I have often said throughout my ministry “I want to have an impact on the students in my ministry.” I would imagine we all have. It sounds great and maybe it is correct. Lately though I have been really thinking about this and I am not sure having an impact on our students is really what I want. Here is why:
Impact is the Guaranteed Win
We will always have an impact on our students. Sometimes a positive one, sometimes a negative one. The fact that we interact with and teach them by default causes an impact. Striving for an impact is, in its most honest form, a guaranteed win. Whether we have a positive impact is another question altogether.
A Better Alternative
Struggling over this I have realized it is not an impact I want to have on my students lives, but rather an influence in my students lives. Before you go thinking its just an argument over semantics, allow me to explain. Websters dictionary defines these two as follows:
- Impact: to have a strong and often bad effect on (something or someone)
- Influence: the power to change or affect someone or something : the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen
If I were to throw a large rock (boulder even…because I am that strong) into a pond, there would be an immediate impact. Almost immediately you would begin to see the ripples from the impact of the rock. That is impact. The ripples however fade very quickly. If though, I were to take large rocks (boulders even…because I’m that strong) and place them strategically in a flowing creek or river, there would be an immediate influence in where and how the water flows. That is influence.
When I think about the lives of the students we serve I want to help shape the direction their lives “flow.” I want to have an influence in how they view the gospel. I want to influence their worldview. I want to influence their understanding of God, their relationship to Him, and their understanding of who they are in Christ. Making an impact is great, but it is short-lived. Having an influence…now that seems to be a lifelong change.