Where is God leading the ministry for next semester?

In college ministry, it’s easy to divide things into neat little categories (called semesters!) and not give a lot of thought to next semester while you’re still inside this one.

But surely God has given you some insight into directions you’re going? He’s moved within your group in certain ways recently, He’s given you and your staff particular insights about next steps, or He seems to be “up to something” on campus in a noticeable way.

So if that’s the case… As far as you do know what’s coming – even if it’s just bits and pieces – how are you preparing for those next steps?

This week, I’ll throw out some useful-for-early-December thoughts about how you can prepare your students, your team, and maybe even yourself for what’s to come (even if you can only paint “what’s to come” with pretty broad strokes right now).

But for now, the introspective Q remains: How are you laying foundations for what God has shown you about next semester?

I was talking to a friend in young adult ministry yesterday, and his comments reminded me of a principle I’ve posted here before. In his case, he was describing their recent Chili Cook-off – and noting that it was mostly about fun and fellowship for the large group. They didn’t feel the need to stop the music and have a gospel presentation in the middle; instead, as people approached, he trusted the intentionality of the group members but was focused on a fun outing.

Is this okay? It’s easy to feel like everything has to cover everything. You’ll see what I mean – and what I argue – in this post from the past:

when it’s just one, it’s just one

It’s okay to have only one ministry purpose.

I don’t mean having a single aim for your entire college ministry – although that’s probably okay, too, if you see your ministry as complementary to other ministries students will be impacted by.

But what I mean today is that it’s okay for a campus ministry activity to be focused on achieving one thing.

It’s okay to build a night around fun – without including a Bible study, worship segment, recruitment aspect, or attempt to fulfill another purpose.

It’s okay to have a Large Group Meeting talk that aims for students to know, feel, or do ONE thing… instead of trying to cram five applications in.

It’s legitimate to build a retreat just around rest. Or prayer. Or leadership development. Or covering one biblical topic. Or serving a specific segment of your ministry… without including any other purposes but the one, but focusing the entire effort on achieving that one thing really well.

It’s fine for one meeting of a small group to be spent entirely on encouragement, if that’s what’s needed most.

There will be plenty of times when God reveals multiple purposes for a college ministry activity. But sometimes the best impact will come when He only gives one purpose – and ministers (or student leaders) marshal all aspects of that activity toward accomplishing that one thing or getting that one point across. We may think we’re doing more by aiming for more, when in fact we may be only halfheartedly accomplishing four purposes when we could have really taken ground in one.

I was “raised” on a ministry team model. The church-based college ministry I was part of at Texas A&M had developed a mega-structure of probably fifteen ministry areas, each with student “coordinators” over them. Above them in the leadership pyramid were four (or so) student interns, and above them was the college minister and any other staff.

And at each level – the coordinators with those serving under them, the interns and college ministers with the coordinators, and (I assume) the staff with the interns – discipleship and development were taking place. Not just “management.”

I don’t mean “management” derogatorily here; it’s just the act of facilitating and directing student leaders so they’re leading well.

But honestly, I think that’s probably where most college ministry structures land: It can easily be mostly about helping leaders do well within their roles, as opposed to really focusing on helping them grow as both Christ-followers and as leaders.

But that’s where “slash discipleship” comes in: When we start making every “position” or activity we can about discipleship. So a student’s not just a small group leader; she’s in small group leadership slash discipleship-with-the-college-minister. The planning team for the mission trip is also being discipled; their meetings are really planning/discipleship meetings. The Greeting Team meets weekly, not only to split up new students to contact or to talk about “business,” but also to grow together – as greeters, as leaders, and as believers.

I’d encourage you to ponder this one. Are your “ministry teams” (regardless of what you call them) actually “ministry/discipleship teams”? Could they be? Should they be?

My wife and I are having a baby, so I’ll see you next week!

(Prayers are appreciated.)

College ministers bemoan the fact that parents (and youth ministries) aren’t always sending their Christian kids to college… “ready.” We’re mildly surprised (although we’ve learned not to be) that some don’t know their Bibles… or they can’t handle managing to their time… are simply really immature in certain areas (or altogether).

But here’s the question: Are you present your students “mature in Christ” at the end of their time with your ministry?

I’m not asking about those who don’t stick around, or who dip in and out of your ministry. But for those who hang with you, are you sending them into “real life” with as much maturity, wisdom, and spiritual preparation as possible.

Or are there Young Adult ministers out there, bemoaning the fact that parents (and college ministries) aren’t always sending their Christian kids to young adulthood… ready?

Whether for fellowship, collaboration, or niche-based discussion, here’s a simple Fridea: Get specific types of students together for special events.

What if every month a new crowd got together? A semester could include a mixer for:

  • Those who live on the south side of campus
  • Psychology majors
  • Sophomores
  • Students who live off campus
  • Graduating seniors

Of course, you can do more, or cover everybody in separate “mixers” at the same time, etc. The point is putting people together, and mixing groups that wouldn’t necessarily hang out. And like I said, this can be purely for fellowship and fun, or you can add an equipping aspect.

And if your ministry’s not quite big enough to split it this way, then what about inviting the whole campus?

The last couple of posts, I’ve looked at some unique opportunities for students to take the helm in your ministry – in ways we don’t often think about.

Clearly, students often form some sort of “greeting team” or otherwise work intentionally to make new (and even returning) students feel welcome.

But there’s also a type of college ministry hospitality that goes beyond working the “front lines” at Large Group Meeting. How much attention is paid to student experience overall – whether that’s a new student finding their way toward being truly “plugged in,” realizing student concerns or annoyances about the ministry, or working hard to always get better at hospitality in every facet of the ministry – including with students who have been there for years.

As you might imagine, this is where I take the turn and say: Students could be great at this. They’d need to be trusted, of course, but really delegating something this meaty would be a huge opportunity for a thoughtful, hospitable student or two. (Even figuring out what it means would be a growth opportunity for most student leaders and the ministry as a whole.)

This week I’m blogging about more chances to involve students in your ministry, in roles they might not typically be offered. And I guess I’m thinking about their particular generation, too, because the last post was on social media and today’s is on world-changing.

We all know that many Millennials hope to “change the world” – and do it by Friday if possible! So we need to disciple them on timetables and effort required, while not squashing that zeal or optimism.

So what’s a college minister to do? How about giving some of your trusted students free rein to explore new impact opportunities for your collegiate ministry?

Think about it: This could involve individual students working on their own, or a group working together. They spend a semester investigating “unreached” niches of students on campus, ways to impact the school itself, needs in the city, local non-profits, world causes your college ministry could get behind… whatever.

And if you put this together well – with coaching and debriefing along the way – they could learn so much about actually changing the world:

  • Thinking about the multitude of options
  • Letting God speak through people (like their fellow college ministry members) about where He’s already moving
  • Discerning what’s best next
  • Vetting opportunities
  • Building interest and consensus
  • Submitting to authority but also taking ownership

This “domain” is usually the purview of the college minister, yeah? But there’s no reason we can’t offer the same opportunity to students – doesn’t keep you from looking for new opportunities, too. And in the end, this could lead to your ministry’s next great impact (or three of them!).

This week, I thought I’d blog briefly on some student leader and/or student volunteer opportunities you might not regularly think about. Whether you’ve got a big college ministry or a small one, it’s likely you recognize the value of giving ownership to students.

So to kick us off…

Who mans your “official social media accounts,” including emails? Could students?

Many college ministries likely put students on some part of their social media, but that can extend even to answering basic inquiries via email, Facebook, and other venues. The comparison I’m thinking about is the senior pastor with an “executive assistant” who helps in this way and responds on the pastor’s behalf, but it doesn’t have to feel that high-falutin’, either.

This is simply the chance for students to help behind-the-scenes, answering messages from students (and probably parents and others), posting replies to social media reach-outs, and generally providing a winsome “face” – all while freeing you (the college minister) up for the things only you can do. This is an amazing chance for students to learn that work, too, which is both simple and something skilled; tact, balance, and detail are valuable communication skills, to be sure.

I’ve been posting some brief thoughts this week on raising up students to be wisdom-seekers, particularly (this week) by seeking “wisdom from many counselors.”

Another way to form this is through your small groups: Have you created small groups that are intimate enough to discuss big decisions with each other?

Certainly, this is one of those “college ministry poles“-type issues – there’s a wide spectrum of intimacy levels in small groups within collegiate ministry… from groups that truly “do life together,” sharing together deeply and “meddling” in various aspects of each other’s lives, to groups that serve mostly as “discussion groups” and don’t push deep accountability, etc.

I’m not claiming either pole – or anywhere on the spectrum in-between – is best. But for those who are interested, today I’m simply pointing out that one opportunity to train students to find “many counselors” in their wisdom-seeking is to encourage it in their small groups.

And even if your small groups themselves wouldn’t be the best venue to ask, “Should I date this girl?” or “Is this God’s best for me next summer?,” hopefully friendships are being built through small groups that would rise to this level.

(If that’s not happening somewhere, somehow in our ministry, then we probably should think about how to deepen those relationships, right?)

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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