Last week I wrote a few posts on the role “initiative” plays in your college ministry, and I enjoyed it so much I’m going to keep those discussions going. From getting to know the needs of your campus (or city) to casting a vision for students to Start Things, we have the opportunity to inspire our students to entrepreneurial ministry.

One strategy for formalizing this pursuit is developing Ministry Teams dedicated to exploring ministry avenues. For instance, what if you discover that International Students are an underreached population, and in fact the campus itself would LOVE your help connecting with them?

That’s the perfect opportunity for a handful of student leaders (or potential student leaders) to explore that service avenue. Forming a sort of “Directional Team” for a possible future ministry, those students could spend a semester assessing the need, learning what other ministries have done, and developing next steps for YOUR ministry.

This is an incredible opportunity to show student leaders how ministry often happens in the “real world.” Many of your students will end up at churches that don’t have the panorama of ministries (or strategy) that your college ministry does. But they might just welcome a mature Christian young adult who offers to establish a new outreach. The same is true in their own personal ministry – from getting to know their neighborhood to discovering ways to impact their city, having experience in “exploration” will be powerful.

A couple of times this week, I’ve discussed the role students can be (should be!) playing in entrepreneurial efforts within your college ministry.

But while you may have a few students who will do this sort of thing “all on their own” if they sense any freedom at all, there are others – who could be just as great – who won’t do it unless you cast a vision for it. They know about all the present needs, the present ministry teams, the present ways to serve and impact. They’re doing a great job with those. So they won’t start something new… unless you ask them.

As I’ve been involved in ministry now for some 15 years, I’ve realized that “Starting Things” seems to be a role God calls certain people to, and equips them for. And some of your students may be those kinds of God-gifted individuals, ready to help you determine the needs of your campus (spiritual or otherwise), ready to lead some sort of “directional team” to figure things out, and ready to call others to the resulting vision and ministry. They’re Church Planters of the future, but right now they’re in your campus ministry!

You might be surprised who showed up if you held a meeting: “Anybody who would want to help reach new pockets of campus.”

On Monday, I asked what place – if any – “initiative” has within your college ministry. Are there students regularly finding new ministry outlets (big or little)? Are they even encouraged to?

Of course necessity is the mother of invention; a more “ministerial” way to put that is that NEED leads to new ministry. So that’s where a lot of this can start: Getting our students, our leaders, or ourselves out into the campus, discovering where the biggest needs are.

When’s the last time you – or better yet, a team of students – examined the biggest needs on campus? Is someone meeting with administration, faculty, and staff to discover how you can be awesome members of the campus community? Surveying students (or at least student organizations), reading the newspaper? Does the campus know you’re here to serve it?

While this may be Missions 101, it’s not always something we’re trained to do in college ministry. But it’s vital.

I don’t know if you’ve been following the (very concerning) developments on campuses and their willingness to let InterVarsity chapters continue to function as on-campus organizations. It’s interesting that InterVarsity has been removed from campuses – most recently from all campuses in the huge Cal State system – when they are indeed somewhat “moderate” in the world of Evangelical  college ministries.

Anyway, I’d encourage you to catch up via one or more of the articles below:

Will InterVarsity Losing Cal State Standoff Be Tipping Point for Campus Ministries Nationwide?

InterVarsity “Derecognized” at California State University’s 23 Campuses: Some Analysis and Reflections

The Wrong Kind of Christian – an excellent reflection on one college minister’s experience at Vanderbilt

One of the better known college ministry ventures here in Texas is Texas A&M’s Impact Retreat, an enormous pre-school-year retreat for incoming Christian students at the school. The retreat draws nearly 2000 incoming students and has now been replicated at other schools.

As I was just sharing with a coworker the other day, I remember when some of my friends started Impact. Now many thousands have been impacted since 1999, largely because some students had a big idea.

After college, I had some neat (and scary) chances for my own “entrepreneurial ministry” adventures – including, of course, the yearlong road trip.

So my question for this week is, Is there room for “entrepreneurial ministry” among your students?

As we start another semester, it’s good for us to imagine if something like Impact could be birthed from within our campus ministry, from a student or handful of students who have a God-sized and God-given vision… and run with it? But we can also ask if students are able – and encouraged – to begin even “little” initiatives that will enhance our campus mission.

Can you honestly say “initiative” is welcome within your ministry setup? Probable? Likely? Why or why not?

I’m going to post some connected topics this week. Should be fun.

I’m at a “Hunger Summit” here in Dallas today, and that of course gets me thinking about how this format might apply to collegiate ministry.

Here’s how: Have you considered joining with other ministries on your campus, to work through a particular issue or discipleship topic?

There are plenty of topics – from local poverty to “How to Study the Bible” – that could easily be taught in tandem. Why “silo” these sorts of things, when cooperatively you might be able to provide different (but complementary) viewpoints, bring in some high-caliber experts, and brainstorm for a better event?

In the last couple of posts (here and here), I’ve been discussing recruiting – specifically, recruiting in an imbalanced way. Instead of simply spreading our efforts evenly, I argue, we should put extra emphasis on the methods that are already working AND on the segments of campus that seem to be responding best.

One of the reasons for the latter – spending extra time recruiting from the groups that are already showing up – is that it allows for easy buy-in to the mission of your ministry. The students already coming to your ministry (whether they’ve been attending for years or only days) get to go back to their fraternity, their dorm, or their Engineering Club and play the role of “indigenous leader.”

But are you raising up students in that way? Taken from a past post after speaking to a college ministry from Palo Alto, here are some extra thoughts on this:

1. I’ve noticed that college students are able and willing to rise to the challenge as “college ministers” themselves. Even though they are in the throes of the college experience themselves, like the “indigenous” leaders raised up within foreign missions, students can get excited about serving as “missionaries to their own tribe.”

2. This is more than just asking them to serve as Student Leaders within the college ministry we (as college ministers) are directing. This is empowering them and encouraging them to take the added step of taking responsibility for the reaching of their campus. Yes, it’s still often best for them to have direction or oversight from somebody a little bit older. But there’s a difference in how much ownership they assume.

3. By investing our own recruiting efforts into their smaller “mission field,” we’re helping – but letting them play a part, too. When you have students ready to work within their segment of campus, you don’t want to recruit “for them.” But it’s okay if we help, giving them early wins and letting them learn about recruiting alongside us.

4. Obviously, this can mean helping them bring students to the larger college ministry OR helping them minister even more “locally.” While you may still help oversee their efforts, this isn’t just about getting them to draw their acquaintances to the Large Group Meeting. (But it’s okay if that’s part of it.) Hopefully there are also chances for these “indigenous leaders” to dream more locally, whether that means establishing small group (or even one-on-one) discipleship or working out some other segment-specific opportunities.

5. When I called the students to this – and encouraged them therefore to be open to ALL the ways God might direct their “missions” – they ran with it! For example, at the retreat I was speaking at, several students stayed up late conspiring to reach a local community college with a Bible study (even though only one of those students actually attends that school).

6. College students can rise to the challenge of a high level of “ownership” in your mission to the campus. How much do your students “own” the mission right now? Have they taken on the role of missionaries to their own campuses?

Yesterday I encouraged college ministers to watch where new students come from this semester – both the methods that originally draw them, as well as what “populations” on campus seem to be showing up. Then, take that info and “double down” in those areas.

While in that post I addressed redoubling our efforts on whatever methods seem to be working, today I’ll look at our focus on people. Why would we want to draw more students from the groups / places / majors that already seem to be coming? Here are a few reasons:

1. Something drew them in the first place. You may not know what it is – you may never figure it out – but somehow you’ve drawn a few Psychology students or a handful of Lacrosse players. So if what you’re offering is “working” with them, it’s possible others like them will be drawn, too. Push a little harder and see what happens!

2. God may be up to something. One of several principles in the Experiencing God books is that God may use WHO shows up as an indicator of what He wants to do. As He draws a few individuals from a fraternity, a certain ethnicity or international population, or a distinct part of town or part of campus, He may be showing you the next great opportunity for missional outreach.

3. Smaller, interconnected populations make recruiting simpler. Have you ever thought about the fact that it’s often easier to get a bunch of people from one segment? If you get word-of-mouth going within a dorm, for instance, or within one sorority, that starts the snowball rolling. Even though it’s counter-intuitive, you’re probably more likely to draw 30 from one sorority than 30 from all the sororities. This only applies when groups are connected and talk to each other, but when they do… look out! Things could get rollin’.

4. It increases the chance for an exciting “missional explosion.” I’ll talk more about this in the next post, but the basic concept is self-explanatory: You can help students who are already attending to “go back” to their own dorms, student organizations, or other friends and invite / impact among those “people groups.”

I hate to rehash an idea that was included (briefly) in the series I linked to last week. But this idea is – in my opinion – so vital that it’s worth offering a fresh take, even if you got the chance to read my “What You Do in Week Two” posts.

There’s a principle in Marketing that (since I wasn’t a Marketing major) I don’t know the term for. But it involves doubling down on what’s working, rather than trying to spread your marketing evenly among all possible groups or methods. While diversity in your approach has its benefits, so does some “imbalance” toward the methods that work best and/or populations that respond best.

So how does that fit within college ministry?

Right now, you and your students are probably looking for all possible openings to draw people to your ministry. It’s a shotgun approach, and it’s not a bad thing. But in the midst of those efforts, if at all possible, I urge you to spend a little time figuring out where new students are coming from. Again, there’s two ways to think about it:

  1. What’s drawing them
  2. What kind of people are being drawn

..;and then the principle says that whatever those things are, we should double-down on those areas.

Did you provide all your returning students with little “invite cards” to hand out, and then see a pretty good response? Time to print some more cards. Have you seen new students show up because “everybody on campus” seems to be wearing your college ministry’s T-shirt? Why not declare a weekly “T-shirt Day” for your ministry (that just happens to be on the same day as your Large Group Meeting)? Did a couple of dozen visitors arrive after first attending your big sand volleyball match? Then who’s to say you can’t hastily organize another big event for next week?

The same goes for the segments of the campus you’re drawing from. Nobody says your students need to equally arrive from each dorm, each sorority, and each major.

But I’ll write more on that tomorrow.

A couple of years ago, I posted a series called “What You Do in Week 2″ – arguing that, as the first post said, what campus ministers do in the second, third, or fourth weeks of the semester says a lot about their approach and commitment to excellence (a bold statement, I know).

There are 10 thoughts to chew on across 7 posts, and I’d highly encourage you to read the whole thing. This will be my last post this week, as many are starting things up – but as you have time, give yourself room to think about what comes next. Or – here’s something interesting – assign a couple of student leaders to read those posts and make suggestions. You’ve probably got student leaders leading in Recruitment already; here’s a chance to get some others involved in another, also-important way.

Click here to see the series.

And if you haven’t read it yet, check out Monday’s post for a little encouragement about the amazing work you get to do.

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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