a horse for the hunt

If you’re out on a foxhunt, no matter how eager you are, it’s slow going on foot.

When our new (or old) students search for a church, it’s slow going without help.

This week’s Fridea is something I’ve always wanted to try… (For the list of these “crazy” ideas, see the first Frideas post.)

What if you “provided a horse” for new students’ hunt for a church this school year – whether you’re in a campus-based ministry, church-based ministry, or in the Spiritual Formation office at a Christian school?

Here’s my idea for speeding up the church-search, but I’m sure there are other good ones.

How ’bout compiling a “viewbook” of local churches? Not just a list of those local churches, but pages of structured “snapshots” of each participating church. And guess what? The snapshots can be prepared by the local churches! (This makes it easier on you, the compiler; if a church doesn’t get back to you, they don’t make it into the viewbook this time around.)

Put the viewbook online, and print it out if you can. Then encourage students – starting with your New Student Orientation booth or letters to new students during the summer – to use the book and find the church God has already picked for them.

The viewbook might look something like this:

  • Key details of each church. These details should include the items students have generally used in making their decision (size of church, style of worship, specific opportunities for college students to get involved, description of the “college group” if there is one, etc.).
  • Include details, as well, that will help in the church search – up-to-date church service times, college ministry activity times, and driving address or intersection.
  • A blurb advertising the church, written by the college minister or other collegiate liaison. Obviously, this should be positive advertising, not negative (what’s great about us, not what’s “better” about us). But the blurb should put the church’s best foot forward, not be so generic that it doesn’t help students. (More on this in a second.)
  • Web links and other contact info. This should include the church’s web page, of course, but also a link to a recent sermon and a direct email address (and/or Facebook contact info) for students to ask questions.
  • If possible, include contact info for a few students who go to this church. This, too, can be provided by the church itself.
  • This viewbook is also an excellent place to include some short articles on picking a church, the importance of church, etc. Give tips on using the viewbook, including questions to ask the church’s pastors or members. Point out that a student can visit more than one church service in a weekend, while they’re working on making this choice.
  • Of course, much of the viewbook info can be reused each year, with just an updating of the church facts where needed.

Those are some possibilities, but add/subtract as needed for your situation.

I know it may seem funny having churches “advertise” like this. It seems so… secular. But honestly, aren’t our students looking for this info on their own? And while they do so, they take extremely long in the church hunt. So I figure they might be helped by any “horse” we can offer.

Students need to make this decision well and, when possible, quickly.

Churches need to do what they can to help that happen well.

And if you and I can help multiple churches help multiple students… well, all the better.

Once you organize the viewbook, distribute it widely. If other ministries won’t use it, make sure you listen to their concerns. If you realize they simply don’t want to help, well… you can still do it, right? And students will appreciate you for it – especially Millennial students, who love this kind of “open-source,” Kingdom-minded cooperation. (Hopefully, this project will already be a joint venture between you and other college ministries anyway!)

As a church college minister (before taking this trip), I was hoping to pull a “viewbook” together someday – even if it meant students ended up somewhere else that was a better fit for them. I don’t want students to come to my ministry ONLY because they happen to hear about it randomly. I want to make the church-pickin’ experience as smooth – and as Jesus-led – as possible, because my discipleship of local students starts the moment I meet them!

Even if they never come to my own little club.

Written from Colorado Springs, CO

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