A few weeks ago, I had the chance to guest-blog on Guy Chmieleski’s “Faith on Campus” blog. I chose a topic that’s particularly dear to my heart, one of the ways I believe an individual college ministry can best be evaluated. So I wanted to make sure you guys got to check it out!
In the first half of 2007, I read Simple Church, by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, as part of my duties as a full-time church college minister. That would be a turning point of sorts in my study of college ministry; Simple Church, along with a few other well-timed books that year, helped me see just how much could be gained by appropriating principles from outside the college ministry world.
Little did I know that I would soon find myself observing college ministries all over the U.S. – and it would be quite handy, in a field of ministry where we have very few objective measures, to have some guidelines to inform my questions and observations.
One of those “guidelines” discussed in Simple Church is the principle of Movement. It describes the process of helping a ministry’s members transition to deeper levels of involvement. College ministry is certainly accustomed to having different involvement levels available (like large-group meetings, small groups, and leadership), but we don’t always place priority on helping our students progress through these levels well.
If your college ministry was evaluated on that basis, how encouraging would the results be?
Adapting the recommendations in Chapter 6 of Simple Church, here are three ways in which Movement is achieved:
1. Define how ministry activities correlate with students’ various levels of involvement.
When a student first comes to our ministry, what activities are they most likely to participate in? As they grow in their involvement (and, hopefully, grow in Christ!), which activities provide deeper impact? Though every student is different and our structure may end up messier than we’d prefer, we should have a clear understanding of how students can progress through our ministry – from the time they enter to the time they graduate. Having a clear picture of this “path” enables us to encourage and facilitate Movement (as described below), and it also keeps us from programming too much at any single level of involvement.
2. Encourage Movement
As shepherds, it’s our job to point students to the activities that will help impact them further. Simple Church helped me to get comfortable with discomfort; students should actually feel some urgency to deepen their level of involvement over time. We have to define the levels of involvement for our students, express our hopes for Movement (both corporately and one-on-one), teach students why each level of involvement is right and good, and use each level of involvement to point students to the next level.
3. Facilitate Movement
While we may focus lots of energy on helping students enter our ministries, we don’t generally put the same effort into helping students progress, for example, from being “regular attenders” to serving in a committed capacity. Besides defining what Movement looks like and encouraging it to take place, we must help students take steps toward deeper involvement.
Simple Church suggests various ways in which this can take place. Two of the most applicable for our field include creating short-term or one-time opportunities for “trying out” the next level, and creating “bridges” between involvement levels. Sometimes, students might not deepen their involvement because the “step” required to move to the next level simply feels too large. By creating activities that provide more incremental steps, we give students the opportunity to progress easily and successfully.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? How have you seen this play out (or not) in your ministry?