Yesterday I discussed the icebreaker activity we practiced weekly during my first year of ministry to college students. As I said, we did it to build community by learning each other’s names and sharing other info. But there’s another powerful aspect to things like those, an aspect that became clearer as the year went on.
[As many college ministries are starting a new school year, this college ministry “leadership nuggets” series shares methods and ideas I learned in my first year of college ministry.]
Even simple traditions help strengthen the bond within a ministry. That’s what our weekly round of introductions became that year – purposeful tradition. Over time, it became an anticipated opportunity for our group to smile together, share about ourselves, and learn a little more about each other. We developed many more mini-traditions as the year went on. Crazy, serious, or somewhere in between, those recurring activities became meaningful parts of our experience.
So even simple icebreakers, a favorite group song, or a regular hang-out spot can become a “liturgy” of sorts, encouraging participation and building community. Some of this liturgy can be distinctly spiritual, but even inside-jokes can serve as “liturgy lite” within a ministry group.
We can introduce these traditions on purpose (just beware of trying too hard!). But it’s probably even more important to be vigilant, always looking for opportunities to build on the experiences, discussions, and memories your group shares.
rally ’round the leader, even via roasting
Like I said, even inside-jokes can be a bonding “liturgy” for a ministry. During that first year of ministry, plenty of our group’s jokes actually came at the expense of our goofball leader… and that was me. (But I couldn’t have been happier about it!)
I learned during that year – and have seen it bear fruit plenty of times since – that a lot of shared experiences can result from making fun of Benson! But I saw that happen when I opened my life in other ways, too – like when my co-leader and I took our group on weekend retreats to our respective childhood homes.
There are plenty of reasons to be authentic, to “be myself,” as a college minister. But one reason is because God may want to use my own story and life to help build community. There may be opportunities to rally around a leader’s hobbies or a leader’s stories or a leader’s family or a leader’s quirks. The truth is, while group members are still forming connections to each other, they often already share one big thing in common: their connection to you!