The college ministry I volunteer in has a pretty great spot for their Large Group Meeting. It’s a big auditorium on the lowest level of the student center on campus, and even though it’s sorta underground, it’s pretty perfect for a large group.
However, the area around where we meet isn’t as favorable. It’s hard to explain, but there’s sort of an annoying bend in the “thoroughfare” students take to get inside. So during hang-out times before and after the meeting itself, it’s a little awkward, and the space (as we’ve presently got it set up) gets a little small. Not only does the layout kinda discourage students from standing around talking, but the Info & Sign-up Table gets swallowed up in its spot along the wall.
So one of the staff members and I were contemplating a better arrangement Wednesday night, so I figured I’d highlight this area for the College Ministry Fridea.
I imagine that in many cases, our campus ministries’ coming-and-going thoroughfares get overlooked – even if we spend some major time setting up the stage and other parts of the room itself. But the gathering areas, arrival routes, and departure routes for our Large Group Meetings can be extremely helpful (or problematic) when it comes to building community, helping Movement (like getting sign-ups, etc.), and making new guests feel welcome and comfortable.
That leads to this week’s College Ministry Fridea: Take some time to observe and ponder the gathering spots and thoroughfares around your weekly meeting(s).
This is one of the several places in college ministry where a little bit of strategizing can go a long way… and conversely, it’s a place where many of us may overlook simple-but-powerful tweaks, letting negatives remain for months or years.
I encourage you to spend some time (or get some students to spend some time) making these “spaces” more effective, more welcoming, more inviting, more comfortable, and more community-enhancing. Notice ways you might be discouraging interaction (like if there isn’t room to stop and chat), entrances where guests can slip in unnoticed, barriers to entering in the first place, or things that encourage students to leave afterwards too quickly! It may not be that your spots are too small; too big a hang-out space can discourage interaction and feel coldly cavernous. Maybe you need to bring in some fresh eyes altogether, getting students who’ve never attended to give you their first impressions of your spaces and avenues.
And on and on. There are lots of ways to observe this and address this; the point is to look with new eyes on the space you’re offering students. Jesus cares about Hospitality, and this is part of that. He’ll help us even with these nitty-gritties, I believe, and the little tweaks are still a big part of caring for our students and shepherding them well.