Author Info: Josh is passionate about studying the Bible and having deep conversations with college students at American University and Georgetown University. In his spare time, he can be found with a book, a video game, or outdoors in a hammock, normally fueled by caffeine. You can connect with him via our AU Chi Alpha Staff Page.

The older I get, the more I realize that I like simple things. 

Simple meals. 
Simple dates. 
Simple technology. 

The last one is big. I love technology. I love being on the forefront of the newest thing, and I love when it is simple to use. Recently I had a conversation with a friend about the new trend towards 3D movies and virtual reality. It is intriguing to me that these things are becoming popular, but that there are many people who stay back from them due to the fact that it is more complicated than we are used to. I don’t want to have to put another set of glasses over my own glasses to watch a movie, or play a video game a specific way. Yes, I know that it is supposed to be more “immersive”, but to me, it is just complicating things that were fine to begin with. I’m only 26, but the older I get, the more I like things to just be simple. 

Simplicity. What is it about simplicity that we tend to be scared of? We live in such a complex world. If you don’t believe me, or if you don’t see it in the news, all you have to do is bring home something from IKEA and try assembling it. 

In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster talks about what seems to be this forgotten discipline of simplicity. He states, “The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.” 

...a lot of times, when we have that much stuff, we begin to let stuff define us instead of letting Christ define us

Moving from a three bedroom house to a studio apartment has taught me a lot about how to live simply. Frankly, there is just a lot of stuff that we do not need. And a lot of times, when we have that much stuff, we begin to let stuff define us instead of letting Christ define us. We are living in a generation that is all about the stuff that we have, and does not find joy in living simply, therefore the identity of this generation is based in what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s not. 

Foster goes on to list ten principles on living simply, and ones that I have found to be very helpful in evaluating the discipline of simplicity in my life. I encourage you to read over these, and implement them in yours. You’d be surprised at how much more refreshing living a simple life can be! (Personally, #5 has had the most impact on me!)

  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
  2. Get rid of anything that is producing an addiction in you, anything you can’t do without.
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
  4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for creation.
  7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.
  8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech. (Matt. 5:37)
  9. Reject anything that breeds oppression of others.
  10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the Kingdom of God.

Published on August 4, 2016 • Short Link:

This post was originally published on Thanks for allowing us to share, Alan! 

If I were in my 20’s again, there would be some practices and disciplines that I would build into my everyday life as The New Young Christian.  I would execute these disciplines regularly that it would become natural for me decades later.  


1.  Journaling. When I became a Christian at 22 years old, I didn't want to forget what God was telling me.  So I bought a notebook and began to write Scriptures down.  From there, I also began to write short prayer phrases down.  From there, it has become a discipline where I don't go anywhere without my prayer journal.  Let me tell you what this was not:  A "Dear Jesus Diary" where I share my heart secrets and talk about what I want in my future spouse.  Nope.  Although that's not wrong by any means, for a dude in his 20's like me at the time, that was not what I was aiming for.  For me, this was and has become, a daily practice where I simply have a blank page in front of me and I ask God to "speak to me."   I write down verses that stand out to me, I write down impressions that I believe God is speaking to my heart, worship song lyrics that "I can't shake" that I believe is the song of God to my season, etc.   Impressions in prayer that seem to come to mind that I keep praying.  God commands us to write what we see and hear and run forward with it (Habakuk 2:2).  I have realized journaling what I see and hear in devotions, sermons, conferences, etc, are "vision reveals" where God pulls back the curtain of his plan to reveal to me who I am, what I'm doing and where I'm going.  I have also developed a part of this habit that I say, "speak Lord" and whatever I perceive God speaking to my heart, I write it down.  This has allowed me to develop a listening ear to hear God's voice regularly and most importantly recognize that voice so when I'm out with others (leading, loving, speaking, encouraging, etc) I recognize God's counsel when it comes (John 10:27).  Because of this habit that I started at 22 I now have a collection of journals that I will give to my son and daughter as part of my spiritual legacy.  My children will have years of journals to see what God spoke to their father not only about me, but our family and about them!  

2.  "Tribing." This is my own word that I use to define and rally those relationships that are meaningful to me, that champion my current season and that dream with me for my future.  Seth Godin, from his book Tribes, says this about these relationships, "A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader and connected to an idea....  A group needs only two things to be a tribe:  a shared interest and a way to communicate."   I break my tribes down into some of the following categories:  Inner Circle (those who I am most real with), Mentors (mature relationships who have permission to speak into my life), Models (who is doing what I am doing ahead of me and doing it well), Timothys (those who I can speak into, encourage and inspire who will outlast me) and The Prayer Circle (those relationships that I can share prayer needs with who I know pray and hear from God), to name a few.  Friendships often start early. And take work. In my 20's, my relationships seem to have deeper meaning and importance to me. I need people who can speak into my life who know me well.  So make sure to surrounded yourself with the right friends.  Let those in your tribe be from all walks of life.  They may or  may not be the people from your 20’s, but be on the lookout for relationships that have potential to inspire you and for you to aspire to be....

3.  Giving. You can never be too early to start giving.  What are those areas of your life that move you to tears, move your heart and go make a difference in your family, community and world?  I have always been drawn to ministries and causes that help those who are orphaned or alone.  Now my family and I have developed and give weekly to our  "Cause Cooperative."  Our family Cause Co-Op funds our personal causes and charities that have an intentionality in developing the heart of the fatherless, orphan and the abandoned.  This includes child sponsorship, monthly cause support and even a generosity fund that we can give from if we encounter someone with a need.  Not only does this allow is to diversify our generosity but the singular cause focus is leaving a memorable legacy for my family that we can look back on that my children will always remember.  I have realized generosity is one of the most rewarding parts of my life.  To own and champion a cause that is close to you and your family's heart will establish a legacy of generosity that starts with you that will outlast you.  Let your Cause Co-Op become a staple in your friendships and family. I highly recommend starting this discipline early before the world and all its demands attempts to take the ability from you.

4.  "IDing." Specifically here I’m referring to understanding your identity by who God designed you to be and living out this identity in the world.  Mark Batterson, mentor and friend to me, has always said to me, "No one can worship God like you or for you."  That means that when you are truly yourself in the Kingdom, that's when the Kingdom of God is being the most complete and most recognizable as Jesus.  There are many versions of me:  the ME others want me to be, the ME I want to be, the ME I don't want to be, etc.  But there is a version of ME that God wants me to be and that's what I'm desiring to become.  This me is not mass-produced like a greeting card in a Target with multiple cards exactly like it, each behind one another at every target in the nation.  No...I'm not a mass-produced creation but a masterpiece creation.  Unique, one-of-a-kind, valuable and ready to be shown off to the world (Ephesians 2:10).  Because I live in Arizona, what it takes to grow a cactus would kill a Marigold.  This is why comparing yourself to others is never healthy.  What you need to make you grow into who God wants you to become is going to be different than what it's going to take others.  Discover your gifts and talents.  Take spiritual gifts tests and see what hits the top of the list and also be aware at what's at the bottom.  Take the Strengthfinders test to highlight what makes you flourish.  And always remember, all of this means nothing unless you start with your identity as a "son of God" or "daughter of God" first.   Start there and see what God will reveal to you about your gifts, talents, calling and place in God's Kingdom.  This discipline of identifying who I am regularly will cause me to be more secure the older I get and the result is a greater confidence to do what God wants me to do.  When you discover who God wants you to be you won't want to be anyone else.

5.  Honoring. This discipline of honoring others is rare.  It seems one of the biggest battles the next generation has to fight against, is the feeling of being entitled.  Now, I think it's easy to make sweeping statements like, 'this generation is entitled' and point the finger at others and not really understand the deep rooted issues.  Entitlement is the belief that I am exempt from responsibility an I am owes special treatment.   I think the best way to battle feeling entitled is to honor others.  Honor says I am going to take responsibility and esteem , give respect and special credit to the other person with distinct worth.  Find those around you who have wisdom,  accomplishment and leadership and recognize what they have done with sincere gratitude.  Most of the time these individuals will be older and have some expression of authority so not only submit to them but pray for them.  Hebrews 13:17 says this about honoring those around you, especially those in spiritual authority,  "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.  In life, there will always be those who will have authority over you and experience beyond you.  Don't be jealous of their position or place but celebrate them.  When you’re young you can be guilty of thinking you know more than you really know.  The older you get, the more you realize how much you don’t know. There is always something to be learned from another person’s experience you don’t have.  The experiences and wisdom from others you collect over the years from honoring others will add value, inspire you and make you wiser.  

Any you would add to my list?

Originally published on June 3, 2016  • Short Link:

Author Info: Stefa Chappell was just named Chi Alpha’s first National Field Director, after serving faithfully in a variety of roles throughout the country. She recently completed her Master's degree, and when she's not taking care of her adorable dog Finn (who has his own Instagram) she's probably out for a run, or searching for authentic salsa. She has a passion for college students that’s unparalleled and has a gift for teaching about stress, rest and cultivating healthy devotional rhythms.

Facebook | | Twitter | | Finn's Instagram | | Stefa's Instagram 

I have found that one of the hardest things about being in ministry (for me now for over two decades) is maintaining my faith.  Yes, I just said that.

The ministry is a wonderful calling—an adventure in walking with Christ that’s a little off the beaten path compared to most vocations.  In being called to full time ministry I have been invited to walk a path similar to the path Jesus walked—dependent on God through His people for my salary, called to serve and lead this fabulous, messy group of people called the Church.  

Online fundraising for Reach the City - 2016

Ministry is not unique in having intense pressures.  What makes ministry unique is that it is so intricately bound with our faith.  If I did not love God, why would I be in ministry?  But the pressures, criticism, unending workload, typically lower pay and higher expectations can have an adverse effect on a person’s spiritual life.  Outside of a daily, protected time with Jesus, there are a few things I have found to help me keep my faith in Jesus central to my life as I endeavor to serve in this wonderful ministry. 

Take intentional time away from the ministry to be reminded that you are first and foremost a child of God.

I was called into relationship with God before I was called to ministry.

Several years ago I took a six-month sabbatical—I was burned out and too young to be that way.  For much of my sabbatical I traveled and stayed with dear friends who just loved me.  Without question, the most valuable thing that the Lord did deep inside me was to remind me that I am first and foremost His daughter.  I don’t think you need to take a sabbatical to learn that lesson (although I think more ministers would be healthier and more fruitful if they did!), but it must be learned.  I was called into relationship with God before I was called to ministry.  I was called to relationship with God before the earth was founded.  That’s got to mean something. 

Have friends outside of the ministry.

My friends are lawyers, image consultants and nurses—they own their own businesses and work at places like NASA and somewhere that has to do with Defense (which I may or may not be allowed to know about). :)  As I interact with my friends we don’t talk much about what’s going on in my job (insert Selah here!).  We talk more about our relationship with God than my To Do list.  I am not the leader in our friendship.  I am a follower of Christ.

Remember that God really doesn’t need you.

The simple fact is that God can do this work without me.  Yes, He wants me to be involved (which is why He asked) and He wants to partner with us mere mortals to see His Kingdom come to earth (and He always will), but He really doesn’t need me to make sure it all happens.  When I keep this in mind I can’t help but respond with gratitude for being a part of this work.  There are times when I literally say to God, “Thanks for thinking of me.”  Gratitude nurtures a healthy relationship with God (or with anyone, really), and that’s a great way to stay Christian in the ministry!

Originally published on July 16, 2014 • Short Link:

AuthorBlane Young

Author Info: A Buffalo native, Natalie Kate "Kate Hill" Hill (of the Modern Nomads) is best known for her unique vocals and indie style. Yet it's her heart for seeing students lives transformed by the power and love of Jesus that makes her a quality leader. She serves on the staff team at American University Chi Alpha. You can connect with her via our AU Chi Alpha Staff Page.

There’s this thing in the church I grew up called Bible Quiz.  It’s probably exactly what you’re thinking, on steroids.  It’s a competition between teams from all different churches where you’re asked questions about the Bible, all ranging in point value.  Some require answers with direct quotes and scripture references (known as “quotation questions”), you can interrupt the question and complete the question and the answer (to beat the other team to it), and the competition is complete with buzzers and strategies on how to hold your hands for the quickest “beep.”  I don’t mean to brag or anything (actually I do),  but my team won first place in the Junior Bible Quiz state competition in sixth grade.  All of that to say, I knew a lot of things about the Bible.

I learned a lot and knew the answers and memorized the facts.  I take great pride in how quickly I can recite the books of the Bible and the 12 tribes of Judah in order.  And growing up in church, people always talked about devotional life, but in my head, I thought I already knew everything I needed to know.  I knew what was in the Bible backwards and forwards, literally.

Online fundraising for Reach the City - 2016

It took me many years to realize how misguided I was.

I think there will always be a season in our lives when we learn that knowing about the Bible and knowing Jesus are not the same thing.  I learned it my sophomore year of college in a season of depression where reciting the 12 sons of Jacob didn’t change the pain or the loneliness.  I knew what the Bible said but I didn’t have a daily relationship with Jesus.  I wasn’t letting the words of scripture come to life and speak hope into my bones.  It took hurting to understand that Jesus wanted to be with me every day, reminding me of who He was to me and how much He valued me.  And that took a daily devotional life, reminding myself of who God was and how the Jesus of the Bible is the Jesus of today.

At a certain point, we can’t be satisfied with where we’ve been.

We can know all the facts, but God wants to bring us to a deeper place with Him.  When I got to college, there was knowledge but not depth.  At a certain point, we can’t be satisfied with where we’ve been.  When we spend daily time with God and in His word, we start to delight in His commandments (Psalm 119).  We start to find hope in our brokenness (Lamentations 3).  We start to understand just how much Christ values us (Luke 12).  We can stay where we’ve been or we can want more.  And we can have a fuller, deeper, more rewarding relationship with our savior.

I keep talking about devotional life because I know what it was like to not have it, and I know what it’s like to have it.  And I could get by just fine for a while.  I could explain my religion with a list of facts, and my faith looked a lot like a to-do list with things to check off and things to know.  I think that’s how the majority of self-professed Christians view it too.  

But there’s more to be found.

There’s a God who longs to give us a hope and a peace and to show us grace.  His laws are there for our good, because He loves us.  He wants to show us this every day.  And He just longs to be in relationship with us.  But like any true relationship, it takes work.  It takes showing up each day with all our baggage and saying, “Let’s be together.”

Published on July 25, 2016 • Short Link:

One of the things that I love about the summer months is that there's a little more time in our schedules (as Campus Missionaries) for personal and leadership development. Well, as I talked to students at the end of the semester, I realized that I kept recommending the same short-list of books in nearly every conversation. So, I thought I'd share them here just in case anyone is looking for reading material. 

Book 1 - Want More? 

Now, I'm actually reading this book with a few students this summer because I haven't read it before. But it came highly recommended to me from a few friends on staff at Chi Alpha at the University of Virginia. Basically, it's a practical yet theologically rich book about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer today.

We have students from dozens of different theological and denominational backgrounds, but I think what Francis Chan identified in Forgotten God is completely accurate. Christians today have a low view or little knowledge about the Holy Spirit. This book does come from a pentecostal perspective and as a pentecostal myself, I do my best to encourage our students to explore this theological topic personally. It's not that I want everyone to believe in the same things that I do, but I'd like for more people (myself included) to build our theology from biblical doctrine instead of from our experiences. It takes time and careful study, but it's always worth it. 

Amazon Link || Want More? by Tim Enloe

Book 2 - The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership 

I know that everyone isn't a John Maxwell fan like I am but what I appreciate about this book is that it provides a basic framework for processing information about leadership. In turn, it allows for people to get a handle on what it means to influence people so that they can assess themselves, have conversations about leadership and identify strengths they have as a leader that they may not have had language to describe. 

Of course, information doesn't make someone a leader (or even a better one) but most college students I know haven't read any books on the topic of leadership and I think this one is a solid place to start. I had a mentor walk with me through the content of this book via VHS lectures from John Maxwell about ten years ago, but I'm looking forward to a refresher course this summer and a chance to discuss the topic of leadership with a few of the guys I mentor. 

Amazon Link || The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell

Book 3 - Habitudes (Chi Alpha Edition)

If you haven't read anything by Tim Elmore, Habitudes is a wonderful place to start. He basically shares a leadership principle and discussion questions based around a picture. For instance, he shares the lesson of the starving baker. And in short, it's describing the person that gives and gives but never takes care of themselves. So, in Habitudes, he has a picture of a sad, starving baker and goes into depth to tell this parable before sharing the principle. 

My favorite part of this book (and the series as a whole) is that the format really lends itself to people committing these stories and principles to memory for the long haul. I used one of the Habitudes books as the curriculum for a small group a few years ago and to this day, I've had conversations with those guys and they've at least remembered a handful of the lessons we discussed! 

Well, just a few weeks ago, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries partnered with Tim Elmore and Growing Leaders to put out a new edition of Habitudes that specifically discusses the leadership principles we hold most dear in our organization. The price is a little steep and I think it's only available in print, but I think it's worth it! 

Purchase Online Habitudes (Chi Alpha Edition) by Tim Elmore & Harvey Herman 


Which one of the books above look most interesting to you? What other books are on your summer reading list? 

AuthorBlane Young