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This Fridea was first posted way back, but it’s the perfect way to start the summer.

Some of your students – most of them, I’d imagine – will have more discretionary time this summer than they usually do. That might not apply to those spending time abroad, those working at a camp or other ministry, or those in a hard-core internship.

But surely you’ve got some students simply going home, or working a casual summer job, or taking a few classes here and there.

For that more time-blessed crew, the hope – as their college minister – is that they’d spend that time intentionally and productively, right? And that’s where this week’s Fridea comes in, even if it only applies to a handful of your students:

Call students to undertake a specific “personal growth project” this summer.

Right now, it’s likely even your most spiritually mature students have only a hazy plan for growing this summer. What if you urged them make it concrete ASAP, and to get started ASAP? And if you have time, what if you or your staff members even offered to provide accountability and coaching this summer? This “growth adventure” could include a wide variety of things like:

  • Reading a certain number of books (maybe on one particular topic the student hopes to grow in)
  • Deeply studying a book of the Bible
  • Purposely working through better understanding their strengths, gifts, and personality
  • (Re)connecting with old friends to share the Gospel
  • Discipling someone (like a kid at their home church)
  • Learning and practicing the spiritual disciplines
  • …and whatever else, through prayer, a student can come up with.

Can you imagine the impact on students and on your ministry, even if only a handful of students diligently did this? And really, wouldn’t it be pretty fun to check in on students who are actually doing this thing? And wouldn’t they have some great testimonies when they came back?

This Fridea is both early in the week (because tomorrow is Good Friday) and early enough that you could plan for summer.

I’m sure I’ve blogged along these lines in the past, but there’s a simple focus I want to give today: What if your whole ministry went through the same book/devotional/something over the summer?

Whether it’s something your ministry produces or just a great Christian book or sermon series or video series… what if everyone (who opted in, obviously) was doing the same thing? Heck, you could even attack something off the fiction shelf (Chronicles of Narnia comes to mind, but there are plenty of options). Or a handful of books, like one per month.

There are plenty of ways to springboard off this idea, as well as plenty of ways to maximize it (a weekly discussion maybe?). You know your ministry. But whatever you do, knowing that everyone’s doing this at the very least brings your students back more unified than they were before summer break. How often can you say that?

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

Have you considered visiting any of your students who are away for the summer?

You might not be able to accomplish this for all your students, but a misplaced “fairness” shouldn’t keep you from visiting others. If there’s a city where several of them live (or are working this summer), all the better. Or maybe you’d try to visit as many of your student leaders as you could, or those about to be juniors, or some other segment.

Your staff could split this up, or even student leaders might get in on the act, visiting other students to grab lunch or whatever.

Yes, it takes time and a little budget. But it’s a powerful way to remind everyone that this college ministry is a family. And it will get you in touch with that “other world” of your students – you know, since y’all usually just hang out inside the campus bubble.

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.

I’m a big believer in a diversity of disciplers, which is a longitudinal application of the “multitude of counselors” exhortation (delivered three times in Proverbs!). Beyond the steady influence of church and their parents, for instance, I hope my own children are discipled by a variety of people as they grow up. They’ll need to be deeply influenced by people other than my wife and me, in hopes that they’ll grow in ways we’re weak in, get to know Jesus through the lens of other personalities and experiences, and so on.

Your students need that, too, even over the course of these four years.

So how have you encouraged them to “get discipled,” say, while they’re home for the summer? Because we all know it’s very likely that many students won’t find any particular level of impact during these three months. And while they may not fall away and may even continue to have dynamic personal time with the Lord, that’s still a bummer, right?

Hopefully your students are being impacted by a variety of people, over time, even during the in-school seasons. But if there’s any time when it could happen most naturally, it’s summertime.

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.

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.

It’s probable I’ve mentioned something like this before, though it may not have been in exactly this form.

We all know – and we all hate pondering – that people forget most of what we teach soon after we teach it. So I’m a big fan of finding ways to remind, review, and repackage, giving extended life to teaching we’ve spent so much time on… and that we truly believe is what our people need to hear. (Of course, this only makes sense if you were really purposeful in choosing your topics in the first place!)

One way to do this in a college ministry is to engineer review opportunities for the natural breaks between semesters – Christmas break and summertime.

What if there was a way for students to get re-immersed in ministry-wide teaching from the previous semester (or year)? Or what if their small group learning content was “repackaged” into something that could impact them over the break? Meditating on truths a second time around could dramatically increase their retention – and application!

It’s easy to think students won’t want to relearn content they’ve been exposed to. But this is where the whole “they’ve forgotten it already” reality comes in handy, especially because you can repackage in a format that isn’t exactly what they experienced before. And you may not even need to do a lot of repackaging.

Some examples of ways this could play out, to get you thinking:

  • Create a summertime devotional (or suggest a book they can buy on Amazon) that teaches the same book of the Bible or theological topic you studied this spring.
  • Challenge students to re-listen to the Large Group Meeting messages once a week over the break, and provide new study questions they can do on their own.
  • Offer an online forum that will discuss various themes from the earlier semester more deeply, while allowing students to connect even though they’re in various cities.
  • Offer a study, a book of the Bible, etc., that is different from ones you studied this year but that hits a lot of the same themes.
  • Let students create a lot of this for you – for instance, for each of the past school year’s teaching themes, find a student who was impacted by that topic. Have them write a testimony and new devotional on that theme.

A Spring Break-related post from a couple of years ago, with an added twist or two.

You might have students (maybe much of your group) heading out for a mission trip at Spring Break. Other students may be “mission-ing” this summer overseas or in the states, and still others may have their own mission at a Christian camp, etc.. You may have some graduates participate in a longer mission experience after graduation, too.

(Others should see their experience as missions, too – interning, studying abroad, even going back home. While this Fridea is easiest to apply to the above crews, applying it to these would be an awesome tool indeed.)

In all these opportunities, how are your other students following the mission?

So that’s this week’s Fridea: Encourage and facilitate “reports from the field” via blog, email, or other avenues.

Not only is it good for those back at home to hear from their friends on mission, it’s also great for the “missionaries” to include others in their work. The “senders” back home get to feel like they’re truly sending their friend, and they get to be part of the experience and get exhorted from afar. They’re also more likely to do something like that in the future.

And for the participant, this is a form of debrief, encouraging them to process what they’re learning. It also reminds them that even by stepping out, they’re leading – for many, they might feel that burden more when they know their friends are joining in.

(There’s always the option to highlight a few students – doing a few different activities – that you know will provide awesome testimonies… and will write well.)

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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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