Healthy Ministers. Healthy Ministries.

As I talk with others about what I do as an Area Coordinator (AC) with RUF, I often describe the nature of an AC’s work by saying:

“We seek to develop healthy Campus Ministers who will, in turn, create and lead healthy campus ministries.”

But you might then be wondering to yourself, “What does a healthy Campus Minister (CM) look like?” Fair question. In Part 1 of this 2 Part series (the 2nd covering Healthy Ministries), I will take a shot at answering that question.

Health has become a popular word in society these days, perhaps highlighted (though not originated) through the relative un-health of a world recently plunged into a global pandemic. There is obvious discussion around one’s physical health, but you’ve no doubt heard others speak of their emotional or mental health, or relational health, or perhaps even one’s spiritual health. So what do we mean when we say that ACs want to develop healthy CMs? The answer, maybe unsurprisingly, is…YES – all of the above! In other words, we want our CMs to increasingly be ‘whole’ and healthy people, conformed to the image of Jesus who was and is, as we know, the most ‘whole’ human being to ever live. So how do we undertake this work of caring for our CMs, seeking to make them healthy?

First, we seek to develop in our CMs a deep, personal dependence on Jesus. I remember hearing a professor in seminary say that who you most are as a person is who you are when you are alone with God. At RUF Staff Training, we say things like “You cannot give to students, what you do not yourself possess.” Being healthy in ministry means that you are coming to the table of Jesus for yourself first (and often!), before you invite others to His table for the life that He offers. Before our ministers go onto any campus and do any kind of ministry per se, we seek to help them grow in their dependence on the Lord Jesus, as He is offered to us in the means of grace. There is no substitution for spiritual health among those in ministry

We also recognize a CMs need for relational health. The impact of God’s words to Adam in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.” are far-reaching and profound for humanity. The implications of this statement ripple through our need for relationships of all kinds. Being made in the image of a relational God, we are – inescapably – relational people. To put it simply, God has made it such that we need others to be who we were created to be. Though ACs visit their CMs, at most, twice per semester (for intense periods of coaching, prayer, and shepherding) we work hard to create  avenues for deep, vulnerable relationships at various other times throughout the year. Whether it is over meals at Staff Training, monthly zoom calls with other CMs in the area, or periodic retreats and conferences, we are always seeking to provide avenues for relational connection so that our ministers can be relationally healthy.

Finally, it is a sincere goal for ACs to both care for and develop their CMs in areas of self-awareness and emotional health. We want our staff to know (and be honest with!) themselves before God so that they might know (and be honest with! see Romans 12:3) themselves before others – including the students whom they are reaching and equipping. Knowledge of self, of course, primarily comes through knowing God as He is found in the Scriptures (HT: Calvin’s Institutes I.1.i), but it is also comes as we know ourselves in relationship to others, in our vocational callings, and certainly as we experience the myriad of trials that the Lord brings our way. Thus, as ACs, we are called to walk alongside our CMs as they navigate their lives, encouraging and fostering growth in wisdom and discernment along the way. Recognizing that our expertise and focused time with a CM is limited during any given semester, we encourage and further resource our CMs as they work through persistent life-issues in an attempt to grow into greater health.

In all of these respective areas, we are seeking to care well for our CMs. We are trying to give them tools so that they can be healthy as those laboring under the Lord to reach and equip students with the gospel of Christ. And while we can’t guarantee outcomes in ministry (that is, after all, the Lord’s work!), we believe that healthy ministers will create, Lord-willing, healthy ministries where students have a clear picture of who Jesus is, and what He came to do in restoring them to health and wholeness through His life, death, and resurrection.

Brent Corbin served as a CM with RUF at the University of Tulsa from 2010-2018, and has been an Area Coordinator since then. Brent lives in and ministers from Baton Rouge, Louisiana along with his wife Sarah and their 4 young girls. They are happily and actively involved in the life of South Baton Rouge Presbyterian Church.