Who are you cheering for? No, I'm not talking about college football (although the season does start in 50 days). I mean, who in your life are you cheering on? Or what does that look like? I've got a few thoughts. 

Living in the DC and working in campus ministry at an elite university, sometimes I'm suffocated by the amount of competition (while other days, it can be so easy to sucuumb to the temptations of ambition). When I first moved to the city for the DC Chi Alpha CMIT Program, I was looking for ways to serve the students in my small group and others that I'd met on campus. I was a little bit at a loss because these students didn't necessarily have the needs I was familiar with: knowledge, resources, vision. 

Written by Blane Young   Twitter  ||  Facebook

Written by Blane Young

Twitter || Facebook

For several years, I'd primarily worked children and teenages in low-income neighborhoods where the needs seemed to be more obvious. This was an entirely different scenario! 

But as I processed the story that God was (and is) writing at Chi Alpha at American University, I noticed something. It was later confirmed by several seniors as we discussed their time involved in our ministry.

Our community became a place where people found affirmation without competition. 

I don't know if you've ever been in a community like that. I hope you have. But in some ways, I think all of us have at least one person in our lives who is a cheerleader (for lack of a better word). Like, whether you tell them that you're going to a concert or you're spending a year helping children to learn to read overseas, they're excited for you and want to pack you a snack. 

So, how do we do this? 

Like most things in life that matter, it's going to require intentionality. In other words, it won't happen without us putting thought as to how it'll happen. 

I think we have to engage in the discipline of listening, for starters.  I mean, how can we support people in what they're doing if we're only focused on what we'd like to see them do. 

Perhaps you have a friend trying to be an artist or someone committed to a certain cause like Relay for Life. Whatever it is, I'm finding that being an influence in someone's life is more nuanced than simply painting a picture of what you'd like to see them do and asking them to make it happen. 

Instead, it's about supporting them as they pursue their dreams, as their potential leaks out amidst a competitive society, they'll need someone clapping behind them as they run towards doing something amazing. It takes more time than applying a cookie-cutter to people but the results are always better. 

I've got to admit, I'm not the best at this, but I've had a handful of people in my life that have done this for me and I can tell you, it makes a difference. 

The next thing we have to do is find ways to express to this person that we're rooting for them, that we're on their team. So, telling them is a great option. It's strange how often we expect people to know how we feel without ever telling them. It sounds obvious, but how many of us do it? 

Yet there's another level you can take this to. Find ways to engage and participate in the things they're passionate about. 

This is what affirmation, in my opinion, looks like at its best. 

Its people intentionally and deliberately recognizing how God is working in people's lives through their giftings and talents, then simply yet boldly using our voices and our time to let them know we as committed to them as they are to whatever they're doing.

We've probably all heard the cliche, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Although I believe it's true, let's take it a step further. People are most influenced in the context of relationship (see Mark 2) or as I've heard it more recently, "People may not remember what we tell them but they'll never forget how we made them feel."

The last and perhaps most difficult thing it takes to make this sort of impact on someone, is the continual refocusing from self to others. Yet, it's so essential to the message of Christ, we can't ignore it, no matter how many times we failed or how tiring it is.

I hope that you experience the joy and fulfillment of cheering on a friend, loved one or relative. And remember that as you do, you're embarking on a journey to become more like Christ while infusing courage (the definition of encouraging) someone else who's also somewhere on that journey.  

AuthorBlane Young

One day I was talking with a pastor who serves in a community a few hours from D.C.  He casually mentioned that there are about 3000 people who live in his community.  In a split second, it struck me — there were about 3000 people who lived on my street.

At the time I lived in a high rise condo buildingone  building that stood tall like a soldier next to several others just like it.  I knew how many residents lived in my building and did the quick math to discover how many people lived in the few short blocks that shared my same street name.  There are about as many people who live on my street as in his entire town.  Now multiply that by the numbers of streets in my neighborhood...and then the number of neighborhoods in my city.  That's a lot of people on Jesus' mind. 

I dont know if the difference in our communities seemed as dramatic to me before that day.  I dont think that the people on my street are more important as the people in his townbut there are just so many of them.

Written by Stefa Chappell    Twitter  ||  Facebook

Written by Stefa Chappell 

Twitter || Facebook

I have lived in the suburbs, the city and literally off a dirt road in the country, and I have to say that urban living is a bit of a different beast.  One reason for that is the mass of humanity present that sometimes feels squished together in a small space.  There are just an awful lot of us.  And its not just that there are a lot of peoplethere is a high number of remarkably diverse people.  I daily bump into neighbors from different cultures, ethnicities and religionsdifferent in dress, customs, world views, language.  It was like the nations had come to live on my street.  No, the nations actually had come to live on my street. 

The beauty of this crowded reality is that the cross section of this diversity invites us to incarnate the Gospel in so many arenas.  And ministry on any urban university campus shares a similar opportunity.  Take the nations, fill up a small space with them, give them opportunity to learn and exchange ideas, then watch them graduate to dramatically influence their world.  

Truth be told, urban living can be both exciting and maddening.  It's not always easy to live so crowded, and it's ridiculously expensive to live here.  Sometimes we long for open space or silence (or, at least the sound of something other than a siren!).  Sometimes we'd love to be able to afford more square footage for our dollar.  But Jesus called us to be with people in order to incarnate His message.  In the city, there are a lot of people here who can see the message lived through our lives.  

I have to admit it--I'm a city girl.  I enjoy the energy of the city and I don't really mind the sirens (all that much).  Yes, we're crowded but bumping into people simply gives me the opportunity to show some Jesus to them when we do bump.  

AuthorBlane Young

I'm going to be a Dad! 

I swear that I yelled these words at the top of my lungs when Hannah told me that she was pregnant but she insists that I just sat there quietly for ten minutes with a huge smile on my face. Regardless of what actually happened when she told me, I'm ecstatic for this next chapter in our lives. I can't believe that we might actually find out if it's a boy or girl sometime this month and that we'll have a third in our family for Christmas this year! 

Written by Blane Young

Written by Blane Young

I've been fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends that are (already) spoiling our little one and checking up on us as we make preparations to step into this new season. And of course, I get to tell people how excited I am when I get asked the, "So, how do you feel?" question. Which, if I'm counting, is several times a week. Now, don't get me wrong. I like the attention and my kid is quickly becoming one of my favorite topics. 

But every now and then, a close friend or mentor will ask a different question. 

"What do you think about becoming a dad?" 

You see the difference? Maybe it's not a big one, but it does have me thinking. That and the fact that a few nights ago, Hannah and I started creating space in our closet for baby stuff which means that we already have diapers and some toys!

I'm excited for the chance to create family memories and traditions. Now of course, Hannah and I are a family but for all intensive purposes, we were also a couple. As I look back on my childhood, I'm grateful for the intentionality that my parents put into creating memorable moments. At the time, I thought it was normative and even until recently, I didn't realize the time/effort/finances that it cost them but I am so thankful. 

For instance, every Christmas Eve, my family would jump into our vehicle with mugs of hot chocolate and spend hours driving around the city looking for the best light display. Or when I was in high school and my younger siblings were in grade school, my Dad would play chess with us every night within five minutes of arriving at home. Or how my Mom would pray over us and talk about the armor of God each day before we went to school. 

All of these experiences are small but they were continually repeated and made an impact on me. 

Realizing that money is pretty cool, but you don't actually need a ton of it. I came to this thought because I thought back to all my favorite memories growing up and most of them took place before my parents had really made it (financially). Of course, I loved going to Disney when I was around seven years old, but most of the fondness I recall today had to do with the people around us at various times in my childhood. Neighbors, church friends and extended family. 

I'm looking forward to raising a son or daughter that thinks that spiritual and deep conversations are normal. Like most things in life, we were recipients of someone else's actions. And in this regard, my parents did a great job! It wasn't one big moment, but I remember hearing them talk about the message at church, having family meetings to discuss important obstacles or changes, asking us questions about what we were learning and taking the time to pray together every night. 

I have a lot (okay, maybe just a few) more thoughts but those are the ones I've been processing recently. As I've said before, I feel that it's a special privilege to raise a child in an environment like Chi Alpha. And I'm not just talking about the possibility of free babysitting (although that's nice) but instead, the chance to grow our family in the context of a loving community. 

AuthorBlane Young
Written by Kristin Caldwell

Written by Kristin Caldwell

I chose the college that I went to because it had a graphic design major and a Spanish minor. My plan was to somehow incorporate graphic design into mission work somewhere in Latin America. It didn't take me long into my college career to realize that perhaps I didn't enjoy graphic design quite as much as I thought I did. Certainly not enough to pursue as a career. And so I decided to change to photography, which I thought would be different. However, two years and a third major later, I was in my junior year and again feeling as though I still hadn't arrived at the right fit. 

Eventually I settled on Family and Consumer Sciences, which I chose before I even knew what is was. It’s the conclusion that I arrived at while praying with and receiving suggestions from friends. Upon doing some research, it did seem like it might make sense in mission work even though I didn’t know at that point exactly what kind of mission work I wanted to do. When translated into something people have actually heard of, Family and Consumer Sciences means Home Ec, or how to run a home. I didn’t know how exactly it would apply, but I figured it would at least be more relevant than graphic design.

The type and location of ministry that I'm doing now is a lot different than I would have expected going into college. I'm still trying to figure out how exactly my major relates to campus ministry. There are areas where it sort of applies, but nothing much more than that. The classes that do seem to be the most relevant for ministry were the ones that I took for fun—such as Basic Counseling, Jewish Literature, and Sacred Books of the World.

Perhaps more than anything else, my major taught me skills that I can use as connection points with students. Some of the skills that I learned in my classes have become hobbies, and that kind of thing can be used as things to do together. Perhaps things like cooking and sewing together aren't specifically discipleship, but they are ways of having fun, connecting relationally, and building community outside the normal setting.

One other super practical class I took was called Relationships and Personal Development. This class focused on learning how to empathize, communicate feelings, and resolve conflict. These are all super relevant to skills to have in ministry and life in general, and I think that they have helped me become a better communicator.

My degree isn't the most relevant in terms of traditional employment. I'm still very much trying to figure out why I felt like this is where God wanted me. So far it’s provided me with opportunities to build community and tools to use in communication, which are both super applicable in ministry. I'm excited to see how it continues to play out in what I am doing now and in the future.

AuthorBlane Young