49 decisions, conscious or otherwise

I’m leading a small gathering of church-based college ministers from around the U.S. later this week! (I’ll blog more about that in the days to come.) One of the tools we’ll probably use is the post below, looking at just how diverse even college ministry’s most basic methods can be. So since it’s a good one (and has been a popular one), I figured I’d repost it for everybody today.

Since most of us have only seen a few different college ministries in action (and sometimes no ministries outside our own circles), we haven’t had the opportunity to learn all the other ways that ministries organize service projects, recruit freshmen, or fundraise. But it’s funny: Once we observe even a few “alternate universes,” we may start to realize how many options are truly available.

Nowhere is this more true than in the staple of college ministry: the Large Group Meeting, the “Sing ‘n Speak” that is the cornerstone for so many. Starting with the decision about whether to have a Large Group Meeting or not (yes, some college ministries have decided not to), you’re making lots of choices… even if you don’t mean to.

But if your choices aren’t conscious decisions, they’re less likely to be as impactful as they could be.

Below is a list of decisions you’ve already made about your college ministry’s Large Group gathering. How do I know you’ve already made these decisions? Because this list is based on actual variations I’ve seen in campus ministries across the country.

Each of these 49 areas differ within U.S. college ministries – so how many did you make a conscious decision about?

Decisions you’ve made about your college ministry’s large group gathering

Schedule, organization, etc.

  1. Day of the week?
  2. Time of night (or day)?
  3. Length? (I’ve seen 30 minutes to 1:30+)
  4. Number of times in a week / month? (Besides the more standard weekly meeting, some have daily meetings, monthly gatherings, and less-than-monthly gatherings)
  5. What do we call our Large Group Meeting? (formally and informally)
  6. Location? (off-campus or on-campus, and then the decision of where beyond that)
  7. Is the bulk of the meeting organized / run by students or by adults?
  8. Does the Large Group Meeting involve only one college ministry, or multiple ministries? (multiple could be from the same organization across a city, or from multiple organizations across a campus or city)
  9. Who is involved in setup and how is that managed?
  10. Are adults / volunteers (besides staff) present at the meeting?

The Start

  1. What do students see when they first approach the meeting area?
  2. What takes place as students wait to start? Congregate and talk? Sit down? Pray / prepare? Eat something?
  3. What takes place before the start? Music? Announcements on PowerPoint? A countdown video?
  4. Do students wait inside the room, outside the room, or both?
  5. Does greeting of members and/or visitors take place before the meeting? Is that greeting organic? Systematic?
  6. Nametags?
  7. Start on time? Purposely start late? Accidentally start late?

The Music

  1. Are songs regularly sung at the Large Group Meeting? (nope, not everybody does)
  2. How many songs are sung?
  3. Does the majority of (or all) singing take place before or after the message?
  4. Is the singing broken up by announcements or other activities?
  5. Are the worship leader and/or band involved in the college ministry (outside of this meeting)?
  6. Is the worship leader and/or band required to meet certain spiritual qualifications?
  7. What is the song choice based on?
  8. Are there other worship stations (art, prayer, etc.) available during this time?

*of course, some “special gatherings” might involve other variations on the singing – like a whole meeting of only singing, a certain type of music, no music, etc.

The Message

  1. Standalone message, or part of a series? (and if so, how long is the series? A few weeks? Semester-long?)
  2. How is the message topic / passage chosen?
  3. Who gives the message? Does that change week-to-week?
  4. How long is the message? (I’ve probably seen from 10 minutes to an hour)
  5. Is there organized group discussion of the message within the meeting time?
  6. Are suggestions given for further study of the topic (either verbally or on paper)?
  7. Is there interaction with the audience during the message?

*of course, we could ask a billion more questions about message content, speaking aids, components of a message, etc.. I’m sticking to broader issues here, but those are all important decisions, too.

The More

  1. Are announcements given? If so, what is their tone and method? Who gives them?
  2. Are announcements from outside organizations allowed?
  3. What students / kinds of students are “honored” or placed in front of their peers? (Thanks to Bob Wriedt from the original post’s comments for helping me think through this one.)
  4. Is there a “greeting of those around you” time?
  5. Is there a corporate ice breaker and/or skit?
  6. Is there a set-aside time for prayer in groups and/or an extended time of silent prayer?
  7. Is an offering taken? (yes, plenty of ministries do this)
  8. Are visitors pointed out during the meeting?
  9. Is attendance counted, or are attendees recorded somehow?
  10. Are the college minister and other leaders identified to attendees?
  11. Is there an opportunity given to take any sort of next step immediately? (this could be anything from an evangelistic appeal and invitation to a “5-minute party” to share about the ministry afterward)

The After

  1. Do students congregate afterward? (yes, even this is partly our decision!)
  2. Is there space / opportunity for students to connect with each other (even casually) after the meeting?
  3. Are there activities organized after the meeting? Are these for (small-group) discipleship, fellowship, or some other purpose?
  4. Are sign-ups and/or advertisements available for students at the meeting?
  5. Do we sell / give away anything (T-shirts, stickers, etc.)?
  6. Who is involved in “tear-down,” and how is that managed?

Look for the follow-up later this week. But if you want more now, check out the the original follow-up post, which asks whether these should be seen as a bunch of methods – or one “method bundle.”


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  1. Pingback: your large group meeting probably isn’t like this « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

  2. Pingback: raising expectations #4: unique choices in one ministry | Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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