This week, we’re looking at ways to get students more involved in a college ministry, and yesterday I noted the importance of regularly repeating the next steps available to them.

Today, a “repeat” of a different kind: Making sure that students’ next steps are open (or re-opened) several times through the year.

A college ministry is too fluid a thing to only offer entry into a small group once a year (or even once a semester). Unless you’re getting NO new students, those students who come shouldn’t have to wait ten weeks (or ten months) to jump in to community.

(This focus on keeping opportunities open – or re-opening them occasionally – can affect your recruitment, too. Notes on that below.)

The same should hold true for other “levels of involvement,” at least as much as possible. I’ve written before about staggering yearlong leadership posts so that some begin in January, for instance, and others in August. (See the bottom of this 2010 post for more on that.) Plus in some ministries – especially if they’re just starting with leadership teams – it’s probably better to have semester-long commitments anyway.

Where else can we provide multiple entry points throughout a semester?

  • Getting on a ministry team (like greeters, or the social media team, or any other team you have)
  • Leading a small group (because you’re trying to open new ones through the year, right?!)
  • “Recruiting” itself, both on-campus and within the ministry: If the only time we focus on greeting visitors well or casting the vision for the ministry is at the beginning of a year or a semester, we’re missing a big chance
  • On-ramp opportunities: Your new-student-focused parties, information gatherings, or service projects don’t have to take place only at the beginning of the year.
  • Mission trips, retreats, conferences, and other big events: Obviously, you have to have a cut-off for signups. But are you delaying those signups so that the maximum number of new people can jump in? If students have to sign up in the first few weeks, you’re unlikely to get a lot of people who are aren’t extremely familiar with your ministry yet.
  • Becoming known: Sadly, if a student doesn’t arrive within a certain “window” in some ministries, he or she doesn’t really get known for that entire school year. Some of the above options would help that change, but this is really something to look at for your campus ministry.

I noted above that this impacts recruiting, and I truly believe it does: in TWO ways!

  • People who come are more likely to come back when a next step is obvious and imminent
  • Present students have a lot more inroads for inviting friends; they can choose the best “entry point” instead of having to offer (only) your Large Group Meeting