fridea #1: big love

Here’s a bouncy idea for loving on college students who are away for the summer!

Did you know that you can mail a lot more than just boxes through the Post Office? It’s true!

Hopefully, you’re already planning to send your “away students” something while they’re spending the summer at home – and especially to those who are serving at mission trips, summer projects, or camps. They need your loving, and good loving can come in the form of care packages, letters, emails, and Facebook messages!

And, if your ministry does continue during the summer, those “away students” would love to hear from friends who are still “local.”

So holding a “care package construction day” or “postcard writing day” within your summer ministry could go a long way to encourage and impact students who don’t get to see your pretty faces on a regular basis.

BUT, why not step up your game even more? Time for some Big Love, thanks to the US Postal Service.

One of the best things you can send your “stateside students” – especially those working at camps or serving in missions within the U.S. – is a super-sized letter from home. A super-sized, bouncy letter from home.

Ingredients (which can be located at any Super Wal-Mart):

  • Several dark-colored Sharpie markers (regular-sized or extra-thick)
  • One humongous, light-colored bouncy ball for each student to receive the “package.” I think these are still in PVC cages near the Toy Department. You know the ones I’m talking about, right? They’re those big balls about THREE FEET in diameter (not the wimpy little basketball-sized ones). If you can’t find ’em at Wal-Mart, they’re bound to be somewhere.

Here’s the deal: You’re going to have local students (and others!) write notes all over the ball. Then, the ball will be sent as is to the student – no box. (I’ll explain in a second.) I’ve done this before, and it’s one of the coolest encouragements a student can get when they’re workin’ hard all summer long!

And think about the student’s reaction on the receiving end, as Camp Staff or whoever else brings this unexpected surprise to your student! You think their buddies won’t be jealous?

Steps to take:

  • Once your ingredients have been purchased, immediately draw a large (12-inch by 6-inch) box on the ball.
  • In one half of the box you’ve drawn, write the NAME and SUMMER MAILING ADDRESS of the recipient of the “package.” DO NOT fill the entire space, because you’ll need the room for a postage label (these can be big labels sometimes).
  • Then, get notes the easy way! Just take the ball(s) to your weekly meeting (assuming you have one during the summer) or to church. (People will notice if you’re carrying a big ball around at church, so that helps.)
  • With a little extra leg-work, you can also get some really unexpected notes for your ball. The student’s parents (if they’re local) will be glad to add a note. So will church leaders at their church – the pastor, and anybody else they might know. But think big here – what about a professor they love? The school’s president? The mayor? A local celeb? Plenty of people would be happy to write a quick note of support – or even a signature – for a college student doing “volunteer work” away from home.

Finally, it’s time to send your creation(s).

Really and truly, I have done this before. And I’m not the only person who has. So it should work.

Long ago, I read in a kids’ book about how you could send just about anything through the mail. The example they gave was a shoe – as long as you took the laces out!

As far as I know, it’s still very legal. However, you probably want to find a friendly and experienced postal employee to help. They don’t get these requests every day, and you want somebody who realizes it’s legal – without getting mad that you’re trying to send a big ball in the mail…

WORST CASE SCENARIO: If your local USPS people absolutely refuse, you can always just put the ball in a box. That’s certainly less fun on the receiving end, but it’s still pretty great. Or, if you know your USPS staff won’t cooperate with your ball-sending endeavor, you could just let everybody sign a box in the first place.

The great thing about those big bouncy balls is that they’re relatively cheap, since the weight is so low!

One student I sent a ball to loved this so much she made a point of saving the ball all summer. Then, things got tricky when it was time to come home. No worries – she just took it as a carry-on, on her lap, on the airplane ride home. Did you know big, bouncy balls deflate when they take an airplane ride?

As always, this “Fridea” can be useful as-is, or it may even be more useful for springboarding you to your own creative endeavor! (If you’ve got a similar idea, let us all know in the comments!)

Of course, you always want to make sure whatever you send really is legal. No “Animal Fighting Accessories,” for instance. Here’s the official USPS list of “Other Restricted and Nonmailable Matter.” It’s both informative and rather entertaining at points.

Written from Bexley, Ohio

4 Comments

  1. andrew

    Hey, Ben, were you at World Harvest Church today? I thought I recognized you but someone stopped me before I could introduce myself. Just wondering what you were doing there since WH isn’t known for a ministry to college students (other than our Bible college kids witnessing at OSU while they are in session, which they aren’t now).

  2. Yep! That was me!

    Yeah, I definitely end up at lots of churches that don’t have strong (or existent) college ministries, but that in itself is a Collegiate Ministry philosophy. So it’s definitely something I look at – because any church that had 12th-graders last year has college-age people this year!

    Plus, when I can’t find something online (which is frustratingly common), the best way to get info about a church’s college ministry is by going. I chatted with the connection booth lady, and she said she was going to have somebody call me about it.

    Thanks for the info about the college – that’s definitely something!

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