We hope you enjoy this edition of our blog, taken from our recent webinar featuring Dustin Jismejian. To hear the full webinar, please listen here.

We invite you to our third virtual workshop in the series that Curriculum Trak is hosting for the school year. We have made it our goal here at Curriculum Trak to find as many ways as possible to support faith based education, and this is one of those efforts. We’re grateful to play a supporting role in your efforts at your school, and we pray that this time will be encouraging and even challenging for you. In this workshop, we have a presentation from Dustin Jizmejian from Summit Ministries. Dustin has spent quite a bit of time teaching and mentoring students who attend the Summit conferences. If you’re not familiar with what they do over the summer with high school students and with college students, be sure to check the Summit conferences out. Dustin will address the topic of students who remain faithful through their 20s. As educators and even parents, those of us who are investing in the lives of children in grade school and middle school and high school have an eye on the ultimate outcomes that we’re trying to prepare our students for, so when we hear stats about how many students leave their faith as they enter university, it can be disheartening. 

I’m just honored to be a part of this. My hope is that this will be encouraging, but there will be times we might have to prod and poke if 70 percent is the number. What can we do to maybe change that, to curb that? And sometimes there’s some reflection that needs to take place on the work that’s ours.

Before we jump in, I want to introduce you to my family. They are a big part of my work and the work that I do. My wife, Ruthann, and I have been married for 14 years. We have our five kids: our son, Rafferty is 12; our daughter, Cosette, is 11; our son Briar is 10; our son Trask is 5; and our little guy is Land, and he’s just turned 2 a few weeks ago. So we’ve got hormones and diapers raging through our house right now, which is fun and enjoyable.

I want to lean into a bit of the work that I’ve done at Summit and the things I’ve observed through the last two decades of working with high school students and early college age students, and the journey and the questions that have shaped my work and my life.

I will say that I’m not an academic by discipline, though I have gone to graduate school a couple times. I’m more of a practitioner. How does this stuff work itself out in real life in the lives of our students? And what are the things that have shaped the content that we do at Summit and our staff training and foundational ideas as we invest in the lives of our students? What do these things look like?

And then lastly, I’d like to look at the work of Dr. Stephen Garber in his book, A Fabric of Faithfulness. The question that Michael talked about was the idea that 70 percent of our students are walking away. And the question that Garber asks is not, Why are students walking away? But what about those who thrive? What about those who don’t just become a casualty or run up against difficulties and walk away, but they thrive through their 20s and 30s, and they build a whole life around what it means to be a Christian?

So I started working at Summit full-time back in 2011. And I was hired on full-time as our gap program director. So we had a semester long program, where students will come from all over the country and live in this Snow Wolf Lodge for three months. There’s no light pollution, there’s no noise pollution, there’s no internet service. It’s 66 acres, three of which are part of a national forest. We’ve had bears on the property. We’ve heard mountain lions, there’s elk, there’s deer, there’s turkey. It’s just wild, but a lot of it is pulling students away from their rhythms and routines to ask important questions like what does it mean to be a Christian? How does this work itself out in life? And as I was leading students in this, I was going deeper with them. I was recognizing as I was living life, having every meal for three months with my family, with kids crying and just living life moment by moment, that there was a deeper level of education.

It was not just about information they knew, but about formation of the whole of life, how what we believe gives way to action. Here are some of the questions they were asking: how does my faith work itself out when I’m in college? and when I’m starting a family? when I’m working, in my 20s, 30s, and 40s? And many students were coming in compartmentalizing their faith. They didn’t see it as a whole. They didn’t see that it affected and influenced every aspect of their life. They saw it as maybe Bible class. They went to a Christian school and church on Sunday morning and Wednesday night. They didn’t see how it affected every moment of their life.

This program really aimed to help them see the importance of solitude and rest and reflection, along with the importance of being physically active and the importance of meals and conversations together as they’re studying philosophy and literature and politics and science and theology.

Our main faculty member at Summit was Dr. Michael Bauman, and he was probably the best educator I’ve ever met. He was a tenured professor at Hillsdale. He passed away about three years ago, but he taught in a very Socratic but militant kind of way. It was very interesting how he taught. He would give the students information. And he would have the students go back and forth and finally they would ask him if they were right. And he would say, “It doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what’s true. We need to begin thinking critically for ourselves.” And he would give them answers at times, but the idea was that it’s not just about the student regurgitating something they heard from a teacher, but actually critically thinking about all aspects of this stuff and not only the style but the substance through examples and questions. He showed that our ideas are connected to our behavior, that the Christian story is not an answer to a question, but a way of life.Slowly, over the days, the weeks, the months, as the students were with us, they started seeing that Christianity was truly a way to live, not an answer to a question.

At Summit, our cultural DNA as an organization is truth and relationships. Our president Dr. Jeff likens it to DNA where there are two sides of the DNA strand. The two aspects are truth and relationships. And each day as an organization, we try to build a rung connecting the two of those in the lives of those whom we serve.
70 percent of young people are walking away from their faith. As Christians, those of us in education, we’re aiming to change that. We want to see the young people that have been entrusted to our care thrive and not be wounded by the world and walk away and leave a wake of destruction in their own lives and the lives of others. That’s what really resonated as I entered into reading Dr. Garber’s book back in 2014, Fabric of Faithfulness. What he does in the book is he doesn’t ask the question, “Why are students walking away?” He asks the question, ”What about the students that remained faithful? What do they have in common?”
And he only interviewed people that were 20 years removed from college, and what he found was that they had three things in common, without fail. If a student thrived in life beyond high school, they always had these three things: convictions, character, and community.

That doesn’t mean if those three things were there, they thrived. But if they did thrive these were always there. And I’ll share the definitions as we walk through how he defined each one of these things, and share stories in between about what it looks like in the context that I have at Summit. But also, I’d like to think of ways in which maybe some of these things can work themselves out in your context.

In our two-week conference that we do at Summit, I’m continually trying to find ways to place these three things before our students, even if it’s in a small way, having them come and taste and see that it’s good. We probably spend our most time on convictions because I think in education that one’s probably the one we have most influence over.

So in terms of convictions, what Garber said was that students were taught a worldview, which was sufficient for the questions and crises of the next 20 years, particularly the challenge of modern and postmodern consciousness with its implicit secularization and pluralization. In fact, they were taught a worldview that was big enough for not just the intellectual questions, but also the crises of life, the tragedies that happen, things done to them, or things that happen externally. Their worldview could handle the trauma and the questions that they had.

I started recognizing that students were not seeing themselves as a part of a larger story. They were not seeing the meaning, the coherency, and the purpose in their life. Christianity was an answer to a question. There was a fragmentation between belief and behavior. Students needed to see themselves as a part of a larger, more coherent story before they get propositional truth or apologetical arguments. They needed to see that the biblical story is actually true, and they can actually find their place in it and it gives meaning, purpose, and coherency to the totality of their life. Many of the students are coming in with what Christian Smith calls moralistic therapeutic deism, where it’s about good and bad behaviorism, or they only go to God when they need therapy because something bad happened, and then they start praying. God is deistic, He’s distant, He’s not really personal.

The other extreme is what I call the Thomas Kinkade view of Christianity. Nothing wrong with his art, but all Christian life is just joy. I’ve got the joy of the Lord and then all of a sudden a tragedy happens and I don’t feel this way. What’s wrong with me? I’m supposed to be happy all the time. When life and the pains and the wounds of this world happen to these students, they don’t know what to do with it because the Christianity that they’ve seen has been all joy and roses and feathers.

There’s a quote by Walker Pierce that I think captures this idea really well: “It’s possible to get all A’s and still flunk life.” And many of the students that I’ve seen come in want to get all A’s. School is true, false, A, B, C, D, but life is more of an essay question, so to speak. And yet, they’re wanting the right answers. If I know the right thing, then I’ll be okay.

I think there’s a lack of wonder and delight at the Christian story. And I love this quote by C. S. Lewis from his essay, “Myth Became Fact.” What he’s talking about myth is probably not our post enlightenment understanding of myth where myth is relegated to fact or fiction. It’s an untruth. The historical meaning of myth of which Lewis was a medieval scholar, is actually just a genre of literature that talks about the origins of all things. It’s not trying to make factual or false statements. It’s just a story about the creation of all things. He says that this is “the marriage of heaven and earth, perfect myth and perfect fact, claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child and the poet in each of us, no less than the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.” I think lots of times when we’re in Christian education, we focus on the moralist, the scholar and the philosopher, but not the child or the savage or the poet. The wonder at the central part of our story as Christians is that God became man. He died and rose again. Is that not the stuff we love in stories?

And many times your students see the Christian story as an answer to a question, not the thing that we long for the most. It’s threaded through the fabric of all the stories and movies that we long for.

In 2021 there was a student at a Summit Semester named Mike. And he was not a professing Christian, but he was asking honest questions, looking for honest answers. And he asked me some questions about Christianity, and the kid knew more about apologetics than I did. I said, “These things are not going to convince you. What you’re missing is a sense of wonder at the Christian story. When you go home, read good stories, read Tolkein, read Lewis, read these things that will spark your imagination.” His idea was rooted only in empirical data. And that’s part of it. but we are mind, body and soul.

There are a few quotes that have actually been really helpful for me as I’ve tried to communicate to students as I’ve leaned into staff training and the content that I’ve curated and both were by Pope John Paul II and it was from an article by Richard Newhouse. It was an address he gave at the Wilberforce weekend back in 2005 or 2006 when he won the Wilberforce award. But as the Pope tells the world its own story, he quotes two things. The first is, he says that “the church imposes nothing. She only proposes.” And maybe to say that in a more Protestant way, Christianity imposes nothing. It only proposes. And it got me thinking, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our positions, but how do we frame it in a way that’s inviting them into something better?
Inviting them into and proposing an alternative to the culture of the world, how they’re answering questions. Like a young man, if he were to propose to a young woman, he would say a life together would be better than a life apart. Can we propose our Christian faith in a way that invites people in rather than coming across as impositions?

There was a small group that wanted to have a meal with my wife and me when we were in South Carolina last year. Usually it’s a girl small group, usually the conversation is about dating or they’re telling me about boys. That’s usually the framework of those conversations. But there was a girl in this small group who was a bit edgy and didn’t look like all the rest of the Summit students. And early on in the conversation, during the Q and A ,she says, “Dustin, I’m a lesbian and I’m thinking of transitioning as a Christian. What do you say to me?”

I’m like, whoa, put on the spot in front of 15 other people! She knows my convictions. I’ve been teaching each morning with our students on the biblical metanarrative and we were near the end of our two-week session. So I decided not to go into those sorts of things, but I said, “I imagine, in your relationships, there’s probably the things that would mark a good relationship, there’s friendship, there’s care, there’s honesty. You enjoy each other’s company. All the things that we would say would mark a good relationship.”

And she said, “Yeah.

I said, “The problem is when we’re living outside of our design, we’re actually capping what God wants to do in our life. We’re creating a lid or a ceiling in this and God wants to blow the lid off and create a life of flourishment. The question our culture is asking is what can I do? We can do a lot of things. Our culture says we can do these things, but the more fundamental question is, what are we for? I mean, I have an iPad. We can do a lot of things with an iPad. We can play frisbee with an iPad, we can skip it across the lake, it can do those things, (maybe just one time across the lake), but that’s not what the iPad is for. And so the more fundamental question that we need to discover is not what we can do, but what we are for, and when we know what we’re for, then it will actually inform what we are to do.”

The other quote that I wanted to mention is, “For every no in scripture, there is always an immeasurably greater yes.” There’s always an immeasurably greater yes. If God is saying no to something, it’s because something better is being offered. Do we as educators know the story of scripture and the nature of God to continually share that immeasurably greater yes? I’m not there, but I’m moving that way and I hope to continue to do so. The biggest area that I think students find the no’s are in sex and sexuality. Do we have something better to offer as an immeasurably greater yes, because what’s going to win over the course of the days, the weeks, the months, the years of the culture pressing on these sexuality things?

As we begin sharing this bigger, broader vision of the Christian faith, when students come to our two-week conference, have these aha moments like, Oh, Christianity can speak to every aspect of my life. It’s not just Wednesday night, Sunday morning, in Bible class, but this influences every discipline, every choice and behavior that I have. Many students have this realization that’s just so invigorating.

What I see with our students as they start seeing that Christianity is for all of life, is they have these realizations: Oh, you mean I don’t have to go into Christian ministry? It’s not a better career than architecture? They are both good and beautiful because they’re serving the Lord. They’re all good because all of it is sacred because all of the lordship of Christ reigns over all things.

But with all of these things, what I’ve recognized is that it takes time to get to that spot. It takes intentionality with the choices of how we spend our time. At Summit Semester, every minute was allocated for different aspects of the program. It was intentionally chosen to hopefully shape and form the whole of the person. They may not have agreed with it, but it was not that it wasn’t done intentionally. It wasn’t a throwaway thing because our time, as I’ve read a handful of articles, is the most precious commodity that we have. Are we being intentional with the time that we have with the students that have been entrusted in our care?

My students come up to me and ask questions all the time. And one of my favorite questions to ask right away whenever they ask me a question, is, “That’s a great question. Why are you asking that question? Of all the questions you could ask me, why that question?”

And I inevitably get a storyof why that question is important, and a window into their hearts. There was a young girl that came to me about five or six years ago. And she said, “Dustin, I have a question. Who are we to say that Eskimos, who have been practicing their way of life for over 500 years, are wrong and we’re right?

When I asked her why that question, she went into her story and why that question was there. And I said, “You probably asked a lot of our other speakers this question. And they probably gave you really good answers.”

And she said, “Yeah.

I said, “But yet you’re still asking the question. Either their answers weren’t sufficient or you wanted more perspectives on the questions.” And so I sat down with her, we chatted for over an hour over a meal. About an hour into the conversation I said, “You started talking about books and your favorite book is Les Mis. That’s my favorite book. My daughter’s name is Cosette.” And I said, “Isn’t this a curious thing? Here you are, an 18-year-old girl, adopted from China and living in Phoenix, and Victor Hugo’s words reached your soul. Here I am, a late thirties white guy from California, and Victor Hugo’s words reached my soul. I can guarantee you there was somebody in Russia in the 1900s who read these same words and their soul was moved as well. And if that’s true, then there must be something transcendent threaded through time, space, and culture.”

And you could tell, as I was talking about this, there was a physical movement from an intellectual question moving into her heart because her question was not about Eskimos in Alaska. As I got to know her, her story was, If I hadn’t been adopted, would this story still be true? Is Christianity still true? Or is it just the social construct in which I’ve grown up? And her question was not only an intellectual one, but more deeply a question of her heart. And when students start making these connections, I think they start engaging culture in a different way.

There’s a really good essay by J. Gresham Machen back in the early 1900s called “Christianity and Culture,” where he drew these ideas out a bit more. But he says in many ways, (this is me paraphrasing it from his Princeton academic way), Christians approach culture in really one of three ways. They approach culture either as chameleons, in that they’re Christians. They attend church Sunday morning and Wednesday night, but there is no difference between how they’re living their lives and their neighbors who don’t know Jesus. There is no difference in how they’re operating, how they’re doing their business. There is nothing different. They are chameleons. They are with the culture.

The second is we become turtles and we shell up inside of our own Christian bubble and create our own Christian artifacts. So we have Christian t-shirts, we have Christian music, we have Christian movies. Not that those things are bad, but we’re doing that as a way to not engage culture, but to create our own Christian subculture.

The third way is that as we have Christians who are seeing the whole of the world, we actually engage culture in that we’re cultural creators. We’re creating cultural artifacts. And Steve Garber says, “Can you sing songs shaped by the truest of truths in a language the whole universe can understand?”

So the ones that are like chameleons are singing songs shaped by whatever we want it to be in a language everyone can understand. The turtles would say, “We’re singing songs shaped by the truest of truths in a language that only the people that understand the truest of truths will appreciate or lean into.” But the third way is singing songs shaped by the truest of truths in a language everyone can understand. So we’re Christians creating music. It could be Christian music. It may not be Christian music, but Christians creating music, much like what Tolkien did with Lord of the Rings. For him, it was, I’m not making a Christian book. I am a Christian who’s writing a book. And that book has his worldview threaded through the pages of it so that people still to this day who are not Christians love it and read it, and they can understand the questions of humanity. They can understand good and evil and fighting for what is good and beautiful and right and true, because that speaks to the deep parts of our soul.

So we have convictions, character, and the community.

What he meant by character was the students met a teacher who incarnated the worldview they were coming to consciously identify as their own. And in that relationship, they saw that it was possible to reside in that worldview themselves. They met a teacher who was living this stuff out. They saw that, in effect, ideas have legs that these things are actually a way of life not an answer to a question. And so in many ways, embodied living starts with us, those of us that have influence and are with the young people day in and day out. They are seeing not only what we’re teaching, but how we are living, how we treat our coworkers, how we treat those who work for us and who we work for, how we treat our spouses, our kids, how we engage in the work that’s ours. Are we seeing our Christianity as a whole, or is it fragmented?

In many ways, students are looking for meaning and purpose and coherency in their life, not the answer to the right question. Does this question actually bring meaning? Can I form my life around this faith?

I remember I was a resident director at Philadelphia Biblical University, now Cairn University, for a year before I took over Summit Semester. The day I was actually packing the truck to move to Colorado, the director of facilities at the school started a personal conversation. We’d had 20 conversations, all of them very work-related, like about the student put a hole in the wall or the toilet’s broken, whatever. They were all that way. But then for some reason, we got into a personal conversation hours before I’m leaving.

And as I’ve reflected on this conversation, I see it as a gift. It was a gift from God that this conversation took place because it was deeply impactful for me, for the work that I was going to be going into at Summit. Because Summit Semester is loosely based on the idea of a kind of a retreat to ask good, honest, hard questions and wrestle through their implications for life.

And the facilities director was telling me a story about how he became a Christian. He said he was stationed in Europe when he was a young man and he had a month-long furlough. And he had heard about this place in the Swiss Alps called the Brie where, if you had questions about faith and life, that was the place to go. So he went over there for a month. And he’s telling me about these conversations he had with Francis Schaeffer and the questions he asked him, and I’m just fascinated by them. And then he said, “I became a Christian at the Brie, but it wasn’t Francis and his teaching that caused me to yield my life to Christ.”

And I said, “What was it?”

He said, “It was Edith and the staff. I saw that this could actually be lived out. Francis was teaching a lot and I just didn’t get to see him as a person as much. But I saw in Edith and the staff that this was actually a way of life and I wanted that.”

Some of our faculty members like Sean McDowell, you know when he’s with us, he loves our students deeply, but he flies in on Sunday night, teaches all day Monday and then flies home Monday night. He’s not with our students. But I say to our staff, “How you are living your life is giving meaning to the words that Sean is saying. You are the legs to the ideas he is communicating.” Our mentors and people can shape us deeply.

So maybe spend time later today when you have opportunity to think about those who have shaped you and mentored you and what is it about them and maybe how to emulate that. As influencers or people in the lives of young people, whether we want to be or not, we are influencing and we need to be ready. We never know the effect of what we say, nor the Lord’s timing with their questions. And so we need to be ready for that because many times conversations happen and it starts with us.

There are two types of conversations that we run into: One is a formal conversation in which we know what we’re getting into, and the other’s the organic one, like I’ve had.

I deal with all the bad students at Summit as well. Everything funnels to me. Any student that does something stupid, that’s like on the verge of going home, they’re in my office and we’re chatting about it in a more formal manner. I remember one time a young boy made some poor decisions. And I said, “Hey, do you know why I’m meeting with you? The question of you going home is very much a reality, and there’s an opportunity for you to own this and not have me confront you with it.” And he did–he owned everything, he was asking for forgiveness, and was just truly broken about it.

I said to him, “But you’re still going home. We afford a lot of trust here and I just don’t trust you to make good decisions moving forward.”

And he said, “But I drove another girl from my church here. I live six hours away and I’m her ride. What do I do?”

I said, “That’s not my problem. Your choices affect other people. And you said you can come back on graduation and pick her up. Because of how you’ve carried yourself, I would be okay with you being present during that event. But you’re not welcome the rest of the time.”

And as he’s packing up his stuff and leaving, he comes up and gives me a hug. He said, “Thank you. I’ve never had a Christian hold their teeth to this. I’ve never had somebody that actually stayed, because I make these decisions at all the camps I go to. And there’s always, ‘Oh, it’s okay. I forgive you. You can stay.’” And so for him, he felt the weight of his choices and the consequences of them. I saw him at graduation, and he came up and talked to me and it was good.

Not all of them turn out that way by any means, but just sometimes those formal conversations can be transformational, but then the organic ones where a student lingers, maybe in a classroom and says, “Ooh, tell me a little more about that.” Then all of a sudden you’re off on a conversation about some pain or struggle that they’re having, and those things matter. And so we as people invested in these young people need to be ready for that because they need to see that this is again a way of life for all of life, not just these momentary compartmentalized times of our lives.

The last thing Garber talked about was community, that these students who thrived in their 20s and 30s and life beyond made choices over the years to live out their worldview in the company of mutually committed folk who provided a network of stimulation and support, which showed that ideas could be coherent across all of life. And so they were living in a community of babies to gray hairs, with people that cared about the things that mattered. It was not just pizza and yo-yos youth-group fun. It was dealing with the wounds and the wonders of what this life is with people who are older and younger, dealing with the questions and the pains of what it means to be Christian for all of life, not just until I get out of the house, but that there is no other way of living.

Some of the ways we try to do this at Summit is we have a position that we call faculty in residence and it’s when we have one of our faculty members that comes out for the two-week session and they actually are a part of the entire two-week session. We pay for their entire family to be a part of things so that the students can see them as a husband and wife or see them as a mother and a father, and see that this can be livable in the next stages of life.

And one thing we’re actually actively looking for is finding people who are retired or in that season of retirement, 50s, 60s, 70s–a couple who can actually serve in the same way as a faculty in resident. They may not teach, but they’re going to be around, immersed in the life of the students, immersed in the life of our staff so they could see all of it. And my family comes to so much, so the students see me teaching in the front, but then having to change a diaper or hold a screaming, teething baby, and the students just see the real stuff of life, and not just this fragmented nature of it.

Steve Garber talks about community as the context for the growth of convictions and character. What we believe about life in the world becomes plausible as we see it lived out all around us. Good community can protect us from apathy and our cynicism about the work that needs to be done in the world, as heavy and as big as it is.

I want to share a few ways that we try to do this both at our summer program, but also our semester long program in a way that maybe it will spark some ideas on how we grow or foster community with intentionality in the rhythms that we have. One is shared experiences, and connected with that is the power of moments. Something we do at semester, but we also do here in our two-week conference and in different liturgies and meals, is a shared experience. A funny story about that happened in my first year at Summit Semester. The director of properties knocked on my door about eight o’clock at night and said, “Hey, I just got an elk. Do you mind if I ask a few students if they can help me cut it out so I can bring it back? There’s a couple hundred pounds of meat.”

And I’m like, “Sure, go ahead, ask some students.” About five of the students joined him. And one of them was this kid named Andrew, who was like a fantasy writer–wore a cape and boots everywhere. Even during sports time, he was wearing boots. And so he goes out with these other guys who are more butchering type guys. Andrew will never forget making that choice. And with that he will forever remember that as a story he tells his spouse and his kids, like the time he stayed out till five in the morning, cutting out an elk in the wild. What an experience for him that he will forever remember and will plant him with the work at Summit Semester!

And I love the book that we read as an organization, The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. They talk about the importance of moments. In that book, they say that when people assess an experience, they tend to forget or ignore its length–durational forgetfulness. They rate an experience based on two key moments. One is the best or worst moment, known as the peak, and then the ending. So at Summit we’re constantly trying to think how we can create these moments to capture when the students think of their time at Summit.

At Summit Semesters, we have work crews where two days a week students will work three hours a day. And many times students reject this at first, like we’re paying $12,000 to be here and you’re expecting us to work six hours a week and do dishes and all these things. But each day before we move into work crews, we walk through Timothy Keller’s book with Catherine Alsdorf and we talk about the meaning of work and that we were created for work, that education is not the ticket to the white collar job., We were created to work and work is worship and work is good.

And what ends up happening over the course of three months in the lives of these students is it’s one of their favorite things that we do because they start recognizing the meaning and the purpose of work. In working together, it creates shared experiences and moments that they have.

Different liturgies. At every school, we all have our own liturgies, like the bell rings, the students know where they need to go; liturgies form habits and rhythms and routines; each school, each program, each conference has its own habits and routines. And here are a few things that we’ve done and that we found helpful in the students. One is the examine, which is from St. Ignatius and we do that actually as a family, going through Ignatius examine. We call it High-Low-Buffalo-Whoa. What was your high for the day? What was your low for the day? What was your Buffalo? (What was something fun or exciting or crazy or weird that happened?) And what was your Whoa, that moment where you saw God in an unexpected way that was just a surprising sunset or a conversation, or where did God meet you today? You could even just have students connect with the person to their right and go through these, just as a form of reflection upon their day.

Another example is confession. One thing we do at Summit Semester at the end of each dinner, is we have about a minute of silent confession where they’re reflecting on the day and the things that they’ve done and the things they’ve left undone. And I have found, as that’s been an incorporated rhythm in my own life, there are things that I forget about that I’ve said, little things like I was too sharp with my son, Lord have mercy, that I would have forgotten had I not had a minute to pause to reflect to confess. So what would it be like, at the end of every school day, the last minute of class if there was a time of reflection and confession over sin done that day or things left undone?

The last thing is just the importance of meals. Meals are so critically important. There was a really good book that Tim Chester wrote a handful of years ago called A Meal with Jesus. And he talks about the power of meals and how Jesus in many ways formed much of His ministry around the meal time. He said that the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. He said the third time that the Son of Man came eating and drinking. He said the first two are missional; the last one is how He did it. It was how He did these other two things. In fact, in the gospel of Luke, Jesus always seems to be eating, going to a meal, from a meal, at a meal–meals were a central part of Jesus’s life.

And so what can the meal times be like that can be formative? We offer a lot of extra time for meals at our student conference, at lunchtimes an hour and fifteen minutes, and at dinnertime, a student theoretically could go from 5:00 to 7:30 without having to be anywhere, which can lead to long, lingering conversations where some rich things can take place. At our semester program we do family style meals. We have all the students sitting at tables of eight. What the family style meal does is it teaches you the serving of one another. Hey, can you please pass me this? It also teaches portion control. You only have eight people at the table and there’s eight pieces of chicken. Don’t take two or you’re going to cut somebody else’s.

So those were the three things that Dr. Garber put out and these are just ways that we have appropriated them at Summit. And my hope is not to replicate that, but for you to take some of these ideas look for ways that you can begin laying before students a deeper sense of conviction that helps them see the world as a whole–the mentoring and the teaching and the embodying of what it means to be a Christian and how do we plant deeper roots in the community when they’re entrusted to our care? And I think there are opportunities that are present all around us if we had the eyes to see and the ears to hear what the Lord is doing.

There’s a prayer called Before Taking the Stage. It’s personalized, but I’m going to make it plural and just read a section as our closing time and our closing prayer together.

We offer now, oh Lord, our incomplete and insufficient provisions, remembering how You and Y our days among us twice blessed inadequate offerings, fashioning them into miraculous feasts that would sustain crowds in their hard journey.

We pray that you would likewise receive and bless and multiply our own gifts, Jesus, for the students who have been entrusted to our care, let our humble elements in your hands become true nourishment for those who hunger for you. And for those who have not yet wakened to their deepest hunger, let our service to them be like the opening of a window through which the breezes of a far country might blow, stirring eternal longings to life.