Your Vision is Too Small

January 20th, 2017

Do you know what irks your principal?

Do students know your story?

How many teachers know your name?

How many parents in the community know what you do?

If you never went to your campus again, would people miss you?

It’s overwhelming to think about reaching a campus on your own, isn’t it?

In the beginning it seemed kind of easy- you sensed the Lord’s calling to jump fully into youth ministry and you signed up to “love on” a group of kids, help them discover who Jesus is and what it means to follow him faithfully in their stage of life, and you rolled up your sleeves. You dove into figuring out everything you needed to figure out- how to send the emails, where to buy the pizza, how to make slides for worship, running a good small group discussion, and how to sit down with a student and have an engaging conversation.

And then one day you looked up a little bit for just a moment, from your everyday duties and responsibilities of running the program, and saw something daunting and maybe even a bit terrifying: the whole campus.

The campus has hundreds and hundreds of students, dozens of teachers, it’s own culture and rhythms, and you don’t belong on it. Not really. At least not in the viewpoint of the campus. You have no formal role, you aren’t a credentialed or hired teacher, you don’t have a reserved parking space, you don’t have a badge or a set of keys or even an email address to send an email from there. But it’s your campus.

Your students go there. They go to classes and interact with the hundreds of other students and dozens of teachers for a big chunk of their waking hours. It’s your campus because God has called you to care for those students, to shepherd their young hearts, to teach them who Jesus is, and to demonstrate for them what life fully alive to God looks like.

It’s your campus because God has called you to love it.

You do the best you can. You ask your students about their classes and try to get a sense for what their teachers are like, what the campus culture is like, what it means to be cool there, and your calendar revolves around its calendar. You pray for the campus, sometimes, and you’ve met the other local youth workers who also have students who go to school there. Sometimes you even spend time on campus. You go to some of the football games and basketball games. You even went to a field hockey game- once. Some of you bring pizza and soda once a week to a classroom during lunch and see your students and a few of the football players who heard about (or smelled) the free pizza and stumbled in. You coordinate a student to share their testimony, or bring in an outside speaker, or share a message yourself, something that you hope and pray is relevant and interesting and engaging. You bring flyers and exchange numbers to send text messages and start following kids on Instagram or Snapchat or Twitter.

But when you walk back out to the parking lot, with a few half-empty bottles of Mountain Dew in your hands and your students loudly walk in the other direction to their classes you get this weird feeling inside of you that’s hard to identify exactly what it is. It’s that feeling that maybe you used to get when you were back in high school- like you’re not sure what your place is, you’re not sure if you’re being authentic to who you truly are, and you’re not sure if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s that feeling that you don’t fit in. And, if you’re like me, you drive away and have make-believe conversations in your head- with your lead pastor trying to justify that what you’re doing is really working, or with one of your outspoken parents who you know disapproves of how you do things compared to the last guy, or with the principal who wants to really know what you’re up to and who you are.

You struggle to see your purpose on the campus, to know what God is up to, to know how to engage and make a meaningful impact, and how to develop a strategy that is clear and effective.

A Vision for Campus Ministry

Here’s the key to understanding why you struggle: everything you do relates to the vision you have for the campus. Let me repeat that: everything you do, every decision you make, every move you make, every event you plan, every game you lead, every scripture passage you study, every text you send, every fist bump you give, every prayer you send up- all of it corresponds directly to the vision you have for the campus.

This is the real problem you’re having: your vision for your campus is too small.

You don’t see what God sees as possible or desired in His strength and authority. You don’t wake up every day with mission clarity about what God is doing, how to join in, and what your next step will be. Rather than keep trying different tactics, or even worse- the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, now is the time to take an honest step back and evaluate reality.

Here are the top 20 reasons why your vision for the campus is too small:

  1. You’re looking through your own strength, not God’s strength.
  2. You don’t understand how God works to reach students today.
  3. Your theology is narrow and whack (that’s seminary speak for crazy).
  4. You haven’t yet really listened to students to understand them.
  5. You don’t actually understand the campus and all of its subcultures.
  6. You don’t understand adolescents and their complex transition into adulthood.
  7. You don’t see how God (and the school) wants you to partner with parents.
  8. You don’t know how to multiply leaders so you can’t imagine ongoing impact.
  9. You only know what other people have done and you don’t feel permission to try.
  10. You need to learn how to develop a vision that is grounded in good planning.
  11. No one is asking or pressuring or expecting you to have a big vision.
  12. Your senior leadership only expects you to maintain the size of your group.
  13. You’re in the wrong role and you don’t have what it takes (just being honest).
  14. You’re afraid of failure, so a smaller vision means you’re less likely to disappoint.
  15. Your gifts and strengths lie more in one-on-one impact.
  16. You have a hard time handling complexity and chaos so you prefer small.
  17. You really need people to like you and don’t like the idea of being misunderstood.
  18. You’re only comfortable in church culture and prefer to stay in the bubble.
  19. You aren’t energized by engaging with lots of people.
  20. You don’t understand your calling yet.

God has a big vision for your campus. He sees what could happen if the Kingdom of God were to come down. He sees the hearts that would be reunited with His, the callings that would be released, the talents that would be developed, the souls that would be healed, the relationships that would be mended, and the cross-cultural barriers that would be torn apart.

God has a big vision for your campus.


Scott Schimmel is a master at helping people grow. As President & Chief Guide of YouSchool, he is responsible for leading the charge, ensuring that everything we do delivers on our mission and vision. After spending over ten years in a non-profit helping college students become world changers, Scott is deeply aware of the challenges students face when stepping into the professional world. This is why he’s invested his time guiding young people.”


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.