Most little girls enjoy playing house or pretending their dolls are getting married and having children. Not me! I pretended I was a doctor, a teacher, a scientist, an explorer, or a minister. On the rare occasion I played with dolls, they became my students or a church congregation. I remember stealing our family devotion book, sneaking into my room and reading the devotions as if I was preaching a sermon to my row of dolls. It was one of my favorite things to do, but it was always done in secret.
In the small farm town where I grew up, women were to have very little to do with ministry outside the kitchen and young children. While I never remember my parents teaching me this, our church seemed to have a way of making sure I was aware and that I was to be quiet in the process. I had a habit as a child of asking questions, lots of them. Most of these questions were met by reprimands and never answers. So I quit asking…out loud anyway.
By the time I went to college, I had convinced myself it wasn’t acceptable to ask questions and I could never do ministry, so I would be a teacher. As I studied music education, I found myself becoming incredibly successful in the classroom but increasingly drawn to this childhood dream of being a minister. Years of questions stored away in my mind could no longer be silenced. After all, asking questions, searching for truth and discovering who you want to be are critical points of development for any college student. It can be an incredibly difficult journey for many.
In my first few years of college, it became very clear that God was calling me into ministry. I had no idea how I would call home and tell my parents I was going to do something that simply wasn’t acceptable, so I didn’t. I continued to pursue my education degree and basically told God I could never do ministry. It wasn’t a very easy road.
During my junior year, I joined some friends that were starting a college ministry at our church. Serving in that ministry made it incredibly difficult to ignore what God was calling me to do. In a moment of rare courage in my senior year, I called my parents and told them I was going to go into ministry. The call went much better than I had expected. I changed my major. I started a great internship at our church, which would later turn into a part-time position. I graduated with plans to move into a full-time position at the church.
A few days after graduation, I arrived at the church office only to find that there were no funds for the full-time position and my job would be terminated at the end of the week. I was devastated. The next several years were filled of even more questions and lots of waiting on God. I became a band director, a job I really did not enjoy. My ministry now took place in the four walls of my classroom. Most days it felt more like a prison. God and I had several intense conversations during these years.
After a couple years of teaching, I received an e-mail from Impact’s executive director stating I had been recommended to him as someone who would really enjoy campus ministry. I met with him only to inform him I wasn’t interested in campus ministry but rather student ministry, referring to middle school and high school students. A year later he e-mailed again asking if I would join him and a prayer team for lunch because they were going to be starting a campus ministry in our area. I reluctantly agreed. At that lunch a few people on the prayer team asked if I would go pray with them at the University of Notre Dame. How do you say no when someone asks you to pray with them?
My bad attitude and I went to one of my favorite spots on Notre Dame’s campus to listen to God. Approximately ten minutes of complete silence passed and I had a conversation with God that went something like this.
God: Sarah, what have I called you to do?
Me: Student ministry! Could we get on with it?
God: I was just wondering, how many students do you think are on this campus?
Me: Oh…okay, I’ll consider college ministry…I guess.
Less than two months later, after many questions of course, I accepted a position as an Associate Campus Minister on Impact’s South Bend, IN team. My campus ministry journey has been amazing, not always easy, but amazing. I stand in disbelief that God has chosen me to be a part of such a vital ministry. I am humbled at the opportunity I have to partner with CCTO to reach college students at CLU and other local campuses. Most of all, I’m grateful He loves me so much He graciously answers my questions.