raising expectations #4: unique choices in one ministry

Today (if all has gone well), I’m in Ethiopia with 20 young adults, partnering with local churches through e3 Partners. So this week, I’m re-posting five entries that touch on the idea of “raising expectations” for what we do in our campus ministry. For all the posts (including last Friday’s introduction), click here.

What can “raising expectations” look like in ONE ministry?

I’ve now posted these observations a few times, but I love this look into ONE college ministry experience I had on Road Trip 15. By doing ministry differently than many of us do – even in little ways – they’re likely raising expectations for what students experience at (and after!) the weekly meeting. While some of these unique characteristics come from this being an InterVarsity chapter, others are probably rare even within that organization.

Walk with me through the uniquenesses I found at Northern Arizona University’s IV:

1. Musical marketing. At least an hour before the meeting, the worship team could be heard (warming up, presumably) throughout 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. Unique song scheduling. Two songs before the message, three afterwards. (Admittedly, the leader did act like that was different from the usual plan.)

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

4. Summer Camp and a 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 particular offering went toward their upcoming Chapter Camp. As I noted in the list of 49 decisions, some college ministries do allow students to donate in this way.

6. Unique song styling. Worship time had a distinct “world beat,” multi-instrument, diverse feel – including 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, and considering the impactfulness some of our alums could bring.

8. They gave an invitation. Yes, a real-life, do-you-want-to-come-to-Jesus invitation. (A second “invitation” offered 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 lots of 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 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 official after-Large Group hangout. This method pops up all over in college ministries, 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, of course).

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