Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Question: Help! Now I'm a CU leader will this eat my life?

Dear Joe CU-Leader,

You're a CU leader. What a great responsibility, a new domain over which to rule humbly, an opportunity to be more human (Genesis 1v27-28).  You're going to be adminstrating and facilitating mission on campus, what a priviledge! But, you may well be fearing whether you have the time to do this, wont this just eat up your life? Life was kinda busy before and now you have a few extra things to do.

Half the problem here is that most of us aren't great at using our time. All of us have 168 hours a week, whether you're unemployed or are the prime minister - everyone gets the same hours. In theory you can do a lot with 168 hours. Think of the miles that could be travelled, the words that could be written. Just add up the number of facebook and pro-evo hours and you'll see why you think you might not have time for extra responsibility...

Life doesn't compartmentalise easily - and actually most of life is meant to overlap. Time with Christians and non-Christians... study and socialising... Most of your non-Christian friends are in your lectures with you...  If you live unintentionally you'll not fit in all the pieces. If you wake up and realise that God has given you a domain in which to live for him - consisting of time, of people, of work.... of people to encourage, of people to witness to about Christ... The most common concerns I find for new CU leaders are about their involvement in church, their course and of time with non-Christians....
What about church? It's true that having responsibility in CU might have some impact on your church involvement. Firstly, it's right to ask - great to ask. Student church life is peculiar, you probably have two churches - one you're part of 30 weeks a year, and another for 22 weeks. Student life is wierd, but it wont last for long. The norm is to live in one place and belong to one church family. What will that look like? Three main ways: attending meetings, commiting to people, and service (the lines are blurry and those categories aren't ideal, but you get the idea).

Being involved in the CU isn't cost-free (nothing worth doing is). You will miss a small number of Sundays. Most CUs have one weekend away in the autumn for everyone, and as a leader also you're invited to attend a regional UCCF weekend away at the end of February. Some CUs have a third weekend for small group leaders...  All of which could reduce you from 30 weekends at your Uni church to 27-28. Resist the temptation to hold other CU weekends. A lot of training can be done on a 'one day' basis without going away. You'll notice that the CU staff who serve multiple-CUs often leave your weekends away on Saturday evening so they can get home to meet with their church family... Make it the norm to be with your church family. That requires to thinking about how many Sundays you're away visiting friends and family too - you have flexibility, you could get back for Sunday. God might have you spend the rest of your life with these people so get to know them - and not just on Sundays.
    Commiting to people is a big deal, this is about how you live your life. You can drive in and drive out of church meetings without doing this. Get to know people. Invite them to eat with you, socialise with them, go help them with DIY. Be involved in their lives and involve them in yours. The same approach will give you more than enough time to spend with friends who aren't Christians. Sacrifice your 'independence' and 'freedom' which so easily becomes sinfulness and open your life up to others - be human by being relational. And seriously, there are two ways to get your CU doing mission. One, plans endless programmes, or two, plan some stuff and then just lead by example. The latter is much more enjoyable.

    Serving in church? As a CU leader you are serving your church, by being involved in a partnership between your church and the other churches in the city for the sake of student mission that will build the church. But there might be other ways you can serve. Maybe this year you can't do preparation-heavy youthwork but you really could turn up early to setup or some other unseen practical service. CU leaders have done this in the past and you'd be wise to do the same. Talk to your church leaders to find a way you can serve. Be creative. Serve people by being interested in them .The time question effects your course too, but if you view it as your job and try working like most people, 9-5 you'll easily get everything done and still have loads of spare time.

    Lastly, about how to do your role in the CU. Some people love committee meetings and hold really long ones in which they talk about really pointless things for a really long time. They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee (i.e. a wierd looking thing!). Your responsibilities to lead the CU could probably be worked out in an hour a week (seriously). You're a team who are there to get things done - discuss some things, decide swiftly. Most of the work of a CU leader is about either mobilising the mission team with the gospel so they go with the gospel, or creating contexts to which people can come and hear the gospel. Invest the time that CU leading is going to take in doing those things rather than huddling around in planning meetings, if as a leadership team you lead by example people will follow.

    Know the vision you're being entrusted with - it's a good one that probably doesn't need endlessly rewriting, just get down to implementing it quickly and effectively in your life and for the good of your fellow students, and so for the growth of the church as you take responsibility for the times and places and people God has entrusted to you. You have a great opportunity, we're with you, your church is with you - let's make it count.