Welcome to Part 4 of ‘A Guide to Life at BSSM: 2013 Edition’. Let’s recap:
Part 4: Bethel: Relationship Powerhouse, Relationship with God, Revival Groups, Small Groups, Spiritual Parents, Being Social, Dating
This is obviously a multi-faceted and far-reaching topic, so what am I trying to say in this part of the guide?
I want you to walk away with a better understanding of how relationship is seen in a general sense at Bethel, give some examples, and then give general advice pertaining to specific types of relationships.
Bethel: Relationship Powerhouse
Bethel is a church founded on relationship and honour, and so is BSSM. Let’s compare this to a university, which is governed by rules. At BSSM, if you are late on a financial payment, they meet with you and work out a plan. At a university, they simply kick you out. At BSSM, you are known to the staff by your face and name. At a university, you are known by your student ID.
In general, BSSM is more like a family than an institution, with Kris & Kathy, Bill & Beni, Danni & Sheri, your RGPs, and many others acting as parents, while the students are like children.
It is important to learn that everyone is different, yet we are all people. In the same way, everyone is given grace differently, but are asked to follow the same rules. Here’s an example:
Ruth is a student who didn’t read the guide and now lives way out of town without a car. Because of this, she is often late to class. Sven, however, did read the guide, and got himself a bike to make sure he can get to class on time.
While Ruth and Sven both have to get to class on time, Ruth will be given some more grace about being late, given her situation.
Now, don’t misread this and think your situation can exempt you from the rules. Ruth will be in for a confrontation if she doesn’t work on her problem. But BSSM is more interested in seeing you succeed and grow past your problems, than discarding you for having them.
So what kind of relationships will you run into here?
Relationship with God
This is the first one, and the last. More than anything you are here to cultivate a relationship with God, and he’s there (well everywhere) to do the same with you. To any of the social butterfly types that are reading, remember to put God first. Part 3 has some great points on making time for God, but generally your mornings are free, so use them for God!
Ok, now human relationships.
The revival group was an idea from Paul Manwaring, to help keep the family feel of the school’s students as the school grew. Treat yours like a second family. Every week you have the privilege of meeting and growing with these brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents. I think of interns as big brothers and sisters.
Staying close with your revival group is a key way to staying in the body, to finding support, and to finding fellowship. You make friends with people you spend time with, and when you spend time with a lot of people, you don’t miss the ones that are not around. So go to your revival group and connect with your family because, sadly, you probably won’t be missed if you don’t.
Life Building Tip: Use RG time to get to know someone you haven’t met before; and non-RG time to strengthen relationships you have already started.
The tight, inner circle: small groups are your accountability group, your confidants, and your stalwart friends. Whether you are a group of guys, or a group of girls, make sure to meet at least once a week.
Life Building Tip: Our group always could have used more time. Meet at other times to activate yourselves, or discuss/share life that may be beyond the topic of the week’s discussion.
Being a spiritual parent means different things to different people. I was not a spiritual parent myself, so I asked two couples for help with this section. Thanks to my own parents, Jon and Kathleen Lenton (class of ’12), and Momma and Papa G (class of earlier) for their help. In both cases, most of the conversation was from the mom, and I’ve paraphrased and distilled to help with the flow.
Q: Were you asked directly or did it just happen organically; and would you have had a preference?
J&K: Both, but more asked straight up. Being students ourselves, we preferred being asked directly. It was a DTR (define the relationship) moment right away, and gave us more access and input to the student; because we’d been invited. Either way being a spiritual parent is an honour and a joy.
G&G: Just let it happen naturally! God knows which students He will highlight to ask you. That has happened a lot; in conversation someone will just ask, “will you be my mom?” God is so good! He brings those connections together in His timing.
Q: What does/did being a spiritual parent mean to you?
J&K: It was different for each student, it depended on what their need was.
Ask them what their expectations might be. For some it’s praying together and occasional encouragement. For others it was regular coffee dates and mentoring. Some students want more connection than others, and asking shows what they are hoping to gain. You can make a decision if that’s something you can offer.
We discovered at the end of the year that one young man, had been blessed and comforted just knowing that we were there in the same seats every day. He offered an emotional thanks for helping make him feel safe. (I had never met him!) For another student, sitting together in class was huge for her. Just being a physical presence, a comforting back rub and feeling part of a family was what she needed.
It makes you realize how easy it is to give love and give life. As a natural parent, it is really an extension of your established identity.
G&G: It is not as time consuming as some might think. You can have them over for dinner or go for a walk. Have them join you for something that you are going to do anyway. Invite them to sit with you at church; save a seat or two and see who the Lord brings to sit with you and then have lunch together after church.
Most of the students we have relationship with (from 20’s to 80’s) just like knowing that you are there. Knowing that they can call or visit, borrow a book, ask a question, or run an idea/thought by us. Usually these are fairly quick and always interesting.
Q: How many children did you have?
J&K: Twelve (12) close ones, and twenty (20) that just needed occasional encouragement. More for Jon who was more available and present at many off school events (I homeschooled our daughter.) He connected to varying degrees with several dozen young people; he loved it!
G&G: We have now been a part of two RGs that we can say call us Momma & Papa. It’s possible over 250 students of all ages call us their California/Bethel parents.
Q: How do you keep in contact with your spiritual children after BSSM? How often?
J&K: Very often on Facebook, but also with Christmas cards and Skype. Reaching out to your parent is your best bet.
G&G: Staying connected is challenging, but the ones who really need a connection will be intentional about asking for time together. No matter the reason those times are really special.
Staying in touch by text, email, or Facebook is great for the ones who are back in their homelands. The ones who are still in Redding we may see in a church service or in the community. You can see the change in their countenance! They may take a moment to share a testimony and we will celebrate with them.
Advice for Parents?
Stay open to the possibility: It’s a very enriching experience, an opportunity to grow and give, to love on people in a time when there’s so much change. It was a surprise to discover that it was much easier than I would have thought. Just being real and ‘soft’, your heart turned towards them, is really all that is required.
Manage yourself first: Whether it is your time, your money, or your spirit; you have to manage yourself before others. Know how much time you have to give, especially if you are a student. It’s supposed to be a fun thing that adds to your experience, not a drain.
You should find someone you yourself can connect with, even if you are an older student. At the very least, a peer group of similar life experience (married, children, job, retired, …)
Have good boundaries: Know how far you are willing to go for a son or daughter. If you cannot keep that level of commitment, don’t accept the responsibility; again, ask how much responsibility is being asked of you before saying yes.
Advice for Kids?
Be intentional: Tell me! I’ll pencil you in! You matter! We will have coffee, a smoothie or a walk’n’talk!
Seek God on who to approach: Don’t just look to the nearest parent-figure. The relationship should be life giving for all concerned. If you ask someone and they turn out to be broken or have a lot going on, you are not committed to this connection, be released. If something arises that should be brought to the RGP’s attention, then as a parent make sure it is. As Danny Silk would put it, “are you going to tell the RGP, or would you like me to?”
J&K: In hindsight, some of those relationships [with our children] are the ones that hold the most meaningful memories from our time at BSSM. It is an honor to be invited into someone’s life and break off pieces of your own to help them on their journey. It’s humbling to have strangers see value in what you have to offer.
The response of their natural parents when we met them, was one of overwhelming gratitude, for us to have loved on their kids. It caught us off guard. It was cool that they didn’t feel threatened, but were rather encouraged and thankful. It feels good to know other people think your kids are amazing!
G&G to parents: We have found in God’s economy love and get more love back, bless and you receive more blessing, give and receive abundance, it’s the way of the King. So I would say to those couples that are thinking about doing what we do, start small and bless two or three students and then see what God does to your heart.
G&G to kids: It means the world to us that you would invite us in to your life! Humbled that The Lord put us together. He knows what we have to share with one another. So many times He knows exactly what is needed at the right time!
There are no great mysteries here, it boils down to being available and being open.
Be around: Hang around after class, get there early, make a point of talking to someone new. Same goes for church.
Start early: The start of the year is the best time to meet people because nobody has anything to do yet; so everyone is willing to hang out as long they’re willing to take a chance (see Be Optimistic).
Do Your Homework: Amazing how this keeps coming up, maybe because it’s important. Get it done early so when opportunities come you have the chance to take them and aren’t stuck at home. Or you can kill two birds with one stone, and:
Start a study group: Even calling a friend over to do homework in the same location is great if you are a quality time person; and talking through an idea is essential for external processors.
Keep an open mind: Never roller skated before? Try the rink. Not a fitness guru? Go on a short hike. Not a film buff? Go to the dollar theatre. Not a prophet? Renounce that lie and start encouraging someone in faith. Be willing to try things you never have before, it’s the only way you’ll change; and if you don’t change by the end of the year, what was the point? Plus, you may actually enjoy it.
“When it looks like everyone knows each other, and you think you’re the only one that doesn’t know anyone, it’s not true! Just start talking, think about it later.” ~ Alumni Advice
Get out of the house: Being friends with roommates is great (and important) but you need to remember to get out of your house once in a while, so if all you do is stay at home then you should think about widening your friend group. Sven, who read Part 1, knows that eating together is a great bonding experience.
Branch out: Be willing to make new friends even after you have an established circle. Welcome new people into the fold, and spend time hanging out in other people’s circles.
Believe in the relationship: Do not make the mistake of avoiding connection because of the impending severance. It’s true that most people don’t stay over a year, but it’s still important to develop meaningful relationships, even if you might never see these people again. These relationships are life-giving, affirming; and increase your capacity to love by showing you different situations and perspectives.
Saying ‘no’ is ok: Never feel guilty for turning something down, just know that every decision has pros and cons.
“There will be tons of opportunities to get involved, parties to go to, people inviting you to things. It is ok to not go to all of them. You will miss out on some things, and that is totally healthy. Be intentional in your ‘yes,’ because every ‘yes’ to one thing may be saying ‘no’ to something else.” ~ Alumni Advice
“You only do first year once in life; so max it out. Take advantage of every opportunity. Absorb. Soak. Rest. Work. Play. Socialize. Love. And most important trust in, and lean upon, Him.” ~ Alumni Advice
Single Life Workshop
Besides reading up on Things To Do for inspiration (like Sven has), I encourage single people to consider signing up for Single Life Workshop. It’s a great way to meet people and learn how to do life better. I personally learned a lot. The downside to this is that one of your nights each week is taken, but it’s time spent building relationship, so your call.
There is an entire week dedicated to relationships in first year (a whole month in second year.) Dating, courting, pursuing is a big enough topic in both that I don’t have much to add, except:
Hold your horses! So many stories of students meeting in September and being married by the next year. To these couples I wish nothing but the best of love and life. That said, if you are in first year, then you probably are in the process of learning about who you are; and the last thing you need is someone else’s processing to confound your own.
“Don’t waste your time looking for your better half. Become a whole person [first] looking for another whole person.” ~ Danny Silk [emphasis mine]
“Wait until the new year before you pursue someone, you’re in the middle of figuring out who you are, and so are they.” ~ A wise pastor’s wife
Men, be honourable: If not, I just explained above how this girl has a huge family (her RG, small group, and spiritual parents), so watch it.
“That there are big brothers that will hurt you if you mess with their sisters.” ~ Alumni Advice
Ladies, be forthright: This isn’t high school, the games are over. If a guy isn’t catching on that you like him, just tell him; we won’t think you are pursuing us.
I’ll close with this:
“Stay intentional with the people around you. Live in community, even if it’s just a few.” ~ Alumni Advice