forty-nine tools, not one big machine

On Monday, I presented a challenge for us not to view highly successful college ministries or ministry activities as “machines” to be copied, but rather “toolboxes.” We should learn from others and their successful programs, but always discern which components are most useful in our original context.

What’s difficult about this, however, is that few of us realize just how many principles or options are contained within ONE activity (let alone an entire ministry!). So I’ve often used the tool below to make this very point – and figured it was high time to dust it off again.

Whether you’re in the middle of evaluating your Large Group Meeting or just need a reminder that there are LOTS of options available to you in any given activity, here you go:

Forty-nine Decisions You’ve Made about your Large Group Meeting

This is a list of questions you’ve already answered about your college ministry’s large group gathering, the “Sing ‘n Speak” that is the cornerstone and front door for so many ministries. A key point: This list is based on actual variations I’ve seen. So I’m not making up new ideas (though we should do that!); I’m simply noting the many points in which college ministries already vary… which means that in each of these 49 areas, you’ve got options available.

The question is: Where options are available, did you make a purposeful, active decision?

Decisions about your Large Group Meeting’s schedule, organization, etc.

  1. Day of the week?
  2. Time of night (or day)?
  3. Length? (I’ve seen 30 minutes to nearly two hours)
  4. Number of times in a week / month? (Besides the standard weekly meeting, there are daily meetings, monthly gatherings, and less-than-monthly gatherings)
  5. What do we call this Large Group Meeting?
  6. Location? (beginning with whether it’s held 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 meeting involve only one college ministry, or multiple ministries? (multiple ministries could come from the same organization across a campus or a city, or from multiple organizations partnering together for the Large Group)
  9. Who sets up for the Large Group?
  10. Are adults / volunteers (besides staff) present?

Decisions about the Start

  1. What do students see when they first approach the Large Group Meeting?
  2. What takes place as student wait to start? Congregate and talk? Sit? Pray / prepare? Eat something?
  3. What takes place before the start? Music? Announcements scrolling on slides? A countdown video?
  4. Do students wait inside the room, outside the room, or both?
  5. Does greeting of regulars and/or visitors take place? Is that greeting organic? Systematic? Effective?
  6. Nametags?
  7. Start on time? Purposely delayed? Delayed “just ’cause”?

Decisions about the Music

  1. Are songs regularly sung at the Large Group Meeting?
  2. How many songs are sung?
  3. Does the majority of (or all) singing take place before the message? Or after?
  4. Is the “music set” broken up by announcements or other activities?
  5. Do the worship leader and/or band participate 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.

Decisions about the Message

  1. Do we generally offer standalone messages, or use series? (and if so, how long is each series? A few weeks? Semester-long?)
  2. How is the message topic / passage chosen?
  3. Who gives the message? (And does that change week-to-week?)
  4. How long is the message? (I’ve probably seen from 10 minutes to an hour)
  5. Are there chances to discuss the message with others within the larger 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.

Even More Decisions

  1. Are announcements given?
  2. If so, what is their tone and method?
  3. Who gives them?
  4. 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.)
  5. Is there a time for students to “greet those around you”?
  6. Is there a corporate ice breaker and/or skit?
  7. Is there a set-aside time for prayer in groups and/or an extended time of silent prayer?
  8. Is an offering taken? (yes, plenty of ministries do this)
  9. Are visitors pointed out during the meeting?
  10. Is attendance counted, or are specific attendees recorded somehow?
  11. Are the college minister and other leaders identified to attendees?
  12. Is there an opportunity given to take any sort of next step immediately? (this could be anything from an evangelistic appeal / invitation to a “5-minute party” to share about the ministry afterward)

Decisions about Afterwards

  1. Have we provided space / opportunity for students to connect with each other (even casually) as the meeting ends?
  2. Are there activities organized after the meeting? Are these ministry-related (like small groups), fellowship, or for some other purpose?
  3. Are sign-ups and/or advertisements available after the meeting?
  4. Do we sell / give away anything (T-shirts, stickers, resources, etc.)?
  5. Who helps “tear down” the meeting?

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