ten ways this large group meeting may be different from yours

I’m taking a vacation this week, so I’ll have a collection of favorite posts about one topic that hits most college ministries… the Large Group Meeting! Whether you have a classic “sing-n-speak” or some twist on the all-come gathering, I hope you’ll find these useful.

My 15th multistate, college ministry-exploring road trip meant a trip to Vegas and back. And along the way, I shared the unique aspects I found in ONE college ministry visit. In this case, it happened to be the weekly InterVarsity meeting at Northern Arizona U. (Some of these unique characteristics come from this being an IV chapter, but some are probably rare even within that org.)

Walk with me through the uniquenesses I found at NAU’s IV.

1. Musical marketing. At least an hour before the meeting, the worship team could be heard (warming up, presumably) throughout a large portion of the South Campus of NAU. Since their meeting takes place in a second-floor ballroom, the windows open onto the campus below – and allow for some major acoustical advertisement.

2. Song scheduling. They led us in two songs before the message, three afterwards. (Admittedly, the leader did act like that diverted from the usual plan.)

3. MCs. Apparently they have official, every week emcees – a guy and a girl – for the school year. They did announcements (twice). This isn’t uncommon among some of the campus-based ministries, but not nearly all college ministries use this device.

4. Camp and Dance (unique events). Some campus-based groups hold a weeklong summertime camp or mission trip or something similar – but plenty of college ministries don’t do anything like that. This one offered Camp. Less common, I’d imagine, are formal dances, but they were advertising one that night.

5. They took an offering. This week, the offering went toward their upcoming Chapter Camp this summer.

6. Song styling. Worship had a distinct “world beat,” multi-instrument, diverse feel – down to singing one song in a Hawaiian language (with an electric ukulele accompanying!) and learning a sign language phrase for another. This sort of reflection-of-diversity is not at all uncommon within InterVarsity, but for the rest of us, it’s a unique treat.

7. Speaker profile. Not only does IV at NAU appear to use different speakers each week (which doesn’t fit some ministries’ molds), but last night’s speaker was an alumnus AND an introvert (he noted that). In fact, he basically read his talk. And it was very, very good.

It’s always helpful for college ministers to consider if there might be value in varying the speaker lineup, varying the types of speakers they rely on, and considering the impactfulness alumni could bring.

8. They gave an invitation. Yes, a real-life, do-you-want-to-come-to-Christ invitation. (A second option for others offered a free Bible at the back of the room – if you were willing to read it.) The first song of the post-message worship was even “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” – doesn’t get any more classic than that. Where else have I seen an invitation? Oh yeah,  the InterVarsity group (that’s widely known for seeing students come to Christ) at UCSD.

9. Message length (and entire meeting length). Message lengths vary in college ministry, but this one was 25 minutes… and the entire meeting was over in less than an hour. Like I said, everything was quite good – so I don’t feel the shortness took anything at all away from it, and there are clearly some up-sides to brevity, too.

10. Afterparty. I think the encouragement to go to Starbucks at the meeting’s end was pointing us to an after-Large Group hangout. This method pops up all over, but not nearly “all over” enough for my taste. I’m a fan of encouraging community in this way (if it fits your group and your campus).

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