I’m not exactly sure why it would take me 12 years to consider applying this form in the way I’ll explain today, when it was – in fact- basically the main form of college ministry I was involved in myself.
When I went to Texas A&M, I jumped in pretty quickly to a church that just happened to draw the largest number of students down there. Our enormous Sunday morning gatherings (800 or so) began with some very “collegiate” worship, followed by announcements. But then, except for the very rare Sundays when we stayed together, we split into probably two dozen different classes.
The classes were generally “set” for the semester (though the participants could move around if they felt like it). So over my time at A&M, I participated in a small group studying God’s Invitation, a larger Freshmen class, a large Bible-book class taught by an adult, and a class working through the book Experiencing God (that I actually co-taught with a gal). There was another one in there – possibly a men’s class? – but no more for me, since I graduated rather early.
This format certainly isn’t unheard-of among church-based college ministries. However, many church-based college ministries also have a(nother) Large Group Meeting during the week, with the standard single-teacher form. Ours didn’t (but that was likely because other ministries – including the five-thousand-student-drawing Breakaway – had midweek things).
But even though this is what I enjoyed there, until recently I’d never considered the possibility that any Large Group Meeting of a certain size could offer the same sort of “split form.” Following fellowship, worship, announcements, skits, videos, etc., any large-enough college ministry could offer not one single teaching time, but multiple topics and teachers. So that’s this week’s Fridea: the split-form large group meeting.
From the perspective of college ministry “norms,” this is definitely from funkytown. While it’s certainly possible that somebody out there uses this format, I don’t remember ever seeing it. (If you know a ministry that does, I’d love to hear about it.) But with my recent focus on letting our purposes for students govern our methods, as well as examining the college ministries here in Dallas (including the one I volunteer in), I’m suddenly quite intrigued by this idea.
Potential pros? This allows for and even pushes “self-discipleship” – making students discern the learning they need the most, at this time. It allows for more of your qualified leaders (either students or adults) to participate in a teaching role. It offers variety, which college students – and all the moreso Millennial college students – love.
Doesn’t this just replicate small groups? It could, and that’s no good. But these groups may actually offer variety the small groups don’t (in their teachers, or across lines of school year, gender, or maturity). If your small groups require pretty solid commitment, these probably wouldn’t – they’d still function as “front door” (assuming that’s the goal of your Large Group Meeting). And these splits wouldn’t necessarily be very small, anyway.
And while this takes away some opportunities to steer the entire group at once, you could – of course – only use Split Form in certain weeks of the school year.
So there you go. I feel like this is one of those Frideas that could get me laughed off the internets, or could revolutionize some ministries. It’s still one I’m pondering, so don’t judge me for thinking out loud!
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