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4 Ways Getting Involved on Campus is a lot like Capture the Flag

If you’re like me when I was a student, your spiritual life can be traced in a predictable annual rhythm. It spikes around June as you anticipate camp starting in a few weeks, peaks in late August when you’ve been at camp for a while, and then slowly withers from Thanksgiving weekend until the following spring, when you start to think “should I go back to camp again this year?”

That was my story year after year as I experienced God in such profound ways at camp, but struggled to find genuine, transformative community in my university life. It wasn’t until I met Fiona at camp one summer, an Inter-Varsity campus minister, that this pattern began to change. She invited me to invest in the IVCF fellowship on my campus and I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that her invitation changed my life. I remember what it was like to pray with a friend as she gave her life to Jesus at the end of that year. She had joined a small group Bible study I co-led in her residence because a friend invited her. That year both of us discovered the kingdom of God in a place we didn’t expect – on campus! And my faith was alive in a way that I had never before experienced; so alive I couldn’t keep it to myself.

My prayer for you is that you would discover this kingdom of God on campus, as I did, so that you spiritual life thrives all year long. And, just to help you along the way, I’d like to share some things I’ve learned using a classic wide game we’re all familiar with:

  1. Stepping out of “No-Man’s Land”
  2. No-man’s land is a great place to catch your breath in the middle of a wide game. But you know that heart-pounding feeling that happens the moment your feet step into enemy territory? When you’re no longer in the safe zone? That’s what playing capture the flag is all about – it’s what makes it so exhilarating!
    Stepping onto campus after a summer at camp can feel this way. In my years at Boy’s Camp, I found there was usually a season of “no-man’s land” in the fall when I struggled to adjust to life without my camp community. I felt caught between two worlds: my life at camp where I experienced God every day and my life on campus where I wondered “can God really be found at school?” It’s easy to get caught between these worlds and never make a move – to just wait until next summer when it’s a sure shot that I’ll experience Jesus again at camp. But I learned the hard way that waiting around in no-man’s land is not actually playing the game; it’s just letting the game happen around you. At some point I needed to make the decision to take the risk and plunge into play! So I decided I would commit myself to building God’s kingdom wherever I found myself – familiar territory or not. And this decision was a game-changer for me; I discovered that the abundant life Jesus promises us, which I had tasted at camp, was available to me all year long!

  3. Teamwork Wins Wide Games
  4. Once you decide to cross the point of no return, there’s nothing more satisfying than rallying your team to charge into enemy territory. It’s that feeling when you overwhelm the defence and spread out to search for the flag, knowing that, with enough eyes in play, you’re bound to find it.
    The same is true of our walk with God: we’re way more effective when we work as a team! We are designed for community, so it’s in community that our faith flourishes and bears fruit. I know – it’s hard to imagine you can find friends on campus that will run with you the way your camp friends have. And, yes, it takes time and energy to build community. But there are men and women on your campuses who are running after Jesus together, and you have the opportunity to run with them! Make the investment in a campus community and you will find that the relationships you form – though different from your camp relationships – grow just as deep and just as strong. Because the thing that makes camp community so powerful is not camp itself, but actively pursuing Jesus together. And, let’s be honest, you and I both know we can’t follow Jesus alone. So I urge you, friends: find some teammates on your campus and run with them!

  5. Jailbreak!
  6. Unless you’re some kind of superstar, you’ve been caught and taken to jail at some point in your wide game career. And this is when having a team is so essential – without it you’d be stuck there all night and miss the entire game. When you’re in jail, you need the kind of teammates who will risk their own freedom to rush the jail and set you free.
    Inevitably, we find ourselves stuck in our spiritual life at some point in the school year, whether it’s a season of spiritual dryness, doubt we can’t reconcile, sin we can’t seem to shake or just plain loneliness. Friends, the Enemy would love to keep you in “jail” – in a position where you can’t advance God’s kingdom in the ways you were made to – for the whole year if he can. And when we’re spiritually stuck like this we need help to get free. We need teammates to pray with us, to lovingly call us out on our sin and to challenge us to a life of faith. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have had friends and mentors on campus with the courage to come close and set me free when I needed it. Without them I would have never discovered the kingdom of God in the ways that I did.

  7. Finding the Flag
  8. This is the whole point of the game, and the reason you run breathless though the forest at night, risking an unsuspected clothesline, a rolled ankle or worse, just for that glimpse of yellow fabric glimmering under a fallen log.
    In a really small way, finding that flag is like discovering the Kingdom of God in a place where you’ve been searching for it, not exactly sure where to look, but hoping you’ll stumble upon it eventually. Jesus told a story of a man who stumbles upon a treasure in a field that is so valuable, he sells everything he has in order to buy the field and own the treasure. That’s how valuable the kingdom of God is, friends. It’s worth all that it takes to find it – every minute, every penny, every ounce of your energy and attention.

So, as you look for God on campus this year, I encourage you to invest everything you’ve got in the search. Don’t hang out in no-man’s land, but look for ways to advance the kingdom of God right where you are. Seek out a campus community to run with. Persevere in new friendships and invest deep in the kind of friends that will be honest with you, calling you to freedom and faith. I promise you that there is more of God’s kingdom to discover this semester than you yet know, if only you will get in the game and play!

Kristen Westwood

Kristen Westwood grew up at Ontario Pioneer Camp, where he learned most of what he knows now about following Jesus. Some of you might remember him as “Gusto” – he was a chalet leader and a section head in the Rovers section (shout out!), and also served a summer on the waterfront team. He now lives in Saskatoon, where he works as a campus minister with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, on the campus of the University of Saskatchewan. Since moving out west, he has discovered the value of quality outerwear in -30 winters, just how addicting climbing mountains can be, and that he still loves camp, just as much as when he was a Frontiersman.

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