What role does celebration of individual accomplishment play within your college ministry?

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is underway right now. While it’s not a college student effort, it’s edifying to imagine how these kids’ schools, churches/synagogues/mosques,, and even whole towns are cheering them on.

How does your college ministry respond when a student…

  • Competes in a student body election, or seeks another leadership post?
  • Secures a competitive internship for the summer?
  • Gets a job prior to graduation?
  • Publishes an article or literary piece in a prestigious journal?
  • Gets accepted to graduate school?
  • Enters a campus competition – or wins it?
  • Makes it to the NCAA playoffs in their sport?

It could be cheering students on as they compete. It could be celebrating when they win. (It could also be encouraging them when they don’t win.) But surely a college ministry should be a place of “rejoicing with those who rejoice” at the very least, right?

I’m writing this with the assumption that you already have some leaders slated for the fall (or are using some this summer). But if not, this might be worth putting on your calendar.

Have you ever asked a new student leader what they think could be added to / deleted from / changed about the role? Or how their unique makeup might cause them to “tweak” the job description for maximum impact? You know, if they were in charge?

They should be in charge of their role!

Sure, sure, they’ll need some direction from above. Maybe “co-in-charge” is better. But the point is ownership.

It’s easy to assume your student leaders believe they have the latitude to tweak or evolve their student leadership role. But unless they’re the first ones in that particular role, they may not even ponder it. They’ve seen it in action, possibly served underneath the former leader for a year or more, and haven’t seen staff members suggest the role should be any different.

Or even if they do ponder a change, then having a meaningful conversation, prompted by the questions above, might unlock a world of creative ownership for them – plus help them create a role in which their strengths can be utilized best.

Here’s an interesting student leader role to consider for the new school year:

What if you set up a guest experience evaluator?

I was listening to a podcast recently that highlighted this role at a church. While that was a staff role overseeing the church’s various hospitality efforts around worship services, there could be a lot more to it in a college ministry than that. For all the recognition of college students who “fall through the cracks” in a given year, this position might just help a lot.

I realize this person wouldn’t have to be a manager. They could simply be a “quality-control” specialist, watching month after month for gaps in a campus ministry’s touchpoints with students (and especially new students).

I’m thinking an upperclassman marketing major, business major, even sociology or psychology major might just devour this opportunity. You could easily do a short first-run effort the August and September and see what feedback you glean.

(You could easily do a short first-run effort the August and September and see what feedback you glean.)

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.

I hope you’ve got students who participate in campus activities with a large part of their motivation to build relationships with nonbelievers, to influence the campus for the common good, or to see a segment influenced for Christ.

(Of course, there’s something to be said for participation with other motives, too. But if students are ONLY padding a resume, acting on ambition, or “just having fun,” then that’s not what you’re probably seeking.)

What if you helped them think about opportunities?

What if you examined the list of student organizations, got a list of student government positions, even talked to administration about places they could use student help? What if you publicized these potential roles with your students this summer, encouraging them to look at their present commitments and weigh whether they could intentionally do something else.

This may mean stepping away from something else. It may not. It may only be a thinking exercise, without a lot of active fruit (yet). Whatever the case, it’s a bold way to remind students that their time on campus is (1) limited and (2) a huge opportunity. Teach them to number their days… and give them great ideas for investing here and now.

Is there any niche on your campus where you’re known, simply because you’ve been present?

A college minister’s ministry of presence can successfully grow in common spaces, in student centers or dining halls or dorm lobbies.

But God has created you as more than just a minister, too. And it’s likely you have passions that you could feed while developing a very focused ministry of presence, too.

Could your ministry’s next great inroads come at the spot where your own enjoyments and the campus intersect?

What if you began watching soccer games regularly, while developing relationships with fans and athletes? Are you into art? I know there’s a whole artistic community on your campus that could get to know you through your recital attendance, gallery browsing, or other patronage. Maybe you’ll regularly attend guest seminars in the Business school. You could join a book club with Lit students. You could offer to help with Alternative Spring Break, volunteer caddy for the Golf Team, or help prepare Mock Trial teams. Or maybe you’ll even connect with the School of Religion in a participatory way, because, you know, it is your line of work.

But I’m just guessing. You know your passions (don’t you?). And it’s possible that connecting them with your campus – and building relationships through them – is something God has had in mind all along.

With this week commencing summer for many and Finals for others, I’m going to take a week off from the blog.

But I will not leave you idea-less: There’s a whole category about summertime ministry ideas that I’d encourage you to peruse.

Meanwhile, the Summer Lovin’ series is more about relationships than the actual summer, but you’re welcome to browse those seven posts too…

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.

Here’s a weird one that could be quite applicable…

I don’t know what role “conflict resolution” plays in your ministry. I don’t know if you teach it or foster it or see it happen a lot. Hopefully it’s not needed all the time, but if you have more than a handful of students (and even if you don’t), it’s likely that students face conflict with each other… and certainly the students in your ministry occasionally conflict with others in their lives.

So what if you pushed them to clean the slate over the summer? To think back either to mutual conflict or to ways they may have sinned against people – roommates, friends, classmates, family members, even professors?

There’s something about summer break that gives space and time to think about this stuff – although it likewise breeds “out of sight, out of mind” too. Well, maybe it’s your job to bring it (back) into mind, encouraging students to get up to date on all apologies, reconciliations, and amends that remain outstanding.

It may not be composed of an actual scrapbook, but what will you do to memorialize your college ministry’s history from this school year?

This too would be a great job for students. And sure, it’s sad if you haven’t done this through the years. But why not start now? Whether it’s a page or two, pamphlet-sized, or a wall of remembrance (that you ultimately take a picture of), commemorating what God’s done – and simply what took place, good and bad – can be quite powerful.

And “powerful” works both now and later. Pushing your ministry to recall the recent past ties hearts together, reminds of truths learned (from the stage and from circumstances), and celebrates the Lord’s shepherding and sustenance. But later – a year or two or ten years later – reminders work powerfully to assure of God’s faithfulness, reveal a ministry’s progress over time, point current students to the students who have gone before them, and encourage leaders when they need the encouragement.

(Bonus points for how this might impact an alumni network, provide great fodder for support letters, and give one more cool chance to involve students around their passions for art or writing or photography. Or scrapbooking!)

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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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