Your school supplies, schedule, and clothes; your homework, job, and friends: this time of year, the focus is naturally on you. But as you plan for a successful school year, don’t leave out a plan for how to reach out to others.
After all, God instructs us not to “look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). You have a lot of interests to look out for during school: your grades, relationships, extracurricular activities, and job. But I think you’ll find that as you shift the focus off of yourself, your stress level goes down, and your joy in serving goes up. When Christ humbled himself to the point of death, God exalted Him, and He will do the same for you (James 4:10).
But shouldn’t you be the center of your world, especially during this busy time of personal goal-setting, new friendship-forming, and identity-shaping? In a word, no. Christ should be the center of your world, not you. Your primary concern, even above grades and schedules, is serving as Christ did. Here are some ideas for how to do that during this me-focused time of year.
Pray for a classmate each week
Choose someone at your school who seems to be going through a hard time, and pray for that person. When you see him or her in the hall, smile and say a kind word. This can mean a lot to someone whose parents are getting divorced or whose best friend moved away. Someone else’s suffering can make you feel uncomfortable or helpless, but pray that God will show you ways to help this person.
Cling to your Christian friends at school
These people will give you endurance for the race. Yes, it is the beginning of the school year, and endurance might not seem necessary right now, when excitement for all the newness fuels you. But these friends will free you from sins and give you strength for when you do need to reach out to others (Hebrews 12:1).
Offer help in a subject you’re good at
Your grades can seem like the most important thing sometimes, especially as you’re trying to adjust to new classes and teachers. But you know there are certain areas where you don’t struggle, and could help those who do. You could do this through an existing tutoring program at your school, or by offering help to a classmate, or even by talking to a teacher or administrator about setting up a tutoring program.
Don’t move church family to the edge
During the summer, church activities and friends are a big part of your social life. Once school starts, it’s easy to choose the people and activities that are more popular or seem more fun. Don’t become someone different than you were during the summer: keep attending church, youth group, and other church events with just as much faithfulness as you did during the summer. One of the best ways to encourage other Christians is to simply be present at church gatherings (Hebrews 10:25).