about you, hasn’t it?  And to a certain extent as you’re madly preparing to leave that’s unavoidable.  But once you set foot on that campus your focus must shift.  You must live to serve everyone on that campus.  If Jesus were a first year student that’s what He would be doing – looking for ways to serve, serve, serve.  That’s what these verses tell us:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.So a college campus Christian leader is looking out for his fellow Christians, he is putting the needs of others ahead of his own, he is contributing to the needs of other Christians and he is practicing hospitable warmth in the dorm.  This type of person becomes a magnet for other people – this type of person becomes a campus minister to people.
  1. Serve the Lord (v11,12)The greatest Christian leaders are the ones who are passionate about serving the Lord.  As you head off to college/university you may be tempted for the first time in your life to begin to spread your wings a bit and experiment in your new found freedom.  But did you know that of those that enter first year saying they are born again Christians, only 40% of them still claim the same thing four years later?  Another way to say it: 6 out of 10 ‘Christian’ first year students walk away from Jesus within 4 years[1]If that doesn’t scare you then you need a healthy smack upside the head.  Statistically speaking, you may not be following Christ within the next few years.  How do you avoid that from happening?  Check out what these verses say:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,In our service to the Lord we must be:
    • Not lacking in diligence – that means we don’t become lazy or complacent in our devotion to Christ.  We keep up with our spiritual disciplines of church attendance, time in the Word, Scripture memory, etc.
    • Enthusiastic – we should be fervent in our service to Christ…even excited!
    • Hopeful rejoicing – we don’t walk around campus like we just came back from a funeral – we have a hope in Jesus that our face should show!
    • Persevering under pressure – it won’t always be rosy, but in the midst of trials we don’t surrender our devotion to the Lord
    • Devoted to prayer – God wants to use you to see revival on your campus, but this will only happen one way: through prayer.  The reason we don’t see God answer prayer is because we treat prayer like CAA/AAA – instead of gasoline for our tanks.

First year students – God wants to use YOU this year!  As you move into this new phase of your life would you see this as an incredible opportunity to be the Christian leader God wants you to be?  Would you recognize that your leadership as a Christ-follower can far surpass anything the ‘world’ considers important as you head into this exciting chapter of your life?

God bless you as you leave home and head off to school!


[1]Taken from the “College Student Survey.” Cooperative Institutional Research Program, U.C.L.A.

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