There are many hundreds of handwritten pages of notes from my road trip, filled with all sorts of college ministry gems – including plenty of large-scale innovations and simple-but-powerful ideas.
This weekend, I ran across the notes from my interview with Jesse Bradley, then college pastor at North Coast Church outside San Diego. He told me that they annually invited high school seniors to participate – as fully as the youth wanted to – in the college ministry beginning each January. While they noticed it often taking until the fall semester for students truly to “stick,” it still provided the opportunity for transitioning students smoothly.
Not all of us minister in churches, but I bet most of us have access right now to future ministry participants. Don’t believe me?
Obviously, church-based college ministries do have a natural intake (which makes it all the more surprising how badly that transition often goes). But for those not in churches, what about connecting with local youth groups? Some of those students are going to stay local for college, right? Maybe other churches or youth parachurch ministries in your state will get you contact info, too. You could even take a “recruiting” trip, visiting youth ministries you know will probably send students to your campus.
Targeted Facebook messages can start this semester, as can letters to parents, as can getting your freshmen (and others) to contact friends who are still in high school. A great freshman-focused web site can go a long way, as can a Facebook group and lots of invitations.
Obviously, you probably won’t contact every new freshman and transfer student coming to your school. But why not connect with the students you can connect with, in whatever creative ways you can come up with? It’ll help them, and it will help your ministry.