your large group meeting isn’t like this (probably)

My 15th multistate, college ministry-exploring road trip is still underway! (Details here.) I’ve been updating regularly (though a bit chaotically) this week.

While sometimes we don’t realize it, how we “do” our Large Group Meeting is the product of a multitude of choices. In fact, it’s at least 49 choices; I’ve posted before on 49 separate ways I’ve seen Large Group Meetings differ around the country.

But since this week I’m providing an up-close look at Road Trip 15, I wanted to share the unique aspects I found in ONE visit last night. In this case, it happens to be the weekly InterVarsity meeting at Northern Arizona U. (Some of these unique characteristics come from this being an IV chapter, but some are probably rare even within that org.)

Walk with me through the uniquenesses I found at NAU’s IV.

1. Musical marketing. At least an hour before the meeting, the worship team could be heard (warming up, presumably) throughout a large portion of the South Campus of NAU. Since their meeting takes place in a second-floor ballroom, the windows open onto the campus below – and allow for some major acoustical advertisement.

2. Song scheduling. Two songs before the message, three afterwards. (Admittedly, the leader did act like that diverted from the usual plan.)

3. MCs. Apparently they have official, every week emcees – a guy and a girl – for the 2010-2011 school year. They did announcements (twice). This isn’t uncommon among some of the campus-based ministries, but not nearly all the rest of us use this device.

4. Camp and Dance (unique events). I know a “summer week” of some sort is also common among some campus-based groups, but other college ministries don’t do anything like that. Less common, I’d imagine, are formal dances, but they were advertising one last night.

5. They took an offering. This week, the offering went toward their upcoming Chapter Camp this summer.

6. Song styling. Worship had a distinct “world beat,” multi-instrument, diverse feel – down to singing one song in Hawaiian (with an electric ukulele accompanying!) and learning a sign language phrase for another. This is not at all uncommon within InterVarsity, but for the rest of us it’s a unique treat.

7. Speaker profile. Not only does IV at NAU appear to use different speakers each week (which doesn’t fit some of our molds), but last night’s speaker was an alumnus AND an introvert (he noted that). In fact, he basically read his talk. And it was very, very good.

None of these aspects are wildly surprising, of course, but it still might be helpful for some of us to consider varying our speaker lineup, varying the types of speakers we rely on, considering the impactfulness some of our alums could bring to a message.

8. They gave an invitation. Yes, a real-life, do-you-want-to-come-to-Christ invitation. (A second option for others getting a free Bible from the back – if you were willing to read it.) The first song of the post-message worship was even “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” – doesn’t get any more classic than that. Where else have I seen an invitation? Oh yeah,  the InterVarsity group (that’s widely known for seeing students come to Christ) at UCSD.

9. Message length (and entire meeting length). Message lengths vary in college ministry, but this one was 25 minutes… and the entire meeting was over in less than an hour. Like I said, everything was quite good – so I don’t feel the shortness took anything at all away from it, and there are clearly some up-sides to brevity, too.

10. Afterparty. I think the encouragement to go to Starbucks at the meeting’s end was pointing us to an after-Large Group hangout. This method pops up all over, but not nearly “all over” enough for my taste. I’m a fan of encouraging community in this way (if it fits your group and your campus).

Posted from Motel 6, Flagstaff


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  1. Jim

    Great insight Benson! The ‘MC’ idea is the only new one for me. We generally do all of the others. (Well maybe a stretch on the world beat on the music ;-)

    I’m just sad that in our community, we don’t have a place, like a Starbucks, to hangout at afterwards. We’ve tried McDonalds, Wendy’s and Taco Bell, but just not the fellowship interaction that I was looking for!

    Stay safe on the road…looking forward to more insights!

  2. Thanks, Jim! How do you “score” on the list of 49 choices? :)

    I imagine some of these things might occur a little more often in collegiate churches, too (invitation and offering especially). But some seem a little more surprising for a collegiate church: You guys hold dances? Rotate speakers each week? Go less than an hour? All great options – just probably less common in collegiate churches, I’d imagine.

    Hopefully I can come visit you guys sometime!

  3. Jim

    Haven’t had an opportunity to check out the ’49 choices’. Definitely will soon.

    I realize our collegiate church is certainly out of the ordinary! Hold dances: absolutely! We host at least 2 semi-formal dances each year, 1 in each semester…a Homecoming Dance and a Valentines Dance.

    Rotating speakers: not so much. I do primary all of the speaking. I do however, have a couple of students in our ministry that are really good speakers (and sensing a call to the ministry as well!) that I use occasionally.

    Less than an hours: No doubt. Rarely do we go over an hour.

    Have a great week!

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