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Of course the Winter Olympics provide opportunities for your college ministry: with students in your ministry, with the larger campus, even with supporters/overseers.

If you want a boost in figuring out how, here are a couple of posts where we’ve chatted about it:

…and a bonus, where the Olympics are mentioned, to get you imagining taking your ministry to Tokyo, Beijing, or Paris:

To pair with the last post on partnership, I thought I’d repost some key partnerships you might pursue.

Here are a few options for whom we might consider partnering with for our various activities:

1. Another college ministry. We might partner with another ministry on our campus for annual events, for instance. Or we might connect with a ministry far away, in the “sister campus” situation I’ve talked about for the past two days.

2. A church. If we’re a campus-based college ministry, there still might be a local church (whether students attend it or not) which would love our ongoing service. But we also might establish an ongoing relationship with a church in a far-off land, a state away or thousands of miles away. This gives us an opportunity for impact through regular trips.

3. Another ministry. Lots of major cities (in the United States or otherwise) have ministries that regularly receive groups and allow them to participate in impactful service. And partnership with them doesn’t have to feel like “just another drop in the bucket” – as your group impacts through the years, you may find options to deepen that involvement in ways that build both your students AND that ministry.

4. A missions mobilizer. Your best partnership may not be with a ministry “on the ground,” but with an organization devoted to helping

groups serve in a particular place. And a mobilizing entity will likely introduce your ministry to on-the-front-lines partnerships, as well.

5. Individual missionaries. This option may overlap with one or more of the options above, but as we think through partnerships, it’s always helpful to consider the actual people we know – and especially those who have gone out from our ministry in the past. Is a former student serving as a campus minister somewhere else? Has a graduate devoted themselves to long-term or even lifelong service on a foreign field? Is someone employed by a great church in another city? Have you considered what partnership with them and their ministries might look like… and how it might inspire other students to examine their own callings?

After posting yesterday about the need to excite students about collegiate ministry callings, I thought I’d repost a long-ago note about connecting students to other campuses right now. With edits, of course…


I remember a collegiate mission trip I got to help plan while I was a college minister in West Texas; we took about 100 students from Abilene to Boston. Obviously, Boston is one of the most “collegiate” cities in the U.S., so any visit there (even a vacation) might include Harvard and other famous campuses.

But I appreciated the fact that our planning team decided to take an extra step to connect students with those Boston-area campuses. While there, we not only encouraged our students to visit various schools, we participated in prayer walking and other campus ministry experiences. And not just at Harvard or MIT, but also at less-known (but still amazing) places like Northeastern U.

And so our Abilene students left the world of their various Christian colleges (all three of the big schools in Abilene are Christian schools!) and encountered fellow college students in very different settings.

Campus visits and connections to other campus ministry activities can be a fantastic way to…

  • increase students’ awareness of the needs on their own campus
  • catalyze their creativity for reaching their classmates
  • spur them to the missional approach they should be living out day-to-day
  • and open their eyes to the awesome adventure of college ministry as a vocation

This can be as simple as ducking into a campus on the way to the ski slopes or a conference – for lunch and a little prayer walking, “spiritual exegesis,” or a quick tour with / discussion with a campus minister. Or campus participation could make up a piece of your plans during a mission trip or retreat… or perhaps even the focus of the trip! Even a quick weekend road trip could bring you to a “foreign” campus tribe, offering an eye-opening and heart-stirring teachable moment.

And even if you won’t be around, you can encourage students to check out a campus (and even connect with a college ministry) when they take their own trips this summer, work an internship in an unfamiliar city, or go back home.

How often do you establish requirements for students who wish to participate in certain ministry activities?

Clearly, most of what a college ministry offers – from “front doors” like Large Group Meetings to most forms of small groups to campus events – wouldn’t draw lines on who can or can’t participate. On the other hand, many have leadership opportunities that do indeed necessitate an application process or at least a few qualifications.

But there’s an in-between category that might too quickly get lumped in with the former group (requiring nothing but “just showing up”), without enough consideration given to potential requirements. In the end, one college minister might land differently than another here, but I’d argue it’s worth considering.

Two common activities spring to mind here, and they can serve as examples to weigh other activities:

  • Participation in a mission trip
  • Serving on a ministry team within the college ministry

In both of these cases, I’m specifically referring to participants, not leaders. (In the case of leaders, you’d likely – hopefully – have some expectations/qualifications already.) In both cases, though, these activities differ from most “entry level” opportunities because

  • They require a level of commitment to work best (for the mission and the people involved)
  • They are greatly aided by a level of maturity – because of the team dynamic and the mission

Sure, some ministries will treat either of these chances as great opportunities to involve people who, before this point, have stayed around the edges of a ministry. And that may indeed be best for your situation and your students. But I’m simply arguing that it’s worth considering turning these activities – or others like them – into more selective opportunities. Hopefully you can see the upside to that approach, in regards to team dynamics, commitment-keeping, impact through these endeavors, and even raising the interest level among your students.

And there may still room in some such activities to add an “entry level” component. In ministry teams, for instance, you might end up establishing the ongoing “Team” but also offer a much more open door for “Volunteers” who serve alongside the Team.

This week’s vacation took me yesterday to UC Santa Barbara with its many, many bicyclists… plus the original Freebirds World Burrito nearby, in the fantastic college town setting of Isla Vista. And it brings you another post from a past November!

As part of a seminar on Student Leadership, I have discussed ways to raise up leaders from within (or even outside) our campus ministries.

One little nugget from that talk makes a handy idea: Build a retreat, a weekend, or a series of gatherings around helping students find their “place.”

One college ministry (that I was a part of) once used a retreat to teach on and discuss spiritual gifts, complete with having students work through one of those helpful “spiritual gifts inventories.” You could do the same thing with personality tests – from DISC or Choleric, Sanguine, etc. to something more hearty, like Myers-Briggs. Heck, you could even try to get through the whole SHAPE inventory or have everybody take the StrengthsFinder test.

A retreat gives you the context in which to discuss results. What’s more, students can find others who score similarly to them – who knows the synergy that might take place there?

On the other hand, like so many things a college ministry teaches on, these things could be tailored into a seminar or two for the campus at-large – especially if you or someone you know is a true expert on any of this. Plenty of non-Christian or non-involved students might be drawn to a mini-conference that will help them, too, find their place in the world… and that’s a great bridge toward helping them find their place in the Kingdom, too.

This week, I’m posting on using Spring Break (or its aftermath) well. This idea was first posted a few years ago, but I’ve expanded it a bit here.

Have you designed a process to follow your ministry’s Spring Break “event”?

It’s important not to let your college ministry’s Spring Break activity stand on its own! Use the momentum you gained, or help students not lose anything God might have done over the break. How do you do that? You add process to the event.

Even a ski trip can be followed by a process. Even if your college ministry’s Spring Break is focused on community-building and fun, there can be some sort of a process to follow. Deepen the community that develops. Jump off on some spiritual themes that arise during the trip. Have a reunion, or hold a “debrief” of the conversations along the way.

Of course, this need is all the more obvious when your ministry has gone on a mission trip, sent students off to serve, etc.

The point is: A process makes the event MATTER far more. Too many “mountaintop experiences” without lasting fruit dot the landscape of your students’ testimonies: You have the chance to do something different, something with less of an expiration date. (I was fortunate to learn this from Tim Elmore long ago.)

And yes, you can also encourage your students to come up with their own “post-event process,” especially if your students accomplished all sorts of different things over the Break.

Haven’t had a chance to plan something for Spring Break? Or have a bunch of students who don’t have plans yet?

This is a repost from the past, but it’s useful if you’re open! These require little planning but could still have a real impact.

  1. The full-but-unplanned mission trip. If you’ve been reading the blog for a long while, you’ve seen me write about the Mad Libs eBay Road Trip I took students on. If you decide to do this, I might be able to help with explanation / ideas / locations – let me know.
  2. Stay local! Another thought is to have a “mission trip” without the trip! Simply organize as many of the basic “mission trip” elements as you want – service projects, evangelism, devotional times, fellowship, tourist activities, staying in a motel (or people’s houses), etc. But do them all locally. Not only is this easier to plan, it’s less expensive AND helps your students better see the mission field that has been under their noses.
  3. Rethink your purposes. While I know the classic mission trip based on service and/or evangelism is so often our “go-to” for Spring Break, does it have to be? What purposes does God have in mind for your group? Are some of them in other areas – like training/teaching? building community? stretching? something else? A local activity (or even a trip) focused on any of these areas might be exactly what a college group needs… which means it’s no less “spiritual.” But some of those might be simple to plan, too.
  4. Prepare students for their “individual mission trips.” One final idea is to use the fact that you’ve got no “special” Spring Break activity as a teachable moment for your students. (If you do have a trip planned, this still applies for all the students who aren’t going.) Do your students see their own Spring Break activities as a mission trip of their very own? They’ll be among friends or parents or classmates or fellow employees or people back home, right? Except for that last example, those are chances to impact! Are your students heading into Spring Break wide-eyed and watching for what God’s “mission” for them might be?

Toward the end of seminary, I realized that even graduate school allows for some level of “transfer credits.” So while I quite enjoyed my school, I took the opportunity to attend courses – in my case, two specialized Greek classes and a “Faith in Film” course – that weren’t offered at my institution.

I was only highly disappointed that I didn’t figure out the opportunity earlier. Not only was this a fantastic chance to get access to something new, but I also got to learn alongside different types of people. So I didn’t just get to take a class on the Book of Acts in Greek, for instance, but I got to take it alongside Christians who view the early church differently than I do.

Anyway – I really just wrote all that as a metaphor for this week’s Fridea: Look for additions to your college ministry activities outside the fold of your own organization or church.

This week I had two conversations about this very thing: One college minister at a Christian school was considering helping his students connect with Cru mission trips, alongside his normal denominational offerings. And another, a church-based college minister, was looking at attending a conference produced by (and almost entirely made up of) members of a parachurch college ministry.

In your own town, churches likely offer everything from women’s Bible studies to weekend conferences to service projects to mission trips. And your college minister compatriots are readily connected to collegiate-specific opportunities, like the two mentioned above and far more. (Many of the denominations and national parachurch orgs have some fantastic curriculum and tools, too.)

So how ’bout it? As you’re looking under rocks for new opportunities for your own students, could you consider moving beyond your own homegrown stuff? To quote myself, “Not only is this a fantastic chance to get access to something new, but your students also got to learn alongside different types of people.”

Starting yesterday, I’ve been applying my “exploring the edges” brainstorming method to Super Bowl parties, both as a specific opportunity as the big game approaches and an exercise in creativity for any events in college ministry (or any method at all, really). Yesterday, we explored the edges along the who-what-when axes. Today, two more.

stretching or shrinking the where

  • Could you hold the party in a BIGGER environment, one suitable for a whole lot of people?
  • Could you scatter the party/ies across several student houses or other locations?
  • Could you hold the party somewhere purposeful – like in a fairly public room on campus, or in a church you’re hoping to connect students to?
  • Could you jump in with someone else’s party – another college ministry, a club on campus, the school itself, etc.?

stretching or shrinking the why

  • Could you make this a purposeful event for inviting unsaved or unconnected friends to?
  • Could you use this event to unify with other college ministries?
  • Could you use this event to get around adults or families (e.g., at a local church)?
  • Could you make this event a “gift to the campus”?
  • Is it alright just to make this a great chance to fellowship within your ministry?
  • Is it okay if this is just a fun, relaxing hangout time?
  • Could you use this as a fundraiser for an upcoming mission trip, service project, or big cause (either a corporate one or connected to an individual in your ministry)?
  • Could this be a cool chance for the guys to serve the ladies?
  • Could this be a cool chance for the ladies to get with older women and serve the guys?
  • Could you use this to provide an additional sort of “kick off” to your semester, or introduce a new series, etc. (just like the TV networks do)?
  • Could your main focus simply be to teach your students how to develop community around gatherings?

Before this week of discussing our mission fields’ big Tournament closes, I wanted to throw out some ways to get involved… even if you haven’t already started a “bracket challenge.”

  • Start a “mini” bracket challenge. After this weekend, you’ll only have 16 teams left – so why not start there, with a competition for your ministry, your local church, etc.?
  • Make a bracket about something else!: For example, the youth ministry team at our church has been talking all week about a bracket for “best Disney character,” and much of the fun is in coming up with the characters for the bracket. (And then, of course, the arguments about whether Jafar or Gaston is a better character are pretty fantastic.) What category would you choose?
  • Have watch parties. (Of course.)
  • Take a trip. If there’s a school anywhere close to your school that’s (still) in the Tournament, what if you went there to watch their games? I don’t mean watching the actual Tournament games in-person (though you could figure that out, I guess). Those are in far-flung locations, mostly far away from the schools’ homes. But there are bound to be great watching parties (maybe even with fellow college ministries) back on those schools’ campuses. What a fun trip!
  • Pick a horse. You could also just ordain (or vote on) a remaining school to root for the rest of the way. Can a college ministry in California become fans of NC State? Why not?
  • Bring in the campus. Any of these ideas could go campus-wide: a bracket challenge, an “alternative” bracket, watch parties, trips, or even designating a temporary fandom! How fun might it be to engage the whole campus?

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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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