Saturday, August 6, 2011

Introverted Campus Ministry

I worked for four years in college ministry - one year in a church and three years in campus ministry - and while I loved much of the work, I found it to be a quite extroverted ministry. It's no secret that college is a particularly extroverted stage of life, and those that are called to minister to people in that phase find that the social demands are high. Sometimes the energy and passion of college students are welcome; other times they are exhausting.

Today's post comes from Rachel Stephan Simko. Rachel is a former-actress-turned-campus-minister who works with her husband for the Coalition for Christian Outreach.  She, her husband, and their 4-week-old live in intentional community right outside Philadelphia with another young family.  She writes about their experiences at Even One Sparrow and about campus ministry at 15 Minutes of Campus.

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I never thought I'd be working in ministry with college students.
I never thought I'd be working in ministry, period.
But God has a funny sense of humor.

My husband and I work for a campus ministry called the CCO (Coalition for Christian Outreach), which challenges students to live out their faith in every area of life.  When my husband initially joined the CCO, I was locked away in a little cubicle doing sales.  I hated the job, but I never envisioned myself joining the ministry.

And then all of a sudden, there I was: responding to a call from the Lord to work alongside my husband.  We were set up to do a five-week-long training program, and I left my introverted nature off to the side and allowed excitement to carry me through the days.

That is, until my said introversion reached a scary climax.
We were about a week and a half into training, and suddenly I was stricken with severe agoraphobia.  It was not something I had dealt with before -- not to this extreme.  I had always been massively introverted, and I had traces of anxiety in my life, but never before had I been gripped with uncontrollable, debilitating fear.  I was in over my head.

But the worst part was that this sudden bout of anxiety only solidified my greatest fears about joining the ministry:  I wasn't equipped.  I would fail.  An introvert like me could never make it in an extrovert-geared ministry for college students.  I had to wonder...

Why did God bring me here at all?

I was fortunate that the agoraphobic attack only lasted about a month, but it was an excruciatingly long and confusing month.  However, if it weren't for my intense struggle, I would have never known the root of my problem:  trusting the Lord.  I had been living my life on my own efforts and not trusting God with it.  Even with a clear call into ministry, I didn't trust that God could use me.  I thought that maybe He had made a mistake -- or maybe I misheard Him.  With agoraphobia, the Lord brought me to my knees and I had to face my delusions.  And once I relinquished myself unto Him -- once I acknowledged the fact that I could do nothing apart from Him, including trusting Him -- I was released from the worst of the attack.

If you've ever found yourself in a similar situation, you should join me and take solace in knowing that you are in good company.  The reality is that when God chooses a person to do something for His Kingdom, He doesn't make a mistake.  He has a plan, and His plans will succeed.  While I was battling with my own feelings of inadequacy, God was quick to remind me of the plethora of ill-equipped people He called to do courageous things.  I'll jog your memory with a select few:

  • In Exodus 3&4:  God says, "Lead the people out of Egypt."  Moses says, "But I'm not equipped to speak."  
  • In Judges 6:  God says, "Conquer the Midianites." Gideon says, "But I'm in the weakest clan of warriors."
  • In Acts 9:  God says to Ananias, "Give sight back to Saul; I am going to use him to bring many to my name."   Ananias says, "But he has persecuted the Christians."

In each case, God used these ill-equipped people to do mighty things and bring Him glory.  Again and again, we see examples of God calling people to do things they have no business doing.  Not only do these people feel ill-equipped, they are ill-equipped, and maybe that's the whole point.  If we were always perfectly equipped to do every work, then the glory could potentially fall on us.  We would miss out on witnessing the miraculous power of our Lord.  2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds us, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Sometimes God does call us to do things that match up well with our personalities and talents; sometimes the calling goes against the grain.  In my case, God made me utterly weak in order to show His almighty strength.  He called me to a position in which I had no official qualifications -- vocationally or personally.  But it was as if I heard Him whisper in those dark moments, "Trust me, and see what I will do!"

The results of this trust have been surprising, but also very confirming.  I have mentored so many girls who have struggled with similar anxieties and fears.  I am able to identify and reach out to the introverts on college campuses -- the ones who may have otherwise gone unnoticed.  God has combined the differing personalities of my husband and me in order to build an overwhelming ministry on campus.  And when we reflect on the past year, we can only say it was His hand moving, and not our own efforts.  

And I stand in awe of a Father who creates introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between, and I repeat the words of Paul boldly:  "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest upon me."  (2 Cor. 12:9)