This year, I’ve taken several chances to discuss a vital principle: Recruitment is discipleship, whether we do it well or not, because we’re tugging people toward something we believe brings spiritual benefit.

Yesterday, I narrowed that larger discussion to the act of recruiting new students to a college ministry. (Because of course, ’tis the season.) But I said there it would be hard, and it is. So today I wanted to share some methods for injecting a discipling DNA within efforts to recruit this fall. They’re taken from some things I wrote earlier, but now focused directly on this “new student” type of recruitment.

(And don’t forget – we’ve got to share this with our students, too, who will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting in their dorms, on Facebook, in classes, and at your early events.)

Help students desire SOME sort of involvement in spiritual things

Don’t let involvement in your ministry be the only goal that comes through in your recruitment, whether it’s at a booth, in a posted advertisement, or on Facebook. Some students won’t be ready for your ministry (or any other) until you share why spiritual involvement matters at all.

One way to disciple college students is by encouraging them toward involvement in something. Even if they don’t jump in to our ministry or into the opportunity we’re pushing, we have the chance to raise their interest level.

Of course, this means that disciplemaking-recruitment requires us to be Kingdom-minded and open-handed, knowing that not every student will “land” where we might hope. In any case, stirring their desires for involvement is an impactful step.

Teach them, don’t just tug them

It’s easy for our recruitment to be heavy on the sis-boom-bah of promoting involvement and be quite light on impacting them inside this process. So to make our recruitment more “disciply,” what could we teach the students we encounter in this period?

  • How to make decisions in general
  • Good and bad reasons to choose a college ministry
  • The importance of not jumping in to too many organizations or commitments

As you or your students encounter potential recruits, they need wisdom on these points and more. This includes what you teach or say during your early events, whether that’s a kickball tournament or your first few Large Group Meetings.

Are you teaching or only “tugging”?

Help students process their decision

Students coming in to college will rarely understand the decision-making process in front of them. But you can help. This can include:

  1. Offering reasons they should consider our particular ministry
  2. Pointing them to other ministries that might be a fit (and helping them see why)

I’m a big believer in all three of these. First, I do believe we should present to students – in charitable and wise ways – what our ministry offers and why it could be the best ministry for them. It’s better for every college minister to present the distinctives of their ministry, rather than to talk (dishonestly) as though they feel every ministry is equal. (I’ve called this effort “Kingdom-minded Competition.”)

In fact, by doing that, we give students a basis for deciding on a ministry – something they likely haven’t processed as well as they could have. With all our emphasis on recruiting, we’ve sometimes missed the chance to disciple students in the deeper (and lifelong) issue: how they decide among the varieties of spiritual involvement.

Finally, if we’re really honest about helping students make the best possible choice, we will help them find the very best ministry for them, even if it’s another ministry. And we might even help facilitate the connection to the other ministry.

Look for opportunities to impact “off-topic”

While the task of recruitment is important (it is, after all, discipleship!), there are going to be student-encounters that require something different. We never know where a student’s coming from when they approach our Orientation booth or show up to our first big event.

If we’re open to it, God will reveal – when needed – what He’s up to in students’ lives. But we may need to go “off-task” to partner with Him; if a student needs strategies for overcoming homesickness, we don’t want her just to walk away knowing the large group meeting is in Baker Hall on Tuesday nights. And we may need to invest some time – even during this incredibly busy season – in a lunch with a student for deeper conversation. Don’t forget this is what you’re a college minister for – to impact the students God’s already working on. When He brings them your way, don’t miss that chance.

Be sure to train your students in this, too. Their conversations may start with a goal of inviting to the ministry; sometimes they should end with something different.

Love the student

This, of course, goes without saying. But as we recruit students to our ministries, love-for-each-student certainly can cover a multitude of the mistakes we might make.

We may be a little too competitive at times, a little under-prepared, a little scattered, a little worn-out. But if we really love this individual student standing in front of us right now, most of us will pretty naturally disciple him or her. (Because that’s your original purpose here, right?) And because we love them, we’ll have no problem helping them find what they need – whether it’s our ministry, the gospel, or something else.