Sometimes I feel like working with college students is like trying to be with a group of people with a big dose of collective ADD. They seem to... "squirrel"... get easily distracted by the next thing that comes running along, and have a hard time focusing on the important things of life.
But before we get too perturbed with this reality, reflect on the nature of students' lives. They are pretty new to flexing their independent muscles and are learning a whole new skill set of handling a budget, paying bills on their own, balancing a bank account, buying a car, finding a mechanic to fix my car, developing new social networks, adjusting to a truly crazy schedule, finding and holding a part-time job, shopping for groceries, the tedium of studies, the daily grind of school, handling ornery profs and flaky roommates, and on and on and on.... It is easy in the daily demands of life to have Jesus squeezed to the margins.
Classes, writing papers, attending labs, and studying for exams are demanding tasks that require a good deal of thought and ingenuity in accomplishing, since this is not exactly a 9-5 job with a boss telling you exactly what to do and when to do it. And then there is social life and having fun, and this can really be distracting to the spiritual life. Parties, movies, weekend activities, hanging out, connecting via iPhone, Twitter, and Facebook can end up taking lots of time and distract a student from investing into the hard work of the interior life.
It seems to me that one of the best ways of handling this reality of working with college-age people is to model what it means to live the Christian life for them. We reproduce according to our kind. If we ourselves are forever changing and chasing the next shiny thing that comes along in ministry, and/or complain about our own schedules as if there are not enough minutes in the day to accomplish God's will, perhaps part of the distracted life of a student comes from, well, us.
Most of life, frankly, is lived in the mundane. How we live for God day in and day out, through all the details and tedium, speaks volumes to those for whom we minister to. Establishing solid spiritual patterns of life can be hard for adults - how much more for college students?
--Are we living in a consistent rhythm of life that reflects our most precious values?
--Have we learned to practice the presence of Christ in the mundane activities of life?
--Do I have healthy patterns of work, rest, and play that students can emulate?
One of the best ways of speaking into the life of college students is to show them what it looks like to live for God. I often do this by simply taking a student with me wherever I go, whether it is to the grocery store, a doctor's appointment, or getting the oil changed in my car. Not just bible studies, church, and large group meetings, but the mundane activities of life are our classroom, and the lab for which a student comes to know to be engaged, not distracted, with God in all of life.