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This week, I’ll be posting (and occasionally updating) some solid ideas that you could pretty easily work on – or get students to work on – at this point in the semester. And if you’ve already done these things, I’d love to hear about it.

In my visit awhile back to Texas A&M Corpus Christi, I got the chance to chat with Clint Hill, the local Church of Christ college minister. One of the things he pointed out about their ministry is their effort to participate in a bunch of the activities organized by the Student Organizations and administration of the school.

Is the campus holding a dodge ball tournament? Then Christians in Action will field a team for that. Have they organized freshman move-in? Then CIA will be out there, serving. All. Day. Long.

And so on.

I’ve certainly heard other college ministers espouse this same “doctrine”: that there is great value in plugging in to what the campus as a whole is doing. Some of the whys:

  • Connections with the lost and other non-involved students
  • Participation as valuable members of the campus community
  • Endearing ourselves to the administration
  • Serving the campus by helping it thrive
  • Serving students tangibly in ways we might not imagine on our own
  • Recruitment to the ministry

So the Fridea, in a nutshell: Find out what the campus is already doing… and show up!

For some of you, this might be as easy as taking the Campus Events calendar and making its entries a major part of your calendar, too. For others, it might involve choosing 4-5 important events this semester and attending them as a group – and purposefully. Sometimes it might simply involve encouraging, pushing, and helping students to be present and active within their campus, and to know how to do that with Jesus-purposes in mind.

In any case, I’m not sure it’s best practice for our ministries to be “islands” within (but not really with) the larger collegiate community. And I’m happy to have been reminded of that fact by a guy who just happens to serve among the Islanders tribe at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.

What students would lead the way, if a disaster struck close to home?

You serve in the midst of lots and lots of zeal. College students can be mobilized to do something in an instant! But the something they do when tragedy strikes may not correspond with what’s actually needed.

Have you ever thought about developing a disaster response leadership team? Composed of students who actually read books like When Helping Hurts and learn from groups like Samaritan’s Purse and are ready to teach others – and to lead when needed?

This doesn’t have to be a “standing team,” in the sense that it meets weekly. It could even run across multiple college ministries (what an awesome way to unify). But as gunmen and terrorists and hurricanes make headlines, a college ministry can respond… but they’ll only respond well if they’re ready to do so.

Perhaps your ministry already serves incoming freshmen – a move-in day, for instance. But have you considered other ways to add value for incoming students, to serve them (even when the “return on investment” has more to do with actually serving them than wooing them to your ministry)?

We don’t have to pick one or the other, but hopefully you and your current students do have a bent toward “giveaway” service that doesn’t have to receive something back in proportion to what you’ve given.

So in no particular order, here are some opportunities that come to mind:

  • Campus maps with “the places Freshmen really need to know”
  • Campus tours
  • City tour
  • Tour of churches
  • “Off-the-Map Orientation” session
  • Study skills session
  • Dorm organization session
  • “Catalog” of what you really need in a dorm room (written by students)
  • Session for parents
  • “Rest stop” for students and parents as they move in, do orientation, etc.
  • Any of the above things for parents, or for parents to do with students

This week’s Fridea is an idea from the past, but it’s a goodie – especially as I’ve mentioned ways to use Seniors this week, and as you’ve got room to add some student leaders to your roster for the coming fall.

One intriguing model for promoting service opportunities and “causes” is something we use at the church that employs me.

Our system relies heavily on having a “point person” for each of our 20 ministry partners. So for the homeless ministry we connect with, there’s a point person. For the refugees ministry, there’s a point person. For the mentoring program, there are a couple of point people.

Ideally, the Point Person:

  • Champions the cause to others in our church
  • Helps strategize our involvement
  • And helps shepherd volunteers

Couldn’t student leaders (or adult volunteers) function that way within a collegiate ministry? Instead of the college minister OR a dedicated “Service Team” handling all the outreach… what if each ministry outlet was “handled” by a champion? (Of course, you might choose those ministries in the ways I’ve outlined here and here.)

And that means you’d have the opportunity to “let loose” a few students who have proven themselves and invested in the ministry. It may be that you’d even select a few seniors and offer them this chance – to find an organization or a cause, vet it, explain to staff why it’s a “win” for the college ministry, and then spend a semester or school year promoting it within your ministry.

Would it mean students might appear to “compete” a little, as they recruit other students to their cause? Perhaps… but as long as they’re first and foremost Kingdom-minded and excited about their peers serving somehow, a group of students each rallying can be good for your climate of service overall.

What happens at your campus during the summer?

Is it “business as usual,” albeit with a bit smaller attendance? While hundreds or thousands of students might indeed be taking classes this summer, even then there’s a good chance some irregular things are taking place, too – from summer camps to campus construction to offices moving to new initiatives getting underway. You’ve got new student orientations, high schoolers visiting with their parents, athletic team practices, and community events or even conferences taking place on a campus that usually doesn’t have room for them. And on and on.

So why bring this up? Two reasons:

  1. College ministers should know these things. If you’re not quite sure what’s taking place on your campus(es) this summer, then that’s an opportunity to get to know your campus better. At the very least, the missionaries to the campus tribes should be vaguely familiar with those tribes’ goings-on, even in “out of season” moments for your college ministry.
  2. You might find opportunities in these activities. Besides new student orientations, it’s easy for college ministers to overlook these particular chances to impact (and I’m not sure Orientation is always utilized, either). This is where brainstorming comes in – but fortunately you’re brainstorming from a list of events. “How could our college ministry connect with visiting high schoolers?,” you might ask. Or, “Could we serve our school somehow as they host cheerleading camps?”

Between ways to serve the school, ways to serve outsiders, and some chances to help future students think about joining a college ministry, you’ve got some pretty obvious possibilities. But you may also have the chance to learn about new campus initiatives, make new relationships with staff or faculty, or even share Christ with those on campus for one reason or another. Your students might staff the welcome desk for an incoming conference, bring snacks to the football team, move boxes for the Psychology Department as it changes offices, or sign up en masse as tour guides.

And on and on. And on and on. You get to brainstorm. But first you have to know what’s happening.

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?

Most of this post was penned four years ago, but it asks a great question – and one that the summer provides time for answering, I’d imagine.

Our church, though it’s big, has tended not to construct our own outreach entities. We don’t have a clothing closet or a food pantry; while we did establish a clinic, we opened it in partnership with others in our city and as its own non-profit. Instead of focusing on starting efforts, we prefer partnerships: Long-term, deep partnerships. And that’s true locally as well as overseas.

So I’m regularly reminded just how powerful and effective long-term partnerships can be.

Case in point: Our church has been involved in regional church-building efforts in Ethiopia for several years now, taking a few trips each year (with the leadership of e3 Partners). So while any of our members may only take one trip (myself included, a few years ago), each person or each trip is clearly part of a growing history of impact. When I went, my particular trip got to travel to a brand new area because of earlier teams’ success permeating our usual region! Because our groups have faithfully returned, the Ethiopian disciplemakers, church leaders, and church members have received “development,” not simply guerrilla-style “help” that may not last or may not even help.

So continuing with the Ethiopia example… Not only is partnership powerful for our partners “on the ground” in Ethiopia, it’s powerful for trip participants, too. Our church calls our short-term engagements “Discipleship Trips” for a reason, and this is one aspect of that: Our hearts are drawn to this nation and its people (including the nationals we work with year after year) because of perpetual partnership. Even though these particular trips only happen each summer (unlike trips to our other international partners), our church’s awareness is engaged all year. And there are many who do return; over a third of my trip’s members had been before. For those people, Ethiopia is an ongoing (and growing) passion in some sense or another. And for us “newbies,” we were influenced to love this particular mission field all the more because some of our peers are so passionate – with the passion that multiple trips and long-term engagement build.

Long-term partnership affects recruitment, too. Whether I return in the future or not, I’m so glad that this wasn’t a one-off opportunity. As I share trip stories with my circles, their chance to participate in the future will always be in the back of my mind. I’m talking about something past (my trip), but I’m also talking about something future others could participate in.

Of course, there are numerous other benefits practical and spiritual: planning trips, helping people consider longer-term missions callings, deepening fellowship with those in the field, and so on.

And everything I’ve just noted about an international partnership can play out locally – and sometimes even more dramatically: Impact on the partners and those they serve. Impact on the participants and the “sending church.” A passion that grows over time. A history that helps recruit new people to serve. Easier planning. Going deeper into the underlying issues the partner is addressing. And so on.

What long-term partnerships does your campus ministry have? Whether international, national, or local… whether for trips, for service projects, for fundraising, or for events… whether involving your entire ministry or small pockets… are you taking advantage of an amazing opportunity?

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.

A holiday like Thanksgiving shouldn’t pass without college ministers pondering how they might leverage it. And yes, Thanksgiving is a prime opportunity – with weird schedules, unique groups of students “left” on campus, and more.

I’ve posted these potential opportunities before, but they’re worth revisiting:

  1. Service projects. Find out some ways to impact local ministries, and throw those ideas out to your students.
  2. Meals or other fun. Students who are here during the Thanksgiving weekend would probably be especially blessed by being offered a chance to get together – they’re likely bummed they can’t be home with family. This includes international students! If you’re going to be around, consider inviting students into your home, or find a place (like a local church or somewhere on campus) where you could hold a meal / games / football-watching / etc. day.
  3. Point to other orgs’ planned opportunities. What are the local churches (including your own) doing? Does the campus have any official plans? Do any local organizations have plans for that week? (You might be surprised what you can find.) Service projects? Serving meals to others? Holding festive meals for their own members (and potential student visitors)?

One more tip: Talk to administration (including the office that looks after International Students). Not only might they have ideas, they’ll likely love the fact that you’re serving students during this weird week.

Students – if they’re paying attention to world events, which isn’t always the case – are often zealous to help when crises hit.

And Hurricane Matthew has provided such a crisis this week.

So how well are you shepherding how they help? Because there’s no more obvious place where zeal-without-knowledge can be unproductive or even counter-productive than in disaster relief. Students giving to sketchy GoFundMe accounts, students loading up a car to go help (without direction), students launching social media campaigns (or just updating their profile picture) – these aren’t particularly effective go-to steps.

So how are you shepherding students about help that really helps?

This is on my mind because we’ve been working on it at my church. We just rounded out our first attempt at an ongoing Disaster Relief page yesterday. (We’ll update when a crisis is current.)

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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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