campus ministries & narrow recruiting

In my last college ministry job, I purposely paid little attention to recruiting. I was focused on discerning our best possible strategy as we began rebuilding the college ministry, and I knew it made little sense to recruit heavily to a ministry that was far from “defined.” (Of course, we were happy to have new students – I just didn’t spend too much energy or time actively recruiting.)

I still encourage that (unusual) approach for those starting (or restarting) a college ministry. However, I later realized it could have been impactful and profitable to recruit one very particular type of Christian student, even during that year. What kind of student might have fit our embryonic ministry? A spiritual “adventurer,” a present or future leader who might thrive (and be impacted) by entering a fledgling ministry they could help shape over time. For those students, our ministry might have been a fit right away.

As I recalled that thinking process, it gave rise to this week’s College Ministry Fridea: “Narrow recruitment.What if this Fall, your signs around campus, your Facebook ads, your Orientation tables, your ads in the school newspaper, or your other recruitment tools focused on specific aspects of your ministry?

Not a real sign. But I guess it could be.
Not a real sign. But I guess it could be.

What if an advertisements only told students about the chance to participate in social justice and other service work? Or the chance to take on big commitments? Or the opportunity to be mentored?

What if a sign or two focused on the benefits of your ministry to Upperclassmen? To those planning to enter certain professions? To Transfer Students?

What if some students were drawn because of the topic of the upcoming messages, while others came because you offer small groups, and others were attracted to the joy and fun that you’ve made a priority to participate in?

Applying this “narrow recruitment” takes wisdom, because I’m not encouraging a “get them there, whatever it takes” mentality or any kind of bait-and-switch. Some of your focuses – like leadership opportunities – might only apply to Christian students, of course. And further, once students do show up, we still have to help impact them in all the ways they need it (even if they’re drawn by one particular opportunity).

But the upside to specificity is that we might interest students who have previously ignored college ministry opportunities, who haven’t felt a “fit” anywhere else, or who didn’t even realize that your college ministry offers something that connects with them!

This also raises the possibility of drawing non-Christians or the formerly churched. As always, the goodness of Christian community often “rings true” with those out of step with God. Many of the values and activities of your college ministry could appeal to college students, whomever they might be.

What if you let students know those things are available, one advertisement at a time?

For the previous Frideas, go here.


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  1. You are onto something with this type of recruitment. I’ve heard that it is harder to get students to ‘check’ you out but if you narrow the focus . . . Great post – thanks for the encouragement and ideas that have been generated.

  2. hey benson great thoughts here on this post.

    i know the fear in narrow recruiting is that we will ‘lose all’ by focusing on ‘some.’ my experience has been the opposite; that in winning few we eventually reach many.

    the key to narrow recruiting is that the messages must be placed where the target actually spends time.

    contextualized message + contextualized platform for message = extremely powerful recruiting.

  3. Pingback: recruiting grab bag! « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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