ice buckets, snowball fights, and starting big

I’ve run into college ministers who challenge the common notion that “big fun loud events” are a purposeful, wise way to draw students to a ministry. Their concerns include

  • If you draw them that way, they’ll leave when the fun stops
  • It’s just copying our secular campus counterparts
  • Even if it’s not “bad,” it doesn’t accomplish much (if anything)
  • It’s a lot of work without a lot of fruit

Honestly, I think any of those things can be true. (But I also think it’s worth examining personality here – it’s amazing what I might call “unfruitful” just because it wouldn’t appeal to me.)

Personally, I believe – like most college ministers, probably – that the big-fun-loud can fit really well within college ministry. For instance, jumping on to the bandwagon of the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has obviously taken America by (hail)storm, is just the latest opportunity to appeal to students (and could turn into a really good start-of-the-year event). My church’s college ministry is once again holding a snowball fight on campus – with 7,000 snowballs purchased from the local snowcone guys – to kick off the school year. And numerous ministries out there will hold other events, concerts, parties, tailgates – even activities they’ve done so well in the past, that the campus has made it an official part of the Back-to-School festivities.

But here’s the kicker. Those nay-saying college ministers are more right than wrong IF we don’t strategically use our big events to move students forward within our ministry. Just having something awesome, while it may “endear” your ministry to some people (and that’s no small thing), won’t necessarily get them to come to your Large Group Meeting or your Fall Retreat. Will some just come for the fun? Sure. But not all… unless you don’t give them some reason to come back.

Every event – but especially the one you work so hard on – has to be engineered to get them to the next thing. The more that notion seeps into your planning from the start, the better that will happen.

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