Yesterday, I posted my personal default when getting a college ministry off the ground: I make student recruitment a pretty low priority.
When I say “default,” I’m purposely leaving room for situations that could call for heavy recruitment right off the bat. Yet I believe that most instances of new college ministries are best served by placing numerical growth fairly low on the priority list.
Here are some reasons why:
Opportunity cost: Pouring our resources, time, energy, and even expectations into recruitment keeps them from other, more foundational things. This is not to say that I wouldn’t hope for new students. But my main point is that this wouldn’t be where I would focus up front.
What are we recruiting to?: It’s tricky to invite students to be part of a group before it has an identity. I don’t want to lie about the group to get students to come. I don’t want to recruit to the “awesomeness of the leader” or other “pizzaz” elements; if that works I’ll end up with an unhealthy ministry. And if I create a temporary identity for our ministry, I run the risk of alienating students once it changes.
How well are we impacting?: Would a larger number of students really be impacted at this point in our ministry? It might be better to concentrate on going spiritually deep with the students who do show up. If I lay out the ministry’s standards, values, and purposes with the few students we have, then they could eventually make up our “core” for the next few years. Then they will help me recruit, impact, and assimilate once we’re underway.
It might be a waste: Honestly, it can be pretty hard to draw students to an unknown, fledgling college ministry – especially if I’m recruiting to substance and not just one single “pizzaz” element.
Ultimately, if we build a remarkable ministry – as in, a ministry people remark about – then recruitment may take care of itself. And we can add “marketing” elements as needed. But by that point, we will be better known, will have an identity, will have some sort of organization, and will be ready to welcome – and keep – visitors better.