nuggets: getting to know you…

What’s your favorite pair of shoes?

[This “leadership nuggets” series gives some basic-but-lasting things I learned in my first year of college ministry. As the school year starts, they might be useful thoughts for ministers, student leaders, and volunteers!]

My first college ministry year involved shepherding a group of around 40 freshmen, with 15 to 30 showing up weekly. And week after week, we took the time to go around the circle – with each student giving their name, major, and an answer to some dumb question. A couple of old favorites are:

  • What’s your favorite pair of shoes?
  • If you could, what food would you swim in, and in what country? Why?

Every week. Yes, it took time. Yes, it was redundant. But yes, I think it absolutely made a difference.

We also wore nametags every week in that ministry. That helped me as a leader, and I’m sure it helped students, too. It’s always VERY tempting to avoid people just because you can’t remember a name.

So one thing I really learned that year was the value of getting to know each other through basic, recurring, purposeful little things.

It seems to me that brand-new community might be killed while it’s just a seedling, simply because students don’t remember each other’s names, haven’t found topics for conversation, don’t laugh together, or haven’t connected on the casual, fun, normal level. Even if they’ve sat through plenty of Bible studies together. Even if they’ve done big, anonymous activities together.

All because I, the leader, was too cool to go around the circle? All because we were too awesome to write our names on stickers?

[I say a little more about this kind of stuff at this post.]

Know your group; it’s conceivable these things aren’t best for your ministry. But why is it so tempting for us to be snobby? Get-to-know-you games, redundant introductions, and nametags aren’t child’s play. They’re easy and powerful opportunities to nourish community in its infancy. (And if the group is an open group – bringing in new people anytime – then community is always in its infancy for somebody!)

Remember, it’s Day 11 of College Union’s 40 Days of Prayer for Campus Ministry!


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  1. Ian

    My favorite shoes are my TOMS shoes I’m wearing right now, thank you very much. My wife got them for me on fathers day.

    That’s some good stuff Ben. We’ve done those type of odd questions for small groups in my local church. We called them “ice breakers”

    Your point about avoiding people because you can’t remember their name is so true.

    I think Brian Regan does a comedy bit on that, “Hey there…champ, er…ah, sport.”

    So what’s that I saw about you now doing some collegiate ministry at SMU?

    Grace and peace,

  2. Pingback: best-of-the-blog: training small group leaders « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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