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Not a new post. But a vital idea.

Unlike many of the Frideas, my goal today isn’t to provide something new or “get you thinking.” It’s to remind you to do something you’ve likely already thought about. It’s normal, and it’s simple. But I’ve also realized how evasive this activity can be.

It’s the debrief. So I urge you, before the day is over, to schedule time for a debrief of the semester, quarter, or school year.

An intentional time with intentional questions and honest answers is one of the most powerful ways for you to improve your collegiate ministry. The 2018-2019 school year will be better because of it.

But that impact only happens if you do it.

And by the end of June, you won’t remember everything nearly as well as you did.

I hope you plan to have one!

Seriously, I hope you’re regularly catching up with anyone who leads within your campus ministry. But a more formal, direct debrief concerning how things are going – even with a willingness to ask big questions like, “Should you be serving in another capacity?” – would be really valuable here.

So many improvements can be made – and big problems can be avoided, too – with some “awkwardly formal” moments before the break.

Have you considered issuing a Growth Challenge for your students across Christmas break?

You could, of course, share ONE challenge with everyone – there’s value in unified movement. But there can be value in options, too – and in the varied stories that come out.

So if you’re looking for a list to present to students, here’s a start. (Where possible, though, I’d include a heavy dose of items that either reinforce learnings from this semester or prepare for upcoming messages/efforts/growth.)

  • Meet with a mentor for four weeks
  • Read a Christian leadership book (or give them a specific book, or book list)
  • Read a book of the Bible each week
  • Read a book of the Bible each day
  • Have a spiritual conversation with an unsaved high school friend
  • Have a spiritual conversation with a parent (whether they’re a believer or not)
  • Visit three places in your hometown where “God did something” (even if you weren’t a believer at the time)
  • Memorize your testimony
  • Memorize a basic gospel presentation
  • Pray for a full 30-minute stretch, at least once a week
  • Fast for at least one day
  • Take a 24-hour “time alone with the Lord”
  • Have lunch with / have a phone conversation with at least 3 members of your small group
  • Revisit (through notes, audio, Bible passages, whatever) the Large Group Meeting messages from first semester
  • Pray for five roommates/dormmates/classmates/professors that seem far from the Lord each day (the same five people all break long)
  • Pray about any volunteer or leadership role you should take next semester

Here’s a weird one that could be quite applicable…

I don’t know what role “conflict resolution” plays in your ministry. I don’t know if you teach it or foster it or see it happen a lot. Hopefully it’s not needed all the time, but if you have more than a handful of students (and even if you don’t), it’s likely that students face conflict with each other… and certainly the students in your ministry occasionally conflict with others in their lives.

So what if you pushed them to clean the slate over the summer? To think back either to mutual conflict or to ways they may have sinned against people – roommates, friends, classmates, family members, even professors?

There’s something about summer break that gives space and time to think about this stuff – although it likewise breeds “out of sight, out of mind” too. Well, maybe it’s your job to bring it (back) into mind, encouraging students to get up to date on all apologies, reconciliations, and amends that remain outstanding.

It may not be composed of an actual scrapbook, but what will you do to memorialize your college ministry’s history from this school year?

This too would be a great job for students. And sure, it’s sad if you haven’t done this through the years. But why not start now? Whether it’s a page or two, pamphlet-sized, or a wall of remembrance (that you ultimately take a picture of), commemorating what God’s done – and simply what took place, good and bad – can be quite powerful.

And “powerful” works both now and later. Pushing your ministry to recall the recent past ties hearts together, reminds of truths learned (from the stage and from circumstances), and celebrates the Lord’s shepherding and sustenance. But later – a year or two or ten years later – reminders work powerfully to assure of God’s faithfulness, reveal a ministry’s progress over time, point current students to the students who have gone before them, and encourage leaders when they need the encouragement.

(Bonus points for how this might impact an alumni network, provide great fodder for support letters, and give one more cool chance to involve students around their passions for art or writing or photography. Or scrapbooking!)

Occasionally I’ve pointed out that Thanksgiving Break serves as an awesome warm-up for the looming Christmas break. Most of your students likely go home for just long enough to remember/realize what they’ll face when they go home for five-ish weeks in December.

But the same is true for Easter. Though not all students likely went home, I bet plenty did. And now, Summer Break is right around the corner.

One of the less-apparent but most valuable roles a college minister (or student leaders) can play this time of year is helping students intentionally prepare for the summer. Specifically…

  • How will they continue to grow in the Lord, not simply coast?
  • How will they respond to and minister to old friends?
  • How will they avoid old temptations?
  • How encouraging or discouraging do their family dynamics tend to be… and how will they respond there?
  • If they have a job, how will they work “as unto the Lord”?

I’m not sure this happened much when I was in college. While I remember offering prayer requests in small group settings, I don”t remember anyone helping me process the summer ahead – identifying the opportunities, identifying the challenges, developing a plan, and organizing mentorship or accountability.

But you can do this for your students. If they’ve just spent time home at Easter, then it’s an easy discussion based on that “experiment.” But regardless, they can recall Christmas break and look ahead to summer. And they can prepare for what the Lord might want to do.

I’m on vacation this week – but don’t worry, I’ve already visited Caltech. There might be another “campus tribe” visit or two now that we’ve moved up the coast. In the meantime, I’m reposting some great posts from past Novembers. Enjoy!

Today’s practical idea comes from a simple enough notion: It’s hard to imagine a good argument for not encountering your students between mid-December and late January. And yet that’s how plenty of college ministries will allow that month to pass.

Forget your calendar for a second: Isn’t this one obvious? For some campus ministries, the situation may be even larger – the last ministry event might occur in late November, and things might not start back up until the second week of school. Is that like 6 or 7 weeks?

So that leads to today’s idea: Plan several ways you’ll connect with your students between early December and when they return to your college ministry.

Schedule these community-building, encouraging, shepherd-like “touches” over those six weeks. Put it on your calendar; set alarms in your phone. Doesn’t matter if you’ll be paid for those hours or not, or if no overseer (and no student) is expecting it. They should hear from you or someone in the ministry.


Just a little encouragement/reminder as you’re Finals Week (or it’s coming soon):

Don’t forget that these closing days of the semester can still provide some awesome insight about your campus. In fact, there are many ways they can be better – opportunity to see students outside of their classes and normal routines, a more “accessible” campus, campus events, and often more time to spend on the missionary task of continuing to get to know your mission field.

For many college ministers, a well-used Finals Week could jumpstart your discernment about next semester more than any other time. So how are you using yours this time?

Obviously, there are plenty of ways to use Finals Week for ministry purposes, but many of them require a least a little planning.

But what if you (or some of your volunteers or student leaders) have some time during Finals Week beyond what you’ve planned? Here are some ideas:

  • Spend time on campus – maybe even a whole lot of it (God can provide an amazing adventure, show you insights, and provide ministry opportunities)
  • Serve in simple ways (donuts can go a long way!)
  • Play (frisbees in the middle of campus are a service all their own)
  • Encourage your students (an email or some verses can help more than you know, and individual outreach is even better)
  • Spend the week – while students are still around – starting on some of the big questions you plan to think about this summer
  • Encourage your students to be on the lookout for “on-the-spot service opportunities” – whether it’s encouraging a classmate, blessing a professor, helping out with something on campus, or meeting other needs (and offer to help as a ministry if needed)
  • Help people move out of the dorms
  • Collect info about your students’ summertime plans and contact info (if you haven’t already)

You may know the concept of having students write “letters to themselves” – notes to their future selves that outline who they want to be, that you hold onto a send a year (or many years) later.

But in light of talking about students summer with families this week (here and here), here’s a Fridea:

Have students write to their “June selves.”

The content of said letter wouldn’t just be an encouragement to love their families well – although that would make a good section! But the letter can include any goals for the summer, any motivational oomph, any encouragement to avoid particular temptations that come with home, and so on.

(And it’s a lot simpler for you to mail some letters in a couple of months than in a couple of years!)

It’s amazing how quickly the good intentions formed in April get wiped out by the busy and/or lazy days of summer. A note from themselves might just remind them of what they’re supposed to be about… and the letter-writing process, of course, makes them define those goals.

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Welcome to Exploring College Ministry

After ministering to college students for 8 years, I've spent the last 6 years trying to help push our whole field forward. This meant, among other things, a yearlong road trip, an e-book (Reaching the Campus Tribes), exploring 250+ campuses, consulting, writing, speaking, and more. I love any opportunity to serve college ministers or others who want to reach college students better. To learn more, explore the header links or the tools below.



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