That time I was placed on academic probation…

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CCW Spring Retreat ’16

I started my journey of undergraduate work in the Fall of 1998. I was a music education major at Jacksonville University. Music seemed like the one thing I was made to do on this planet. I was excited to start freshman year and have the college experience by living on campus. It wasn’t long, though, that I become disinterested in the academic discipline of music. Going to the practice rooms felt like a cruel chore and eventually, that feeling made going to class in general feel like torture. Maybe it was immaturity, or I just needed a new major. My scholarships were linked to my major so I felt stuck.

By the end of the spring 1999 semester, I heard my advisor say those two scary words: ACADEMIC PROBATION. It wouldn’t be the last time I heard those two words, but the first time was dramatic enough. Probation meant my scholarships were placed on immediate hold. Since I had already taken out a couple of loans, my options were limited as to how I would remain at JU. After it was all said and done, I decided to transfer to UNF – where my undergraduate journey would include many highs and lows (more lows than I am ready to admit) for the next 6 and half years. But on that April day in 1999, I honestly believed my life was over.

This is the moment that every young adult fears: the consequences of your actions being more severe than you realized. Yes, I had issues with JU’s music department, but I knew this was my fault. On the outside, I probably appeared confident and care-free. On the inside, I was reconciling myself to the idea that I had failed at life.

What I needed at that moment was someone to tell me this is not the end. I needed someone to remind me that while these mistakes were significant, they weren’t strong enough to predict my future. I needed someone to reassure me that I could overcome – that I was not the first person to be placed on academic probation or to be forced to transfer because of it. I did NOT need someone to make sure I understood the gravity of my situation – I was already doing a great job of that whether anyone knew it. I needed a unique voice that could speak into my college/young adult experience. I needed a voice of hope that my future was still secure in Jesus; and I found that voice in the guy who was basically my campus minister: Kendall Hunt.

Don’t get me wrong – I have amazing parents who have always cheered me on and they were very supportive throughout my undergraduate journey. I also had strong friendships with other young adults on and off campus. And I had a beautiful church family who continued to create a loving and merciful environment for me. But no one spoke to my life the way Kendall did in that season. Kendall’s job was to pastor college students, and that specific emphasis made his words ring so much louder than all of the others. I got through that season (and a few others) because God sent Kendall to be my college pastor. Years later, Kendall would take me to a leadership conference in Atlanta where he encouraged me to consider pastoring college students alongside my friend (and his future wife) Alison. I don’t think you need a degree to figure out why I told him yes.

I’m starting my 15th year leading ministry to college students this fall. Right now, young adults are driving up to UNF and starting to move in. Others will be heading to Flagler this weekend and JU next week. They are all hoping to have the best experience of their life on campus. But the truth is, some of them will hear messages like “academic probation”, “C grade for the first time”, “you were not accepted into the program” and “the funds have run out.” Friends, I am still in campus ministry because when this happens, I want to be the first person they call. I want to be the voice of hope through the seasons of their college experience.

Some folks think campus ministry is unnecessary – calling it simply “youth group 2.0”. Not only does that diminish the great work of youth leaders, but it also shows a clear misunderstanding of the importance of campus ministry. Ministry to campus students is a unique opportunity where fun and games fill up less than 5% of our time. We are missionaries and counselors who have the grand privilege of loving and leading emerging adults as they figure out where their life is heading. Campus ministry is vital to the continued development of young adults and critical for the future of Jesus’ Church. And I am humbled to work with an amazing team of people as we serve college students on three campuses in Northeast Florida.

Campus to City Wesley Foundation turned 5 in August 2016. As we head into our 6th fall semester, we are stronger and busier than we have ever been. We are convinced that serving college-aged young adults is important for the Church and the world. On Saturday, August 27 we are gonna celebrate all that God has done in the last 5 years and anticipate the miracles that await us in the future. I’ll be reflecting on that April day in 1999 when I thought my life was over and I heard that voice of hope from Kendall. And I’ll be re-committing myself to be that same voice for college-aged young adults for as long as the Lord allows.

5th_Anniversary_Instagram_PostPS Everyone (especially the older than college crowd) is invited to join us for the Anniversary worship night at Mandarin UMC on August 27. For more information, click here.

That time I was placed on academic probation…

CCW, Free Meals, and a Bold Ask

“Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.” – Mark Batterson

dinner2fallretreatIt is amazing what can happen over a meal — especially when the meal was FREE. I have had the most honest of conversations with college students over the last 12 years of college/young adult ministry because we served these young adults a free home-cooked meal with no strings attached. A plate of food turns into a means of grace and the potential for deeper connections. I have seen the power of what can happen over a meal, and that is why I am writing this particular blog post.
CCW (the campus ministry I lead with a great team) is spending the next 2 weeks on an effort to raise $12,000 by Giving Tuesday (December 2). Giving Tuesday is the International Day of giving back. It falls on the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year, CCW is using this special day to believe big for our ministry to college students at University of North Florida, Jacksonville University and Flagler College. The 12K is the budgeted amount that covers the cost of all the free meals we offer at our gatherings and events to college students for the entire 2015 calendar year. If we are able to raise this amount, we can then put more money into scholarships for mission trips and leadership development for our students. It is a big goal, and our students are more than worth the effort.
The CCW Staff (5 young adults all under the age of 35) has already committed to give a total of $614 (related to our key verse, Isaiah 61:4) to get the campaign started. We have also challenged our leadership team of 34 student leaders and young adult volunteers to match the staff’s commitment. All in all, we already have over $1200 pledged. Not a bad start for a bunch of young adults. Our hope is that through word of mouth, support letters and social media, our friends, parents, pastors and others would be moved to join us. It is the boldest step CCW has ever taken, but we believe this is a worthy cause.
givingtuesda1So friends, would you consider joining our effort? I have encouraged many of my friends to consider matching one or more of our student leaders’ pledge ($20/leader). Such a gift will motivate our students to invest in their own ministry. I have asked others to consider donating $220 which is about the cost of a week’s worth of meals at all of our gatherings. There may be some who would consider matching the CCW Staff’s combined gift of $614. Or maybe you could simply give $5. Every gift helps us towards our goal. If you are interested in donating, you can check out http://campustocity.org/givingtuesday.
Thanks for considering this opportunity. Every meal counts because every student counts. A goal of $12,000 over the next few days is a huge one, but completely worth the effort when compared to chance we have to make a positive, Jesus-honoring impact on the lives of college students.
With much love,
Derrick
CCW, Free Meals, and a Bold Ask