questions the “venue” model forces for collegiate ministry

Yesterday I took a look at the unique setup of North Coast Church, which splits its worship opportunities not simply into “contemporary” and “traditional” but into ten different – very different – venues. Fascinating, at least.

And any fascinating ministry model makes me wonder how college ministry might gain from the model.

Here are a few questions it forces me to ask, whether my knee-jerk is to appreciate the answers or not.

1. Would it make sense to offer different “styles” on occasion?

Most college ministries don’t offer multiple services. But they could offer different styles in different weeks of their Large Group Meeting – contemplative nights, loud-and-fun nights, acoustic night, hymn night, gospel night, etc.

Another option would be to offer special events centered around a special style. Even if your normal style is a little edgy, you might have students who would truly love a once-a-month special night of (softer) worship and prayer. (Or vice versa!) Worth thinking about.

2. Are we appealing to different types of students within our individual events?

If only one person – or people with one personality – are planning a Large Group Meeting, a small group, or anything else, then it’s likely to be rather… homogeneous. But what if you purposed to have enough “elements” that a variety of students would feel “at home”?

This can, of course, be a quick route to a hodge-podge that no one likes. But done wisely and well, this could be encouraging to a variety of students.

3. Do we think practically about why people come back to our ministry?

As I mentioned, North Coast’s model understandably causes some to question whether this gives in to a consumeristic mindset. You may feel that it does. But it’s worth remembering, at the very least, that working to draw the consumer-minded isn’t quite the same as being consumeristic ourselves.

No, we don’t want to foster (or coddle) consumerism. But we also should think straightforwardly about what is drawing and keeping students. (North Coast has certainly done that for their attendees!) Once you make that list – and yes, I’d encourage you and some top leaders to make that list – you can decide which ones you feel comfortable appealing to. But make sure you’re at least making the list, not throwing out all ideas of meeting people at the point of their interests before you even clarify those interests.

Ultimately, you may realize that at some level, we’re always doing that. You just have to decide before the Lord where you draw the line.

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