• How many students who were regular attenders last semester haven’t been around this semester?
  • Do you have any idea why?
  • How many students from small groups aren’t involved anymore, or aren’t involved as much as they used to be?
  • Do your small group leaders talk about it with you?
  • Why did all those students who visited back in August or September not stick around?
  • What former “core students” – or even student leaders – have drifted into much less involvement than they used to have?
  • Which of your ministry’s students are off-campus this semester, studying abroad or for some other reason?
  • How many students graduated last semester? How many will graduate in May or August?
  • Are graduates thriving in the months after graduation?

These kinds of questions revolve around one concept: a college ministry’s “back door.” There are lots of reasons a student might come once, come many times, or be deeply involved… and then either disappear or move to the periphery of your ministry. Some reasons are right and good (like graduation!), others are troubling (problems at home, a falling out with someone in your ministry, a backsliding in faith, and many more), and others are pretty “neutral” (studying abroad, class schedule conflicts…).

But understanding your back door means understanding your campus ministry better. And more importantly, it means “shepherding the flock of God among you” better – and in this case, potentially shepherding people who particularly need it.

I mentioned getting to participate in a Using-Data-for-Ministry conference last week, and this is one of the notions that we ruminated on. I have a feeling we’ll keep right on ruminating on this concept, because it’s tricky and because it’s enormously important.

So how strong of an understanding do you have on your collegiate ministry’s back door? What can you do to understand it better?