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I’ve written this week about preparing student leaders to welcome new students really well. But one of the biggest opportunities for a great welcome is simply to, somehow, remember new students’ names. If a leader meets a new student at a welcome booth, or the first time they visit Large Group Meeting, etc…. they need to do everything they reasonably can to remember that name for the next time.

Right? Isn’t this pretty easy and fairly important?

So how can that be done? Ah, that’s the trickier notion. I think it begins with raising the value of this effort; if student leaders really believe it’s important, then they’re far more likely to do it.

Well-known “tricks” also help – like the whole “Be sure to say their name in the conversation at least a couple of times” tip, as well as the, “While they’re walking up to you, remind yourself over and over to remember this person’s name” old standby.

But you can also consider other means:

  • Photos, obviously, can be key. So why not have some roaming photographers at your first meeting… followed by a post-meeting student leader collaboration, where leaders help each other remember as many new faces/names as possible?
  • Nametags for the win! Try to squeeze nametags in anytime it’s not too awkward (emphasis on too – I think most times it’s less weird than college ministers think it is). I still think nametags rise to the level of one of the Best Practices in college ministry.
  • Just write the names down of students you meet, then use Facebook to attach faces later, as best you can. Each student leader should leave a recruiting booth of the first Large Group Meeting with a handful of names.
  • Teach your students memory tricks. Sometimes being hospitable simply comes down to using all available means to serve others – and if that’s a name-remembering course, is that an unspiritual use of student leaders’ time? But I also bet there are a few short YouTube videos or Google-able how-tos that would help immediately, too.

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

Since I’ve been on this “customer experience in college ministry” kick, I’ll offer a Fridea to match:

Prepare FAQs for the important next steps you want incoming students to take.

For instance, do you have a strong means for helping students understand how to get involved in a church (from choosing to joining to participating)? Where’s the step-by-step for small group involvement? Or for leading within the ministry – even if that won’t happen just yet?

The format could vary, but having these items in front of your students both proclaims their value and offers a concrete next step. And (presumably) they could be used year-round, not just at the start of school.

An oldie but goodie – and there’s good room to do this in the summer if students are around.

When’s the last time you took a young collegiate couple on a double date with you and your wife?

That might seem like an awkward idea – and no doubt there would be some awkwardness – but I can’t think of a better way to call college students to date well… and marry well, too. (If you’ve got adult volunteers or want to recruit some – even just for this – that could be really great too.)

Whether you’re married or not, I hope college students get to hang out at your house on occasion. I hope they see you in your “work life,” too, even if that’s simply more college ministry work. I hope they rub shoulders with you in your other ministry habitats, too – like your church, your neighborhood, and your city.

Letting students into our lives is a chance to show them what they should aspire to – as adults (whatever our age happens to be), as spouses, as family men and family women, as employees, as church members. And even, right now, as really great dates.

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.

Earlier this month, I offered an idea for college ministries’ large group gatherings: a “monologue” of sorts, chatting through the issues of the day.

Today’s Fridea offers a spin on that idea (and mostly comes from the fact that I love ESPN’s Around the Horn).

What if – weekly or occasionally – you offered a brief panel discussion on current events of the day? You may already use a panel on occasion, discussing Dating or Finding a church after college or Deciding about joining a sorority or fraternity. But couldn’t you do something similar for current events? What if trusted local Christian leaders – or even some of your student leaders – discussed/debated how they’re processing what’s taking place in the world (or in the city, or on campus).

The point – probably – wouldn’t be so much to argue a certain point of view, as much as to showcase how Christians are viewing “hot topics” through a Christian lens. (As long as everyone keeps this mission primary, it will go well.) Depending on the wisdom of your panel members and the topic under discussion, a panel could be as formulaic or as freewheeling as you want it to be. Anywhere on that spectrum, your students will get a view of how they too should process everything through a biblical worldview – even if that occasionally means mature believers still differ on their conclusions.

And don’t miss how I started this idea. While some panels could indeed take your entire Large Group Meeting, my original notion was akin to the “monologue” (of sorts) from a few weeks ago. This is something that many of your meetings could provide for a few minutes – and it might best hit its stated goal in that timeframe, anyway. That format – a 5-minute panel – could also be used on video (whether or not you did this in the Large Group Meeting at all!).

Ready to evaluate last school year, and head into the next? One simple instrument frames that evaluation in a fantastic way. I’ve noted it before, and you may already be familiar with it. But it’s so valuable – and so straightforward – that it was worth spending a Fridea on.

This tool involves three questions:

  • What should we start?
  • What should we stop?
  • What should we continue?

It’s so simple that you could easily send it to every student leader (or every student!) in your ministry. And it goes so in-depth that you could easily spend a whole planning retreat just working through those questions.

Many of you have a leadership team (and/or small group leaders) ready to go for the fall. Others have made plans for student leader selections, whether you’ll establish them this summer or at school year’s start. And a few of you have student leaders active this summer.

That being said, here’s this week’s Fridea: Add apprentice leaders all over the place.

What if nearly every leadership position (ministry teams, small group leaders, roles adult volunteers have, even “leaders of leaders” if you’re big enough for that) had “apprentices,” “associates,” “trainees,” etc.? In some cases they might have an additional role: prayer partners, events planner, fill-in when the leader’s out, etc. But this is a huge way to build your leadership pipeline…

…and there’s not requirement that every apprentice is really just a leader-in-waiting. Some may lead in the role they first apprentice for. Some may lead in another capacity next semester or next year. Some will pioneer a new leadership role next year. Some won’t be a fit for future leadership at all. Some will need to be “fired” early – but that’s a discipleship opportunity too.

But whatever “apprentices” end up doing, right now they get training, help the leaders, and allow you to raise the value of leadership (and leadership training) throughout your college ministry.

A Fridea from a long ways back that would be worth considering this summer…

 

In most college ministry settings, summertime means fewer students. But those who are around likely have more time – so it’s a bummer to miss out on the opportunity to foster spiritual growth, relationships, and ministry. Here’s one potential way to help this happen with students in your town, and build your “critical mass” at the same time. It won’t fit every ministry, but the Frideas rarely do.

Combine forces with other local college ministries.

Could InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, and Chi Alpha get together for weekly or monthly large group meetings over the summer? Sure they could.

Could First Baptist’s college ministry and RUF go to some baseball games together? Absolutely.

Could Christian University’s spiritual life department coordinate some small group Bible studies with Community Church’s college ministry and any other students who happen to be home for the summer? Sure!

Could a mission trip, road trip, service project, Bible study, or disciplemaking system provide something worth gathering around in unison? It could indeed!

The point is asking what would serve collegians in your ministry and collegians in your town the best. Whether in a few things or even one big combo, it’s worth considering if this method fits your goals.

It’s crazy, but with student shortages and staff shortages and calendar randomness, it could be the perfect way to keep students abiding in Jesus and catalyze them for an outstanding Fall 2017.

I was pondering a good Fridea for a week where I’ve written about a college ministry’s “back door” (here, here, and here). And while it would be easy to promote an exit survey or other means of measurement, I realized one notion has to come before others:

Get a good “list” of who’s involved in your ministry. Then review it occasionally.

Some college ministries could print out their “involved” list right now. But for most, I think the list of involved students – not just leaders, not just small group members, but students who would simply call the ministry “home” – isn’t so clear. But it can be.

Maybe you push a ministry-wide survey, and you ask the kinds of questions that let you know who’s a “regular.” Maybe you just pick a point in the semester (like one month into every semester) and just write out a list, with the help of student leaders. Method depends on how big the ministry is.

You might set your “involved” bar higher or lower – it could just include those in small groups, or it could be anyone who’s ever shown up at all. But for the purposes of examining the Back Door, I’d vote for the middle-ground – students who have been regular enough that their absence would indeed indicate a change.

If you did have such a list, it wouldn’t be so tough to run through it twice a semester… and I bet between you and your leaders, you’d be able to remember where 90% of them had gone. (And with a little research or reaching-out, you could get even closer to 100%.)

That sort of analysis is the beginning of measuring this well, and measuring this well would teach you a lot about your college ministry.

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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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