How to Balance Being a College Student & a Young Life Leader

Drew Hill January 10, 2018

One of my biggest pet peeves in college was people saying,“You have the most free time now you’re ever going to have in your life.”

I didn’t like the comment because I sure felt like I had ZERO free time. Balancing leading Young Life and being a college student isn’t easy. 

Below are a few thoughts on how to make it work.

Scheduling Classes

It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but as you lay out your class schedule, also think through your Young Life schedule: club, leadership, Campaigners, contact work, etc…

  • If the best time for you to do contact work at the high school is after school, if possible, don’t schedule a class everyday at 3pm.
  • If your area leadership meets every other Tuesday night, try not to take a Tuesday night class.
  • If your club is Monday night, try not to schedule an 8am class on Tuesdays or a late afternoon class on Mondays.

Saying No To Good Things

When I arrived on campus as a freshman, I was thrilled to discover a ton of other Christian college students. In high school, I felt pretty alone as a follower of Christ, so when I walked into a Cru meeting with 500 students, I was blown away. After the “club fair” I had signed up for FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), IV (InterVarsity), Cru and YL. My weekly calendar was full.

After going through Young Life training I felt the Lord’s call to be a leader. I was placed at a high school that was a 30-minute drive from my dorm room. All of a sudden I was adding a lot of driving time, contact work time, club time, and Campaigners time to an already packed schedule. For a season, I tried to balance school, YL, and staying active in every other Christian ministry on campus. While it might have looked impressive on the outside, I was dying on the inside. I was stressed out, burnt out, and felt like a hamster on a wheel that wouldn’t stop.

Eventually, I had to make some hard decisions and let go of some meaningful relationships. It was painful at first, but I slowly learned that in order to say “yes” to great things, I had to say “no” to some good ones. 
Jesus was never in a hurry.

Be a leader on your OWN Campus

We now have Young Life College on tons of campuses! For some college students with demanding schedules, being a YLC leader makes a lot of sense. It reduces travel time to middle and high schools and allows you to focus on relationships that you naturally have on your own college campus.

Learning to Prioritize

What is more important?

  • Sleeping
  • Planning your club talk
  • Studying
  • Exercising
  • Make a goodwill run for funny skit clothes
  • Spending time with Jesus
  • Being with friends
  • Calling your mama
  • Getting kids signed up for camp
  • Eating
  • Instagramming about club

Make a priority list. Ask the Lord what is most important. Invite the wise counsel of your Area Director, pastor, or mentors. When you put the big rocks in the jar first, the other rocks seem to fit much better.

Honoring God as a Student

It’s tempting to use Young Life as an excuse to not honor God with your studies. I loved being a YL leader so much I wanted to drop out of college so I could just do YL full-time. Thankfully my Area Director discouraged that and reminded me of Colossians 3:23.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if you were working for the Lord and not for human masters.”

He reminded me that skipping class probably wasn’t the best way to reflect Jesus to my teachers and classmates. If God has called you to be a student, honor Him with your studies. Even though Bio labs aren’t quite as fun as eating applesauce through pantyhose, the Lord can use them to shape us into the men and women He’s making us to be.

Using a Calendar

Use a digital calendar that syncs with your phone and your computer. At the beginning of each semester plug in ALL of the non-negotiables first (clubs, leadership, team meetings, campaigners). Then, plan out “contact work,” two weeks at a time (not 1, but 2 if not 3). Every Sunday night, review your upcoming 2 weeks. Get your basic calendar plans in your head. Look for conflicts that may have come up and deal with them by rescheduling the less important things. Living spontaneously seems enticing, but living on purpose is much cooler. (Thanks to Allen Miller, YL AD in Central Virginia, for sharing these ideas!)

Branch Out

“At Ohio State we have a pretty massive Young Life community, and if before you know it your entire life can be consumed by being around similar Christian people if you let it. One of the biggest blessing college offers is the fact you get to meet other people unlike you, and being involved in other things on campus can be something really valuable. One day after college, we will move into neighborhoods and the call of Christ still continues in our work places, communities and neighborhoods. Learning to interact and engage your college community is something really valuable, and sets you up in the long run!” – Brian Krugh

What has helped you balance being a college student and a YL leader? Email us here and we’ll add your thoughts in to the post.

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