You’ve got access to vaults of wisdom for your students – people with “the wisdom of years,” most of whom have been exactly where your students are.

It’s your alumni list.

While (if you’re in certain branches of college ministry) you may request funds from these folks (and from plenty of other supporters), when’s the last time you sought wisdom, on behalf of your students?

Asking, “What advice would you give to the student who’s thinking about joining a fraternity or sorority?” or “How did you balance spiritual life and your studies and everything else?” could provide you with awesome quotes to share with your students. And yet it also connects your alumni back to what you’re doing, allowing them a direct piece of the discipleship rather than only the indirect portion provided through fundraising.

It’s a spectacular time to do a hospitality check-up, since October is well past most college ministry’s major influx of new visitors. Student leaders, staff, and the whole ministry will find it easier to slack just a bit; for instance, even though they see each other regularly, students may habitually connect with friends instead of looking for people they don’t know (whereas in August, “greeting visitors” was more on their minds).

So here’s a handy checklist to think through or talk through for your campus ministry, as you recast the vision for hospitality mid-semester:

  1. Do student leaders know the names of every “regular” (in a smaller ministry) or several dozen regulars (in a bigger ministry)?
  2. Are students seeking out people they don’t know each week, or only people who seem “new”?
  3. Are next steps for students still clearly discussed – and are next-step opportunities still “open”? (For instance, will students still hear about small groups and have the chance – soon – to jump in?)
  4. Is the Greeting Team still zealous, visibly excited, and having fun?
  5. Are visitors still greeted from the stage with gusto… and are there other ways current students are regularly reminded that this is a welcome place for guests?
  6. Do you still do nametags? (It’s still always worth considering…)
  7. Are you, O College Minister, still making purposeful  efforts to get to know names (and other details) better and better?

Pulled this in from a past post, but it could be a great time of year to work on this.

Whether you’re a church-based college minister or not, you have access not only to the leaders of your church home, but those in all the other churches in your town.

And one group of leaders that could particularly impact many of your students is the Executive Pastors.

XPs have become quite high-profile church leaders in the last decade. And I love that numerous churches out there have seen fit to bring on a “churchwide strategist,” which seems to be the role many of them play. (And nowadays, some XPs have a bit more strategically narrow orientation.)

And while there may be few (if any) of your students who will ever provide that role for a church, there are many of your students who are wired by God for strategy, project management, leading alongside (rather than from out front), serving behind the scenes, or some of the other ways Exec Pastors traditionally serve.

And all of them need to learn about leadership.

Not only that, but an Exec Pastor may very well be able to teach on things like time management, self-management, and learning.

If it isn’t clear by now, I think it’s good for us to look among the church leaders in our town for potential teachers, mentors, and role models. Again, that’s whether a college minister serves at a church, in a parachurch or denominational capacity, at a Christian school, and so on.

And who knows? For some student in your ministry, such an encounter might just awaken them to an amazing call for future ministry themselves.

Do your encouragements to invite friends leave an impression that longtime members are somehow less than?

It makes all the sense in the world to push students to invite. You should.

But as we’ve all noticed with “too sales-ish” email lists, pushy iPhone apps, and over-eager efforts to fundraise… most of us are turned off by feeling that “I matter because of something I can get you.” If your students hear too often that they need to bring more people – especially if it isn’t explained well – then that impression won’t sit well.

What’s more, we who “recruit” or “mobilize” face two particularly annoying challenges here:

  • Intent doesn’t really matter (in this regard). What we’re talking about here is the impression that’s left with people, not your heart. (And yes, caring about impressions is caring about people.)
  • Plenty can happen subconsciously. This is the scariest to me: People may not even realize that they’re a little irked. But somewhere, in the back of their mind, people may lose a little bit of steam (and ironically be less likely to invite!).

Does recruiting students to your events and activities feel too “icky” to see it as a ministry? I hope not. While there are all sorts of icky methods in recruiting – whether we’re talking about drawing students within your ministry’s ranks already, or recruiting students from the larger campus – the act itself is far from evil. When you’re helping students connect the dots from what they need/want to what your ministry offers (and beyond that, what God offers through your ministry), you’re impacting them. You’re discipling them.

So that means: As with any ministry area, this ground is ripe for raising up students.Leading to today’s

Leading to today’s Fridea…

Create a student-led “awareness team” to help draw students to ministry activities – either with current students, the campus as a whole, or both.

You’ve likely got students whose majors prepare them for this role! And you’ll help those students develop their understanding of “Marketing to the Glory of God,” etc., leading them to navigate now what it means to raise awareness, recruit, advertise, and so on… in non-icky, people-serving, God-glorifying ways. They’ll have a better vocational discipleship if they do this.

And even if Awareness Team members aren’t all in relevant majors, students will have wisdom for drawing their fellow students that you simply don’t have. Why not let them help?

This was originally a Fridea awhile back, but since our church is hosting a Marriage Ministry Training right now, I thought it appropriate to repost…

I’ve recently been reminded of the roles marriage ministry – usually in its pre-marital form – can play in collegiate ministry.

One method – very accessible for most college ministers – could be absolutely revolutionary in certain students’ lives.

What if you pulled in “mentor couples,” Christian spouses specifically excited to hang out with seriously dating or engaged college students?

It’s easy to think of this only in terms of “premarital counseling,” and that could be one function here. But it could be much simpler than that, too. What if seriously dating couples simply had the chance to share a meal with an older married couple? You might be surprised by how quickly your students could jump at this chance.

And while we’re at it, let’s take this one step further: Could you ever offer something along these lines to your campus as a whole? What could that even mean?

It’s unlikely you have official “membership” in your college ministry, which makes sense. While I can think of some advantages to having something official along those lines, there are disadvantages too.

But one disadvantage to not offering membership is that it’s easier for students to fall through the cracks. If an official list indicated which students, at some point in the past, had gone “all in” with your campus ministry, then you could occasionally identify if they’re still showing up for Large Group or participating in small groups.

But again, you probably don’t have an opt-in “membership” list. But what if you created that sort of list anyway? And what if you actually used it every few months to discover anyone that might have come up missing (or might be involved less than usual). Those students deserve a contact, don’t they? They’ve been all-in with your college ministry; now you can be all-in with them.

I realize there’s some trickiness attached to this (especially figuring out who’s missing if your ministry is sizeable). You may not arrive at a perfect solution. But something intentional will beat the “organic,” we’ll-probably-just-notice-who’s-missing approach nearly every time.

I’ve spent the week at a “Big Data and the Church” gathering (which explains my blogging lack), and I heard lots of intriguing things.

It also made me realize that many college ministers have access to many thousands (or millions) of dollars worth of research on their mission fields – because their schools are paying for such research. Who’s doing that for churches?

There may be a variety of rules/strings attached to viewing the data your campus compiles. But there’s just as likely to be access that would surprise you – especially because schools seek student continuation… and participation in campus organizations is a key factor in that.

When’s the last time you at least asked? And what’s more important, when’s the last time you spent time with any data you do have access to – even if it’s on the school’s web site – and brainstormed what that could or might or should mean for your college ministry?

This isn’t about finding something profound or shocking. It’s about using data – whatever it is – to prompt discussion. If your campus has a number of Caribbean students, or Kinesiology majors, or junior college transfers, or National Merit Scholars… does that prompt your wheels to turn? At the very least, it’s a thinking exercise, and those can always lead to something.

So here’s a wild idea:

What if, each week, two or three different student leaders had the chance to serve as “pastor on call” for your college ministry?

They could plan to tag along at meetings with students (or others) they wouldn’t otherwise be in, meet with any students who reach out for encouragement or support, or help accomplish other hands-on discipleship tasks. You’ll have to fill in the blanks with areas these students could “do a little more” in your ministry context – maybe their hours include extra prayer, time hanging out in your building, fielding phone calls to the ministry, or simply “ministry of presence” in the dining hall. I don’t know.

But I do know this can be a powerful way to push students, while asking for a little sacrifice too. A week “on call” isn’t the easiest thing, but it offers a taste of life as a college ministry, plus allows some of the “messiness of ministry” to get delegated to students (as it should be).

This is an old Fridea that hasn’t lost its steam – with a month to prepare…

October 31st is “celebrated” differently campus-to-campus, and many schools may not see much when it comes to the nearby weekend or the night of Halloween (this year it’s on a Tuesday, FYI). But other schools see quite a bit of Halloween-inspired activity – it may be the moment when everybody drinks, or when the costumes come out (and not unto holiness), or when debauchery is otherwise at its worst.

So my Fridea and encouragement this week is to respond as God leads you and your ministry. Five ways you could do just that:

  1. View what takes place, like a missionary would/should. Let it break your heart. Let it open your eyes and your students’ – and especially your student leaders’ – eyes. Let God use what’s actually happening – not just what you assume is happening – to provide ministry ideas for the weeks to come. (I’ve spent some time praying while I drive through the “scene” in a campus area before, and it definitely broke my heart.)
  2. Serve students. Like Spring Break mission trips or finals week, your campus might respond well to free midnight pancakes or van rides. Maybe you need to create an “alternative Halloween” that’s a blast… without the debauchery. Yes, you’ll need to think through what’s best (and what’s in fact “enabling”), but it’s worth considering how you can serve – and build relational bridges to – students.
  3. Think long and hard about how you can best serve, impact, and encounter your campus at the Halloweens to come. This means getting students together to brainstorm, talking to other college ministers, asking advice from your overseers, etc.
  4. Pray. Pray for your campus, even that very weekend or Halloween night. This might be a night for all-night prayer, or it might be something you intercede about regularly, leading up to Halloween.
  5. Teach. The issues raised by Halloween – and not just the occult issues, though those are real, too – are worth discipling students about, right? Why shouldn’t a girl “dress to impress”? Why wouldn’t a college student drink to excess occasionally? What’s so wrong with a night or weekend of debauchery? How can students serve their peers when they’re wrapped up in these things? Have you taught your students about all those issues that will come up during this one season?

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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 others who want to reach college students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.

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