Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
The first phone call was from a student who had just finished her junior year of college. “Do you know of any Bible studies for students who are home for the summer?” she asked.
For several years, I had served as a small group leader with the youth at my church. I also volunteered to chaperone the teens on summer mission trips and coordinated fall retreats. I even stepped in as the Interim Youth Ministry Director for a full year while a search committee sought the perfect candidate. But at the time of the phone call, I had not been involved with the youth for a full two years. Why was she calling me?
The second request came from a parent. “Are you planning to hold a Bible study for the college kids who are home for the summer?” She had two children who were eligible.
I had supported a summer college study in past years, but I was not the instructor—just a volunteer. I started searching websites of area churches and made a couple of phone calls, confident that I would find a college opportunity for these three interested kids. After all, it wasn’t my responsibility to run a summer Bible study. I don’t even have any college students of my own—heck, I don’t have any kids at all!
When the third call came from the Youth Ministry Director at my church, I had an answer for him. “The churches in this area don’t appear to be offering anything for the college students this summer, so I think YOU should run something. You can even hold the gatherings in my backyard.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love these kids and have been privileged to watch many of them mature in faith from middle school to high school. But I am not seminary-trained, and I feared I might not be able to meet their spiritual needs. I also worried that no one would show up. After all, there is nothing worse than throwing a party that no one attends. Finally, there were things I wanted to do this summer, and committing to this endeavor would affect my schedule.
Then guilt set in. I decided to make a deal. I called the college sophomore, the mother, and youth director and told them, “If you can guarantee me five students each week, I’ll do it.” Certainly, I thought, if a college Bible study during the summer is that important, someone will be able to meet my quota.
A week passed. Then two. The end of June was approaching, and no one had called me back. Well, I thought, that’s the end of that!
It was the last Sunday in June when I sat in the fifth row at church and felt a pang of conviction. I was being disobedient. God had placed three very distinct and separate people in my life to ask me to do this thing, and I wasn’t complying. Instead, I had looked for Bible studies at other churches, tried to excuse myself because I wasn’t a parent, and encouraged the overworked youth director to take responsibility. I had done everything but run to Tarshish to avoid God’s call. (See the book of Jonah.)
When service ended, I turned around to discover five college-aged kids sitting behind me. (What a coincidence!) Without thinking, I said to them, “I’m going to teach a five-week Bible study for college students, starting this Wednesday.” Then I asked them to spread the word. “Tell your friends to bring an outdoor folding chair and their Bible.”
What was I doing? Wednesday was three days away and not one of those five college students agreed to come—only that they would tell others about it. I had no idea what I would teach and, worst of all, I hadn’t even confirmed this plan with my husband! (Right now, I was failing Marriage 101.)
But here’s what I know about God—His purpose will prevail.
I entitled the first lesson, Who Can You Believe? Not entirely sure I could answer this question myself, I turned to the experts. According to a Pew Research Study, 48% of people under the age of 29 are less engaged with the news than older adults, less sure of facts, and less knowledgeable about a wide range of national events and issues. This younger generation consumes news in soundbites which run wide, but not deep. My plan was to have the students compare this finding to the Bible, which runs deep as well as wide, and discuss the extent to which we could believe and trust scripture.
Wednesday came, and so did the students. First two, then six. Soon there were ten. By the time I started the lesson, there were fifteen—many of whom did not know each other. But in true Christian fashion, they all mingled and made new friends. I even had to split the group into smaller groups to facilitate discussion. What a gift!
Throughout July, I taught four more lessons that I entitled What is Truth?, The Prophets on Jesus, The Bridegroom and the Bride, and Discerning God’s Will. I ended each lesson by asking the kids to share a takeaway with their group. I was blessed to overhear some of their revelations: “I didn’t realize Roman law was so different from Jewish law.” “I never really thought about the fact that the books in the Bible corroborate each other, unlike the Quran and the Book of Mormon, which only had one author.” “There is so much symbolism!” “I’m rethinking my understanding of God’s will.”
Apparently, I did have something to teach these kids and, apparently, God had something to teach me: Nothing is more important than doing the will of God. As Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
I believe it is the responsibility of every Christian to speak the truth of Christ into the next generation. Having no children of my own does not exempt me from this mission. God therefore blessed me with 31 students this summer, with an average of 15 participants each Wednesday. I found myself looking forward to their arrival, enjoying their presence, and praying I made a positive impact. Though this wasn’t a gig I sought, I am grateful for God’s provision, which helped to strengthen my faith and make my summer most rewarding.
Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. (Psalm 119:33-35)
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS Where You Are by Run51.
Lyrics: “I’m letting go of the plans that I’ve made. I give it all, I give you all of my days.”