This is one of those posts that will be a big “Duh!” for many college ministers, but for others it’ll be something worth pondering, a possible “imbalance” of sorts that might be worth working out. And it ties directly into an experience from my vacation from the last week.
While in California, I got to explore (as I am wont to do) a couple of campuses: University of San Francisco and St. Katherine College. The latter is one of the very few Orthodox Christian undergraduate institutions in the country – and it was close to our hotel after we’d made our way to the San Diego area. So I trekked to this one-building college to see what – if anything – I could learn. And to see if I could buy a Firebirds T-shirt, of course. (I appreciate those unique mascots!)
That morning turned out to be one of the more memorable visits to a school – not because I spent a long time there (I didn’t), nor because it was grand or beautiful or because I saw a bunch of students. In fact, I only saw one student, but that’s my story.
I peeked inside the front door of the school and stood around the lobby for a bit, somewhat stymied by the lack of people (and lights). No one at the welcome desk.
But then a young gal sauntered down the hall, and I asked this student if she knew where I could buy a T-shirt. (It’s a good opening line, in general, plus there didn’t seem to be much else to see here.) That started a fifteen-minute friendship with a girl who clearly couldn’t quite understand why I was there… but who wanted to do everything she could to show off her school. She pointed me to the T-shirts, she showed me the chapel, she walked me down the hall to introduce me to the Dean, she told me her story (born in Belarus – which no longer exists – and converted from Judaism, with various Orthodox expressions until she wound up in Iowa and then here at St. Katherine). She even tried to recruit me to attend her school, which she was quite excited about – even with a hobo-stranger who wandered in that day.
I tell this lengthy story to illustrate a simple point: Our students can be the best advertisement for our ministry, too.
But I think as a college minister it’s easy to forget that, or simply to fail to prioritize it. We have more control over our fancy advertisements on campus. We have more control over a great big Kick-off to start the year… and that feels so much bigger, too. We can man a booth at New Student Orientation, tweak a mailer until it’s just perfect, put some great content on Facebook-Twitter-InstaVineSpace.
But if we’re creating students who, very simply, love our ministry, they’re going to be hard to beat when it comes to recruiting. And if we’re not, then all the rest of the recruiting will be harder… and might just feel a little hollow, too. ‘Cause if we’re not producing students who are thrilled to be part of us, then how happy can we really be about recruiting new peeps to join us?