All too often when I meet people and tell them that I work with students, they quietly question my sanity and then follow it up with a simple statement like, “God love you.”  If you work with students, I know you have had similar experiences.

I recently had the privilege to work at the Orange Conference where Reggie Joiner spent some time talking about the concept that we are all “losing our marbles” (Losing Your Marbles / Playing For Keeps  I would never be able to do it justice but here’s a quick overview of the concept.

In Reggie’s analogy, marbles represent time, and in ministry, one marble = one week.  I work with students at my church and the small groups are set up in a “graduated system” which basically means that I move up with my girls through their High School career.  If you figure, on average, we have 40 weeks in a year to interact with our students, then there are approximately 160 marbles in my jar when I get a group their 9th grade year.  This really makes a great visual of just how limited our time is with our few.

This became all too real to me when one of my girls (who is now a senior) and her mom came by to check out the Orange Conference while I was working.  I wanted to catch them up on things a bit so started to explain the marbles concept.  I looked at Hannah and said: “for instance, Hannah – I only have 4 marbles left for you”.   Yep… that definitely caused a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat.  And then I looked at her mom and saw a couple of tears slip from her eyes as she realized how few marbles are left in her jar as well.

Tracking the marbles in my jar helps me understand that every Starbucks visit, every late night text or phone call, every random dinner and every scheduled small group meeting is valuable time that I can’t get back.  It encourages me to recognize that each opportunity I have to invest in my girls is precious and needs to be intentional, relational and authentic. It reminds me that each marble represents an opportunity to show them the consistency and love of our Heavenly Father.

So… when I tell someone that I work with students and they say I must be crazy, I can honestly respond, “well, I guess I am losing my marbles”.

How do you make the limited time you have with your students count?

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Kristie McCollister

Kristie has worked with students for 25 years as a director of student ministries, a small group leader, a Sunday coach, or a coach for student sports teams.

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