When it comes to discipleship in collegiate ministry, there are just some things that never change. Ideas and methods come and go depending on their cultural relevance, but there are some things that stand the test of time no matter how many years go by. Here are a couple of the sayings that I find myself repeating year after year to student after student. They are discipleship workhorses that won’t let you down.
You always have time to do what’s important to you.
This is one of those simple sayings that reminds us of the importance of time management. Often when I use it, I’m gently correcting a student who is having trouble with something specific, holding them accountable for the way they failed to meet goals and expectations we have agreed upon beforehand. Exhort students: we all have the same number of hours in a day, and what you spend your time on shows what you value.
"We all have the same number of hours in a day, and what you spend your time on shows what you value." -Jon Smith #collegiatedisciplemaker 7 Workhorse Discipleship Sayings Every College Minister Should Know Click To Tweet
So teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.Psalm 90:12
The sun will rise, the world will turn, and the LORD is still on his throne.
Life isn’t easy. Caution students: If you haven’t been blindsided yet, don’t worry; your turn is coming. Relationships break. Jobs end. Houses burn. Illness and injury happen. Bad things happen to everyone, but God is ultimately in charge, and hope is always on the horizon. The more you drive that into your brain, the easier it will be to weather the storm when it does come.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
Pay it forward.
How do you define discipleship? I’ll start: pay it forward. Those three little words go a long way toward unpacking the core of our mission as followers of Jesus. Challenge students: Take the faith lessons with which God has blessed you and give them away to others. That’s the job: make disciples. It is the reason Jesus didn’t just rapture you to heaven when you became a believer, and if you aren’t paying it forward, you aren’t making much of anything.
And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.2 Timothy 2:2
Know your worth.
Students have always struggled with personal identity. Our modern culture has only exacerbated that issue. The world, friends, social media, and even family have something to say about who they are, but the only answer that will ever truly satisfy is found in Jesus Christ. Reassure students: You are who God says you are, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Count on that!
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.Ephesians 2:19
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.Jeremiah 31:3b
Apologies cost you nothing.
Nothing but pride, that is. Advise students: Sometimes your best move is to shut up and say you’re sorry. When someone blames you for wounding them, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you did it on purpose or not. Maybe you were in the right. Maybe it was the result of an accident or miscommunication. Who cares?! What matters is that you have the ability to help them heal. Use it.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.Hebrews 12:14-15
Own your mistakes…
Taking responsibility for one’s actions is a sign of maturity and it helps build and establish trust.
Prod students: You know you screwed up. They know you screwed up. You can lie if you want, but that only makes it worse. That was true when you threw the ball in the house when you were eight years old, and it is still true today. Own your mistakes and move on.
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”Luke 16:10
Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it every time.
Honestly, as a college minister, I sometimes wish I could tattoo this on students’ foreheads. Direct students: Establish goals, develop plans, put them on a timeline. Figure out what you want, what kind of person you want to be, what life you want to have, then think about what needs to change to bring you to that point. Or don’t and see how far you get. I know what I’d do.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.Ephesians 5:15-16
And here’s a bonus one, just because.
Maintain an attitude of gratitude.
Gratitude goes a long way in combating anxiety, depression, and a myriad of other things. Encourage students: Appreciate the little things that God has done to bless you every day. Each breath is a gift and things could always, always, always be worse. The more an attitude of gratefulness is ingrained into your life as a habit, the more you find yourself in a positive groove and the harder it is for “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” to get you down, and yes, you just read a line from Hamlet. Timeless!
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
In closing, you’ve probably heard this last workhorse, “Methods are many, principles are few. Methods may change, principles never do.” If you’re not, get familiar with it; it’s a classic.
Obviously, there are more than seven or eight timeless workhorse principles in discipleship, but that’s what the comment section is for. What is one saying or expression you find yourself saying over and over again as you work with students?