There’s major road construction happening near my home. While driving along this obstacle course of a road recently, a sign caught my attention. It was flashing the warning, “Proceed with caution!” every few seconds. I thought to myself, Has that sign been there for the past few days or is it new? Had I completely looked past the sign and proceeded with no caution on this path that seems to change every day?
For those of us leading college students and young adults, these “proceed with caution” warnings have several important meanings for us. We can’t look past them, but we also can’t allow them to stifle us either. There’s too much to experience along the journey with college students and young adults for us to turn back and not proceed.
Leaders have an incredible opportunity to pave the way for those within our ministries. The ways we interact with the “proceed with caution” warnings will give those we walk alongside the confidence to either proceed or stop in their tracks, not placing trust in God who’s calling them to make a difference in this world.
Here are three thoughts about how we “proceed with caution” as leaders of college students and young adults.
1. Acknowledge that there are dangers on the journey.
One of the disservices we could offer our college students and young adults is not acknowledging that there are dangers along the journey. There are things that can take our focus off of what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus. Some of these things don’t necessarily look dangerous, but they’re subtle ways of getting us off track, which can lead to dangerous situations. When we become obsessed with success in our careers, when we allow a significant other to become more important than Christ, when we allow our lives to be consumed with things about ourselves and forget to give thought of helping others–all of these things and more can lead to a life that’s more focused on sin than on living an abundant life in Christ.
How can we help our college students and young adults acknowledge that there are dangers in the path? We must continually emphasize the necessity of dwelling in God’s Word. A life that’s proceeding with caution takes seriously the importance of Scripture. In our own lives, we must take seriously the words of Paul in Colossians 3:16 and “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” When we model a lifestyle of placing priority on God’s Word, we face the dangers of the journey head on.
2. Don’t allow the “proceed with caution” warning to keep you from proceeding.
Fear is something we all deal with in some way or another. There may be a fear of failing, a fear of being in front of others, or a fear of…fear. These “proceed with caution” signs are put in front of us to warn us and make us aware of possible difficulties, but they aren’t put there to convince us to stop or turn around and go the other way. Notice the first word in the sign – proceed. Opportunities will come before us along the journey that will take some time and consideration. We have the opportunity to model for those in our ministries a trust in God who understands the journey and has already prepared us for all we’ll face.
Will there be warnings along the way? Absolutely. But should we trust the Lord in providing the funds for that summer missions experience? Proceed. Should we be willing to start a new aspect of our ministry to reach more young adults? Proceed. Don’t let the “proceed with caution” sign keep you from proceeding. It’s simply a reminder that we can’t do it alone. There’s a constant command for us from Matthew 6 to “not worry.” When we worry along the journey, we are not proceeding with trust.
3. Celebrate the journey.
There may be some twists and turns along the way, but we must acknowledge that it’s through the power of Christ that we’re on this journey. Celebrate that we can find our hope in God who never lets go. Oftentimes, we get through the dangerous situation and never celebrate the journey or give acknowledgement that it was done with the caution and trust going hand in hand. Don’t forget to celebrate once the “proceed with caution” season is complete.
Leaders, we have an incredible opportunity to walk alongside those in our ministries, helping to prepare them for the next “proceed with caution” season of their lives. Proceed well with God’s call.
Mark Whitt is a collegiate minister with Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Connect with Mark via Twitter.