This is nothing new to many, but it’s so vital that it’s worth saying anyway.

When you’re planning an event – whether it’s weekly or annual or happening just this one time – it’s crucial that you name the audience you’re going for. Very few college ministry activities should actually be targeting “any student who wants to come.” They may be open to attendance by that broad, generic crew, but that’s not the same as noting who your target is. Or if we want to think of things in primary, secondary, and even tertiary audiences, we can do that. Very rarely would (should) your target or primary audience be “everybody” or “every student.”

For instance, your Large Group Meeting may have as its primary audience the regulars in your college ministry, while still loving the chance to impact new people who show up. Or its primary audience may be less mature Christian students – whether they’re regular or not – who need a “taste” of community with God’s people. Or it may be new students to the ministry, even if there are fewer of them than the regulars.

This audience-identification (before you start planning) matters deeply for “programming” (what you choose to actually do at the event in question). Just as you would tailor one-on-one discipling to the individual, so college ministers should tailor their large-group discipleship (in whatever forms it takes place – including the most basic awareness-raising or recruiting efforts).

Who are you trying to reach here? Does your design match that? Are you trying too hard to cram too many audiences into the “primary” category? Once your plan is in place, can we honestly say that the primary audience is likely to respond well to that plan?