This is taken from a post of a few years ago, and you won’t be able to do all of it this year. But I still wanted to post these ideas for you to ponder now (whether you’re reading this on Halloween or not) and then apply today, next week, or next year.

I do recognize that October 31st is “celebrated” differently campus-to-campus, and many schools may not see much activity when it comes to this weekend or the night of Halloween. But other schools see quite a bit – it’s the moment when everybody drinks, perhaps, or when the costumes come out (and not unto holiness), or when debauchery is otherwise at its worst. And since this year’s Halloween falls on a Friday (and next year’s falls on a Saturday), any of that effect will be multiplied for awhile.

So my Fridea and encouragement this week is to consider Halloween as an opportunity for either vision-casting or direct ministry. Discern what works best for your campus, and plan accordingly. Some ideas:

  1. View what takes place, like a missionary would / should. Drive through the University District / row of bars / wherever. Let it break your heart. Let it open your eyes and your students’ eyes. Let God use what’s actually happening – not just what you assume is – to provide ministry ideas.
  2. Serve students. Like Spring Break mission trips or finals week, your campus might respond well to free midnight pancakes, hotdogs on the strip, or van rides. Yes, you’ll need to work through what’s best (and what might only encourage more problems), but it’s worth considering how you can serve – and build relational bridges to – students.
  3. Teach. The issues raised by Halloween – and not just the occult issues, though those are real, too – are worth discipling about, right? Why shouldn’ta girl “dress to impress”? Why wouldn’t a college student drink to excess?What’s so wrong with a night or weekend of debauchery? How can we serve our peers when they’re wrapped up in these things? Have you taught even your Christian students this stuff – which is directly applicable to their lives both now and in the future?
  4. Think long and hard about how you can best serve, impact, and encounter your campus at the Halloweens to come. In fact, there may even be some ways the school itself could use some help with various problems that arise at Halloween – have you asked?
  5. Pray. Pray as you view – with your students, or otherwise. This might be a night for all-night prayer, or it might be something you intercede about regularly, leading up to next year’s Halloween.

How often do you ask other college ministers what God has been revealing about the campus, its students, and possibilities for the future?

If you’ve been doing college ministry in a vacuum, listening only to those inside your ministry (students, volunteers, staff members, or your own thinking), you’ve been missing a big source of potential revelation – other believers, who are (like you) leading as shepherds and explorers.

This is one area where connecting purposefully with other college ministers is extremely profitable, and cooperation here (rather than isolation) proves our Kingdom-mindedness. Plus, this is a great time of year to spend time together talking about this – as you’ve settled in, seen some things, and have time to adjust for next semester as God reveals, through His people, the possibilities for reaching your campus tribe.

This is one of those posts that will be a big “Duh!” for many college ministers, but for others it’ll be something worth pondering, a possible “imbalance” of sorts that might be worth working out. And it ties directly into an experience from my vacation from the last week.

While in California, I got to explore (as I am wont to do) a couple of campuses: University of San Francisco and St. Katherine College. The latter is one of the very few Orthodox Christian undergraduate institutions in the country – and it was close to our hotel after we’d made our way to the San Diego area. So I trekked to this one-building college to see what – if anything – I could learn. And to see if I could buy a Firebirds T-shirt, of course. (I appreciate those unique mascots!)

That morning turned out to be one of the more memorable visits to a school – not because I spent a long time there (I didn’t), nor because it was grand or beautiful or because I saw a bunch of students. In fact, I only saw one student, but that’s my story.

I peeked inside the front door of the school and stood around the lobby for a bit, somewhat stymied by the lack of people (and lights). No one at the welcome desk.

But then a young gal sauntered down the hall, and I asked this student if she knew where I could buy a T-shirt. (It’s a good opening line, in general, plus there didn’t seem to be much else to see here.) That started a fifteen-minute friendship with a girl who clearly couldn’t quite understand why I was there… but who wanted to do everything she could to show off her school. She pointed me to the T-shirts, she showed me the chapel, she walked me down the hall to introduce me to the Dean, she told me her story (born in Belarus – which no longer exists – and converted from Judaism, with various Orthodox expressions until she wound up in Iowa and then here at St. Katherine). She even tried to recruit me to attend her school, which she was quite excited about – even with a hobo-stranger who wandered in that day.

I tell this lengthy story to illustrate a simple point: Our students can be the best advertisement for our ministry, too.

But I think as a college minister it’s easy to forget that, or simply to fail to prioritize it. We have more control over our fancy advertisements on campus. We have more control over a great big Kick-off to start the year… and that feels so much bigger, too. We can man a booth at New Student Orientation, tweak a mailer until it’s just perfect, put some great content on Facebook-Twitter-InstaVineSpace.

But if we’re creating students who, very simply, love our ministry, they’re going to be hard to beat when it comes to recruiting. And if we’re not, then all the rest of the recruiting will be harder… and might just feel a little hollow, too. ‘Cause if we’re not producing students who are thrilled to be part of us, then how happy can we really be about recruiting new peeps to join us?

A couple of weeks ago, I presented a few opportunities around the corner – opportunities we can take if we start planning now. Finals, Winter Break, and the new Semester (or Quarter) approaching all offer chances to impact in unique ways.

But I realized there’s one I left out, and it’s worth thinking about.

College ministers (rightly) consider the semester (or quarter) to be the fundamental division of students’ lives. But our students are also affected by the turn of a new year; many of your students – and many students on your campus – will see 2015 as a chance to “turn the page,” set some goals, or otherwise move forward in their lives.

How could you take advantage of that natural human propensity to treat a new year as a new start? And does this effort have to remain with the students you shepherd, or might others on campus be drawn into a Resolution Revolution, a Year through the Bible, or a Lift-ing in Fif-teen? (Sifting in Fifteen? I dunno – I’m still on vacation. You and your students can come up with some creative hooks, I’m sure.)

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.

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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