After today’s post, I’ll be on vacation the rest of this week. So I’ll see you next week!

For any of us who teach, here’s a small principle worth working into our teaching style / scheme: Learning can often be “solidified” when we walk through a particular application.

Here’s what I mean.

Perhaps you want to teach your students “Biblical Interpretation.” That’s fantastic – and one of the best things we can teach college students, for a variety of reasons. But would you simply teach the principles, maybe provide a few simple examples, and then move on to your next message series?

How about ending that Interpretation series with a bigger application – spending the evening simply walking through one book of the Bible, using various principles you’ve taught in the previous weeks?

When we teach evangelism, I think we’re quicker to recognize the need for some “on the job training” after the “classroom” stuff. But couldn’t we also do that with other areas? After we teach on Worldviews, students are encouraged to visit a group or interview a friend who has a different worldview from their own. The Book of James has brought up the need to put “legs” to our faith… so we call students to find outlets for service that the whole group might participate in. Or the students themselves provide the application: Maybe your last message in a series is simply a handful of students sharing how they’ve lived it out during the month; that might not be “on the job training” but it’s still a way to get particular with application.

I’m still pondering this one, but if you force yourself to at least consider doing a “deeper application step” ministry-wide for each major teaching, I bet you could come up with some cool stuff. It could happen in the large group, as a special event, in small groups, or even as a short “lab” students are invited to participate in.

Earlier this week I noted that now is the time to start thinking about how you use Finals Week and Winter Break as opportunities within your ministry. The last of that October trifecta is considering the opportunity of Next Semester.

In certain ways, it’s easy to overlook the spring semester (or Winter and Spring quarters for those on that system). Sure, it may be the time college ministries ramp up for a mission trip or heavily push a summer assignment of some sort. But there are other ways we overlook its usefulness:

By forgetting it’s a great time to recruit. There are plenty of students on your campus who will “reboot” their lives for the new semester. Others will transfer in, return from study abroad, etc.. Others who found a home in one ministry last semester won’t have found a “fit.” Your ministry may be great for any of these groups… if they can find it!

By not rethinking / re-praying / re-planning for the new semester. Far too often we plan out a whole year of college ministry. Can you really say that your observations, calculations, and prayerful strategizing for January was on-target last July? It’s far better to let much of next semester be planned based on the results of this semester.

By not bringing in fresh leaders. This won’t be for every ministry, but too often we “default” to using student leaders from August to May. January might be a great time for some fresh leaders, though. They can either replace outgoing leaders, begin to serve alongside (or apprentice under) present leaders, or help with newly formed ministries / ministry teams. Another important aspect: This means qualified students don’t have to wait a full year to take the step of leadership.

You could start working on any of these three efforts now, or soon. Any of them look good?

We’re still in mid-October, and another opportunity is on the horizon. It’s worth planning for – or, again, getting a team of students working on.

How will you help your students thrive during Winter Break?

We would never imagine “suspending” our ministries for the month of October. But I think the December-January break offers more potential for our students to grow, because often they don’t have the distractions of school and extracurriculars. They may also have particular challenges that present both temptations and opportunities to grow – like family, old friends, and the lack of their normal Christian community.

So what are your plans for shepherding them during that time, or helping them prepare for some self-discipleship?

Here in mid-October (can you believe it’s mid-October?) is the perfect time to start planning how you’ll use “Finals Season” well. Whether you and your staff plan it or it’s delegated to student leaders… whether you aim for evangelistic conversations, relationship building among your students, serving the campus by providing a study hall (or a study break!), or other purposes… whether it’s one day or all week… whether it’s one activity or ten…

Finals is an opportunity. How excellently will you use it this year?

Here’s a simple idea you could complete in 30 minutes, with fruit that could really change the way you do ministry.

I’m pretty bad at delegation. It’s hard for me to hand over projects – ongoing or otherwise – that I know how to do. This is especially true if I feel like I know how to do something better, or if I’m in a position to know more about the project than someone I might delegate to. Not only do I fear it might get done worse, but I also know that just about any delegation requires time spent training, checking-up, etc.. Ugh.

But that’s dumb on my part. And here’s a Fridea to help you (and me) delegate parts of the ministry.

Prepare a list of ALL actions you do on a regular basis.

I’d start on your computer – because you’re going to think of lots of sub-points for activities, and you’ll need to slide those in between the lines you’ve already typed. It’s not enough to write “Large Group Meeting” or “Organize the yearly concert.” You need the individual components, too.

Once you have that list, your job – well beyond today, of course – is to begin looking for ways to delegate that stuff out. It won’t be easy, but it will be profitable. Don’t think short-run, when you will actually have to do some training, etc.. Don’t think short-run, when – yes – those items won’t be done as well as you might do them.

Think a semester from now, when many of those items are completely off your plate, and done just as well as you would do them.

A couple of times last week (here and here), I looked at assessing how well our college ministries are encouraging friendships to form.

But there’s another aspect of community, and one you have more direct responsibility for: the overall feeling of connections between those in your ministry. Is there a sense of “family,” even if your ministry is big?

Every campus and every ministry is different, but before you dismiss this as unimportant for your particular ministry, I’d challenge you to consider it. What if your students really did see themselves as a “community,” regardless of other communities, friendships, and other “memberships” they have across campus?

You can do something about this.

You know those areas of your campus ministry you think about changing… and you’ve thought about changing for the past few years? Those special projects that would probably improve things but never quite reach the level of “urgent,” with all the other ministry you have going on? Updating a regular event, reaching a new niche on campus, creating a blockbuster event of some sort, buying a ministry house, “planting” on another campus in town, getting your “local impact” arm up and running, etc., etc., etc..

That’s (yet another) great opportunity to bring student leaders into the process of your ministry.

If you’re already not moving forward (or you’re moving very slowly) on that project, what would it hurt to put one great student (or a team of students) on that job? If they come up with something this semester, great! If not, you’ll be where you started – and they’ll grow as leader-ministers.

Sure, it’s easier said than done. There WILL be some hand-holding and some extra meetings to “check in” and other messiness. But you’ll find a way to fit those things in, since the ball will actually be rolling on this thing you’ve been dreaming about.

And it might actually get done.

P.S. Adult volunteers could do this, too.

Here in Dallas, Ebola is clearly headline news. As a result, my team at church has been taking the opportunity to equip our body – connecting the issue to broader “Outreach” issues, as well as helping individuals and families respond as Christians.

But on the flipside, in the world of collegiate ministry, in the world of your campus, it’s quite possible no one is talking about it at all.

That’s okay as far as it goes, but it highlights something we should be about as college ministers: training our students to see beyond the campus.

Certainly, there are some schools where that is very much the norm; every student has a “take” on every world issue. But in many places, such an awareness is limited to a certain segment of the population. On your campus… or more importantly, in your ministry… how many people know what’s happening “out there”?

Why shouldn’t Christians be “in the know,” at least enough to pray… to engage others in conversation… to participate in classroom discussions… to form opinions that bring the Bible and God’s wisdom into the issues.

We teach prayer and Scripture memory and evangelism as spiritual disciplines; do we likewise push reading the campus newspaper or catching the news roundup online?

Yesterday I blogged about helping foster friendships within your college ministry. There are a variety of concerns if a ministry isn’t seeing “normal” friendships bloom. So to add to the ideas, here’s a Fridea from way, way back:

This week’s Fridea? Provide an opportunity for a handful of students to attend an evening of eating, conversation, and other fellowship with students.

I’ve actually heard of this idea – often called something like “Dinner for 10″ – in other contexts, and it’s quite flexible. To get started, though, here’s is how I originally heard the idea this week (from a staff member of the ONE28 campus ministry at SMU).

Their idea was to host a dinner at the house of a staffperson, inviting 4-6 “fringe students” who haven’t plugged in to small group involvement yet. Along with those 4-6 students, a handful of well-involved students will be invited to the dinner. The evening might also include games, watching football, or other hangin’ out – all with the hope of bridging students from the edges of the ministry into the “relationship stream.”

Clearly, this is a step beyond an on-campus or post-activity meal. Instead, it gives a common college ministry idea (free food for students) an “upgrade” – in this case, with a little more time, a little more strategy, a little more purposefulness, a little more “fanciness,” and an offer that’s a little more surprising.

So there’s the basic idea, which isn’t too shocking but could actually accomplish quite a bit, it seems.

Of course if we explore the edges while we brainstorm this, we see other possibilities, too.

who: You could also invite…

  • Groups of students to sign up together. (And there don’t necessarily have to be leaders there, either.)
  • Students via “lottery” – maybe two students sign up together (so they have a buddy), but otherwise everyone’s getting to know each other.
  • Adults – from the church (or local churches) – to eat along with the students.
  • Leaders of the ministry (or your church), along with any students who want to sign up. (A Vice President at Texas A&M used to do this – all you had to do was sign up!)

where: You could also hold this…

  • At a restaurant – whether it’s one that’s slightly “fancy” or out-of-the-ordinary, or just the local Chipotle.
  • At a park (“self-catered” or provided).
  • As a progressive dinner (appetizer one place, meal another place, dessert yet another).

This is a very simple “assessment” for your college ministry that will require a little bit of thoughtfulness (and a good dose of honesty!).

Is your college ministry structured in such a way that it encourages the development of solid, spiritual, fun friendships?

Some ministries are. Some aren’t. But it’s important to realize that just having a fun Large Group Meeting or having well-attended small groups does NOT mean friendships are likely to form. Not even big, fun events are automatic “community-builders,” despite what it’s easy to assume.

How ’bout your ministry? Do friendships form? Do they form because you’ve intentionally fostered an environment that helps?

Welcome to Exploring College Ministry

After ministering to college students for 8 years, I've spent the last 6 years trying to help push our whole field forward. This meant, among other things, a yearlong road trip, an e-book (Reaching the Campus Tribes), exploring 250+ campuses, consulting, writing, speaking, and more. I love any opportunity to serve college ministers or to consult with churches and others about reaching students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.

...and if I can help your ministry directly (or you want to support my mission), contact me!


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