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Have you ever considered recruiting a leader for a specific need in your college ministry?

Sure, if you have ministry teams and not only small group leaders, you probably open some narrowly defined leadership opportunities once a year or so. But what about a very specific need that arises mid-year?

Let’s say, for example, you’ve realized that the number of international students on your campus is increasing every year. What’s more, the administration has shared that they’re ramping up their efforts to draw students from other countries and expect the increase to accelerate. What would your college ministry’s response be?

One option: Recruit a few student leaders to lead an International Students team, right now, and let those leaders (and teammates) loose to welcome, serve, and build relationships with international students.

Of course, a first effort would come among your present students, sharing with them the opportunity and asking (1) who might want to serve on such a team, and (2) who might want to lead that team. But there’s more you could do to recruit.

Maybe there’s a current international student – who’s a believer – who would help in this regard? Could you find out? Or could you advertise on campus for this particular role, especially among clubs or apartment complexes or events where international students, students who love international things, or other niches abound? Don’t forget, there are plenty of strong believers on your campus who simply haven’t joined a full-fledged campus ministry.

(Remember, this international student effort is just an example – you might be looking for any sort of specific leader.)

Wilder still: What if you actually went outside your own collegiate ministry to recruit a leader for this particular spot? I know that’s unusual. But there may be a mature student, already primed to serve international students (perhaps already serving them in some capacity) who just hasn’t found their way to your college ministry. They might be well-known to their church in town. Perhaps they’re even involved in another college ministry. And yet the fit – this particular leadership role – might in fact be God’s best next step for them.

It’s crazy – for most college ministers, at least – to think about putting the word out among their fellow Christian leaders, sharing that they’re looking for a few student leaders that might currently be in their ministries. And it’s crazy to think that someone might help in this regard, offering to share your need with a leadership-caliber student currently in their ministry.

But this is what Kingdom-minded campus missions looks like. Deep down, I hope you’d be willing to share a particular need with a particular student, even if that need took them away from your ministry, because your own ministry didn’t offer the same opportunity.

So if there’s a need that has arisen, consider recruiting for that need. And if you see a place one of your students could find their best possible “fit” – whether it’s a campus role, a job in town, a different church, or a different college ministry – be willing to shepherd students in that way.

You’ll want to read yesterday’s post to get the full context for this, but how can you “produce” students who will influence and impact well as post-college young adults? Here are eight examples of ways students need to be ready to have a ministry in their next church – some specific, some pretty broad.

(And no, this isn’t exhaustive by any means. But it should get you started with your own brainstorming!)

1. Know How to Serve on a Team

If students can’t function well alongside others – when they’re personally not in charge – there will be a lot of potential volunteer opportunities they just won’t be a fit for.

2. Know How to Lead a Discussion

Plenty of young adults are drawn to lead with youth ministry, where small group leadership ability is vital. But that’s true for several areas of the local church. Can your students lead a discussion?

3. Worship Leaders Who Shepherd

Helping talented musicians learn that Worship Leadership involves shepherding is a huge opportunity for any college ministry. Will your graduating musicians provide a shepherding boost if they’re afforded worship-leading opportunities at a church?

4. Can Interpret the Bible Faithfully

You may not have called it “hermeneutics,” but faithful biblical interpretation should be familiar to every college ministry student by the time they’re graduating. The Church needs – and local churches need – those folks.

5. Respect for the Church

If they’re not willing to submit to, honor, and love the local church, they’ve lost even before they’ve played.

6. Patience in the Proving

Sure, churches can be ridiculously slow when having potential leaders “prove themselves.” But today’s students are more likely to get frustrated they’re not used immediately. Are your students ready to be patient, do good, and dwell in the land for a bit? (See Psalm 37)

7. Knowing Themselves (Enough)

Yes, students will continue to learn themselves, their strengths, and their weaknesses throughout their young adult years. But if they haven’t started on that journey, then they’re going to have a hard time expressing to a church just how they can be used… or they’ll waste everyone’s time trying to “be used” in areas they’re not strong in.

8. Focused

Hopefully by the time they’ve graduated, each of your campus ministry students has learned the value of going deep rather than wide. In other words, they shouldn’t be over-committed but should be making a big impact in one or two key things (at least that’s the hope, right?). They’ll need this skill when they find themselves in a new ministry environment – especially if that church is a big one.

My first significant college ministry experience was as a sophomore in college, leading a small group of freshmen in an awesome on-campus ministry called Upstream. (Upstream was overseen by a local church but, at the time, had small group leaders and participants from a variety of local churches.)

One of the many fantastic aspects of that ministry was that it allowed me (and my female partner), both little ol’ sophomores, an incredible amount of latitude in planning our ministry efforts. Even though our “base curriculum” was assigned (so all groups were reading the same book or talking about the same Christian book of the Bible), the week-in, week-out activities of the group and the presentation of the material were under our direct control. We had to make those decisions.

And it changed my life.

It was a year of learning to humbly beg the Lord for insight and direction, as Audrey and I led these two dozen freshmen. We were given ownership, and it made all the difference – ultimately launching me into a whole passion for collegiate ministry.

How many student leaders in your campus ministry have true ownership of their roles? This is where the difference between strategy and execution comes into play: If leaders are, for the most part, only executing on someone else’s strategy, then they’re important facilitators but not full-fledged owners. If, on the other hand, they’re led well but given latitude for some actual strategy, that’s a different – and much more exciting – story.

It’s not bad to have facilitators for your strategy. Some students should play that role. But I’m asking how many have the opportunity to do more than that.

To follow up on yesterday’s post, I wanted to offer a few past entries on how students process decisions. Enjoy!

When the Circus Comes CallingHelping students understand how to process decisions

A Community of “Core”As part of my “Tightening the Core” series, a quick post on the kinds of small groups college ministries should be shooting for

The Panel that ConnectsA phenomenal way both to encourage careful decisions and help college students make good decisions

Have you ever looked back at past “info cards,” former small group rosters, or old ministry team lists?

What would it teach you and your ministry to learn where formerly involved students ended up? Did they simply “slip away” from college ministry and get involved in college life? Did they find another college ministry or church? Are they flourishing? Are they even still at your school?

This wouldn’t be an easy project, but I don’t think it has to be as tricky as it might sound. (And social media might help quite a bit, plus plenty of students might know what’s going on with other students.)

Somewhat like churches that get serious about examining their “back door” to better reach those still participating, it could teach you a lot about students, their rhythms, and what happens after they leave. (Of course, if you get to ask why they stopped participating, that would be of great use too.) And as your ministry reaches out, you might even connect with some students who need to come back – which would be a joy indeed.

Think about it. I know this is zany. But it could be awesome for the student leaders you’d recruit to help, and good for you to give it a try.

The subject of mental health is obviously a big one – a big one for churches to tackle, a big one for campuses to tackle, and one that college ministries shouldn’t fall short of addressing. It’s not too scandalous to say that Christians haven’t exactly handled this one as excellently as we could have, either in wisdom or winsomeness.

But like I said, it’s a huge subject.

But one small piece of that subject is having discussions with your student leaders about their own health – probably as you’re considering their leadership role in the first place. You should discuss with incoming leaders what they’re currently struggling with, including knowing about any current or past mental health struggles. This vulnerability will help them, and you’ll be able to disciple them best, all throughout their time in leadership. Like any potential concern – even though mental/emotional health doesn’t necessarily involve sin issues – you need to know about struggles that could come up… and not just for the ministry, but for the person.

If this seems too “personal,” then it’s worth asking yourself why it does. If you’re not asking your student leaders to be vulnerable about all sorts of things, then you’re only “raising up leaders” with halfway measures.

One of the things they should be willing to share is their emotional/mental health, and any steps they’re taking to buttress it. Are you willing to ask the questions?

Yesterday was the first-in-the-nation primary election day here in Texas. While it’s not a presidential election year, it is indeed a year when the students around you will hear about plenty of voting opportunities. (And we’re not really at a point in America where politics takes an “off year,” either.)

So as I’ve argued before… how will you help them process?:

Many (if not all) of the students in your campus ministry will be shepherded by somebody regarding political choices this year. Do you really want their choices to be driven by professors, FoxNews, Bernie Sanders devotees, relatives, the student newspaper, NPR, roommates, fliers on campus, or the student president of a College political club?

Or will you help them walk first and foremost as a Christian through political choices, with all the research, decision-making, stance-discernment, winsome disagreement, and dialogue that can and often should take place?

And are you teaching them to approach politics this way for the rest of their lives?

For Valentine’s Day, a past post assessing the relationships and romances that develop within your college ministry…

We college ministers need to talk plenty about “love and relationships” – those things are on our students’ minds, they trip up plenty of Christian students, they provide a chance to run counter-cultural to the campus, and they’ll lead to the life-changing choice of a spouse either in college or afterwards. So I figured I’d spend some posts talking about college students and romance. (Find the whole series here.)

Here’s the first post in the series: evaluating your ministry through the Great Couples Assessment.

One interesting way to assess your ministry is along this unique line: the kinds of romantic couples it’s producing. These questions are worth asking – even if there are different “right” answers (because campus ministries are different from each other).

1. When romantic couples emerge within your college ministry, are they awesome? A healthy college ministry will tend to produce healthy couples, and couples that exemplify the very things the ministry celebrates. Do you and other students enjoy being around the couples your ministry produces? Are those couples healthy, or are they full of red flags?

2. Is your campus ministry really good about celebrating romance, relationships, marriage, etc.? Sometimes campus ministries aren’t even good at supporting couples, let alone celebrating God’s work in bringing people together!

3. Do solid Christians within your college ministry regularly build romances with each otherHow this one relates to healthy college ministry is a bit more complicated. But if you’re not seeing couples emerge from within your ministry (and especially if you are seeing students enter into relationships regularly with Christian students outside your ministry), it’s at least worth asking Why that’s the case.

Are you providing opportunities for awesome men of God to meet awesome women of God? Is your ministry the kind of ministry that even attracts those awesome people – both men and women? Is there room – even alongside the accompanying awkwardness – for students to build friendships, and eventually more, with others in your ministry?

Related to this is the issue of offering gender-specific vs. co-ed opportunities. Read where I wrote about that – including some great comments from you guys!

4. Do people get married? Some might presume that a strong college ministry will indeed produce lots and lots of marriages, while others would recognize that marriage-immediately-after-graduating really isn’t the norm anymore. But I think we have to imagine that within a college ministry with a good number of students, we would likely be seeing the occasional marriage produced. If not, it’s probably worth asking Why – even if in the end, we decide we’re right where we need to be.

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So there you have it. Four questions. As you answer them, simply consider what the answers in your ministry should be… and then what they actually are. Ministries will be different, but I think these things are worth examining!

But what do you think?

(Continue the series here.)

I can’t believe it’s almost been two decades since my first Finals Week as a college student.

It’s probably because of that distance that I don’t really remember being challenged about “finishing strong” when it came to Finals Week. What happened with the school calendar seems like it was pretty distant from the college ministry, especially since college ministry functions often stopped before our “dead week” for studying up.

In any case, with 19 years of retrospect, I offer you some encouragement to play the “Finish Strong” encouragement role with your students in a couple of ways:

Finish strong in studies, because studies matter. Students who see their educational opportunities as a stewardship and an opportunity are doing better than those who simply see them as necessary evils. And Finals Week means a unique opportunity for you to preach that: Reminding them that “locking in what they’ve learned” is actually valuable beyond that little test they take, as well as reminding them that excellence matters spiritually.

Fulfill their ministry now, because everything changes. Many students may not remember – and freshmen don’t realize – that everything about the spring semester will look a little different. If they’ve begun relationships with classmates, professors, even people they tend to run into on campus, now is likely the time to “fulfill that ministry,” or at least doing whatever they need to when proximity isn’t guaranteed in 2018. This may mean (finally) taking someone to coffee with a spiritual conversation in mind – and Finals Week can be a great time for that – or at least getting contact info, seeking clarity on whether that person “has a faith,” and/or other strategic opportunities.

Now would be a great time of your semester to check up on students’ church involvement: especially freshmen, but anyone could find their churchmanship waning at any point in college.

And this is applicable even if you run a church-based ministry or collegiate church. (Are those students involved in a healthy way?)

It’s easy for college ministers to say they care about church involvement, but if it’s never a topic of conversation – and a topic of accountability – then it’s probably not an actual priority. On the other hand, if you do “make a big deal about church,” you’ll remind students that, yes, this is a priority for each semester and season of their lives.

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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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