SHOW recruitment and TELL recruitment

Yesterday I asked my Twitter crowd what topic they would appreciate seeing covered in this week’s College Ministry Fridea. I limited the area to recruiting, simply because I know that’s something many of us need to hear these days.

Here were some of the responses I got:


So here’s what I decided might come in most handy this week.

First, I want to point to the 20ish posts on recruiting here on the blog. Just skim through the Methods / for Recruitment category here for anything that might help your ministry this time around. (Keep clicking Previous Entries to see more.) If you have the chance to scan through those, some of the posts might really get the wheels turning for you.

show & tell

But I also wanted to give a quick push in response to what seems to echo through some of those Twitter-requests: the hope for recruitment beyond the normal “hand out a flier and a cup” approaches (as my friend Brian Graves of CCF at Missouri Western aptly described).

If you’re wanting to change things up, I’d encourage you to consider providing show recruitment, not simply tell recruitment.

What about your particular collegiate ministry (and entire church, in the case of a church-based ministry) is truly remarkable? What do students tell their friends about, what do alumni remember fondly, what do you and the students involved get really excited about? In other words, what is remarked about?

Is there a creative way to show those “remarkables” – rather than only telling them?

If your ministry is known for having a lot of fun together, then you might consider something along the lines of the ultimate Frisbee idea presented above by Kevin Young (Christian Challenge, Mesa State U). That reminded me of one of the best collegiate campaigns I’ve seen – only it wasn’t for a college ministry but for a major student body election at Texas A&M. I still remember the Ricky Wood for Yell Leader campaign a decade later, because those guys took a very unique tack…

…they had a blast. Wearing bright green T-shirts and popping up all over campus, those guys spent a lot of time simply having fun on campus in various, public ways. I never met Ricky, but it sure said something about him. The campaign showed us who they were; they didn’t just tell us.

But maybe your ministry has a different remarkable to show: Depth of teaching. Strength of community. Passionate worship times. Opportunities for service. Whatever it is, you probably show it on a regular basis during the semester, whether during a weekly meeting or on campus. What’s keeping you from showing it during recruitment?

What’s significant enough about your ministry that it’s worth showing to a waiting campus instead of simply telling people in the midst of 223 other organizations? How could you even do that?

Let me know if I can help you brainstorm about how to show a remarkable aspect of your ministry – in the comments or in a message. Or give us your own creative thoughts on brainstorming!


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  1. Great stuff, as usual, Ben.

    I’ll get the ball rolling. THE defining mark of our ministry is that we are something of an “island for misfit toys.” Meaning, we tend to attract and connect with the less-cool crowd, those who wouldn’t find a home anywhere else on campus.

    So, obviously, this strange community is part of our DNA.

    How do you “show” this?

  2. We actually went and bought Old Navy Flip Flops ($2.50/pair) but they have $1/pair sale sometime in the summer and we got paint pens and sharpies and wrote our college ministry info on the top of the flop.

    We passed these out to freshman and everyone loved them, and it is a daily reminder of who we are and where you can find us. Next year, look for the $1 flip flop sale at Old Navy.

  3. Thanks for starting with a really tricky one, Brandon. :)

    Here’s what comes to mind: First, showing that element of your ministry means showing your students. You might try to make sure the students you already have are involved in any recruitment efforts you have (a Welcome Week booth, for instance). Only encourage them to connect with fewer students BETTER, rather than more students in a more shallow way. Because that’s the way your ministry sounds like it can be characterized anyway. If the students you have connect well with students somewhat like them, those students may recognize that you offer something the other ministries don’t.

    Second, if you are able to communicate (tell) this aspect, that in itself IS a form of “showing,” right? While you certainly don’t want to sound like you’re putting down your students, no “club for cool kids” ministry would ever proclaim that they’re proudly “uncool,” right? So in this case, TELLING might actually be part of SHOWING.

    That’s what comes to mind, but I’d love to hear other thoughts you’ve had (or others have).

  4. Brian, that’s a phenomenal idea. I bet you could find even cheaper ones (and year-round) online, but that’s just a guess.

    Any giveaway that produces longevity of exposure is obviously a HUGE win, especially when it’s something students actually get excited about getting (and using/wearing).

  5. I have found that the more you can be involved with the new student orientation process… the better! Depending on whether you are on campus, or off, will obviously have some bearing on some of this, but…

    We have a summer orientation program that happens for three weeks during the month of June. 4 years ago we got 2 minutes to speak to a portion of the students during each day and a half long session. Last year we had 40 minutes to talk with a larger portion of each orientation group. This past summer we got 40 minutes with a large portion of students & parents, did a 30 minute session for all parents and students on the Christian mission of university, and held a 30 minute worship service for parents. It was all tied to a growing working relationship with the Director of New Student and Parent Programs.

    We have also increased our presence at Welcome Week activities… We have all of our students (in our UM t-shirts) help students move in all day during move-in day. We host a Church Fair to help students connect with local churches (and it’s a good time for us to re/connect with church leaders). We now do a welcome week worship service that almost all new students attend… and then we host a meet-and-greet afterwords where they can meet staff, student leaders and hear about ways they can be involved.

    I know some of these things will be harder to do if you work from off-campus… but a strong relationship with the office in charge of this time is crucial!

  6. At my campus, we’ve had a tough time getting in during the welcome week and orientation weeks. About five years ago, just about the time I started into the ministry, the college kicked all the clubs out of the first weeks activities and took everything over “to promote a sense of community on campus.” Now, I don’t have any problem with community, it’s one of our main selling points at Challenge, but it did mean that the school had taken over each afternoon, evening, and night the week before and the first week of classes. They had a team of dedicated student movers helping people move in, they had people walking around in t-shirts with big ? marks on them answering questions, they handed out all the swag. And in a day of heighten security, they made it nearly impossible to get into the dorms unless you had a student escort with you. It seemed to me like all of the tried and true ways of meeting people were shot, and we had a couple of tough years.

    Then we kind of stumbled upon one of the best things that has happened to our ministry. We were talking with some of the other campus ministers, and through this conversation decided to start a group called “Common Ground.” CG is a once a month meeting where all of the local collegiate church and campus ministries of all different denominations get together to talk about the state of affairs on campus and what we’re doing. It also allows us to do a couple of bigger events that normally we wouldn’t be able to, due to budget constraints and time factors. One of these is our now-famous “Meat the Freshmen” event.

    Meat the Freshmen is a giant steak BBQ for the whole campus. Now, not all people come, and it’s not all freshmen, but it’s our way to let students and faculty know we’re here and that we like to cook steak. We literally cook 600-700 steaks to order, along with baked potatoes and beans and ice cream, and just feed people.

    During this time, we have our students and leaders just standing in line and sitting at tables getting to know various students. No big signs, no giant evangelist preacher, nothing like that. Just beginning relationships with students we didn’t know through a common attraction to medium rare top-sirloin. It’s great. And we’re now the official campus event for the first Thursday night – on the advertising the school sends out and everything.

    It takes time, but even the hardest campuses can be broken into with a little determination and lots and lots of prayer….

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

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