I remember a summer during college when I consistently looked forward to being back on campus, and back attending a big on-campus college ministry I’d enjoyed.

How can you inspire that feeling in your students?

If you’re not interested in inspiring your students to look forward to the fall – and to return to your campus ministry – than you may have gotten too comfortable, too unfocused on practical concern for students, or a little of both?

Maybe that’s harsh – though worth considering – and the point is that all college ministers of course have a great opportunity in giving students a heart-tug to remember the greatness of God’s work and look forward to much more when the summer ends.

Now’s the time!

Not a new post. But a vital idea.

Unlike many of the Frideas, my goal today isn’t to provide something new or “get you thinking.” It’s to remind you to do something you’ve likely already thought about. It’s normal, and it’s simple. But I’ve also realized how evasive this activity can be.

It’s the debrief. So I urge you, before the day is over, to schedule time for a debrief of the semester, quarter, or school year.

An intentional time with intentional questions and honest answers is one of the most powerful ways for you to improve your collegiate ministry. The 2018-2019 school year will be better because of it.

But that impact only happens if you do it.

And by the end of June, you won’t remember everything nearly as well as you did.

This is one of those posts where it will be impossible for me to provide enough examples, since I don’t know the particular context of your school. So I’m not going to put too much effort into that. If this is a useful notion to you – and I think it could be if you’ve got a few minutes to brainstorm – great! And if not, hopefully the next post will be more useful.

As a guy who’s paid to think about “mobilization” (which means “volunteer recruiting” a lot of the time), I’ve come to learn the value of “outside the box” efforts in helping move people to their best next step. Sure, a college ministry needs to place a lot of its energy into obvious wins like organizational fairs, big events, facilitating word-of-mouth, fliers in certain places, or whatever you’ve seen work for your college ministry. (You are tracking how students hear about you, right?)

Yet it’s worth holding some “chips” back to spend in experimental ventures, especially experiments with a lot of potential benefits and not a huge investment requirement. Who knows if dressing up an engaging student in a cow costume might draw more people to your kick-off event? Who knows if fliers in an apartment complex – instead of just the dorms – might work? Who knows if a parent-oriented booth during New Student Orientation could pay off? Who knows if sometimes advertising only one part of your ministry – instead of the whole thing – might bring a bunch of students interested in that niche? Who knows if advertising in a venue outside of your denomination or organization might expose you to students/parents/leaders who otherwise would overlook you completely?

And it’s even better when an effort could reveal a type of advertising that might work for the future. Maybe the costume thing only works okay, but you realize having people out-and-about (perhaps in T-shirts next time?) seems valuable. And so on.

The point is: Could you give a little thinking time to advertising outside of your normal venues? What might you learn… and who might actually respond?

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.

If churches all over the country held a draft of potential leaders as students graduate from college, how early would your college students be drafted?

Or if churches “hit the recruiting trail” (like college coaches do when recruiting high school athletes), would church leaders plead with your students to join their church?

If college ministers don’t assess their ministries by how well students will thrive in churches after college – and how much churches will thrive because these former students are there – then something is missing. Those college ministers have lost the plot. Because it’s all a hand-off, right? What happens in college is powerful within those few years, but the huge majority of the fruit should come afterwards, in the several decades of harvest after age 22.

So could your students be more “draft ready”? Will they immediately present usefulness at any church they choose? Sure, someone also needs to tell those churches to use their young adults. But that exhortation will mean even more if the usefulness of your graduates is obvious.

Forgive my lack of blogging most of last week – our annual church conference always plays with my schedule. I’m back in action!

When is the last time you reassigned a leader because they – or you – realized their strengths could be used even better somewhere else?

Students’ short tenure inside a college ministry means that discovering their “best and highest use” and deploying there becomes all the more urgent. It’s better for your ministry and each collegian if they plug in exactly where their gifts can best help – even if it means a mid-season shift or shifting away from something else that needs to get accomplished.

That’s why the subject line mentions “re-interviewing”: What if it was common practice to check in after a few months of leadership, with one purpose being brainstorming deployment elsewhere?

Of course most students wouldn’t end up moving (though I bet it would be more than you think). And when they did, you’d see them and your college ministry flourish. When students only have three or four years in the powerful leadership incubator of campus ministry, getting to the best possible “seat on the bus” makes all the difference.

Depending on your ministry’s rhythms, it’s likely you’re determining student leaders for next year: for small groups, for ministry teams, maybe for other arenas too.

I hope, among other evaluations, you (or current student leaders) hold interviews with these guys and gals.

Why? Because recruiting leaders is, ultimately, a really great excuse for additional disciplemaking. You get the chance to disciple not only your upcoming student leaders, but even those who won’t be selected. And face-to-face provides the best chance to disciple these students, if you’ll take the time to do it.

Once you do, if that theme – disciplemaking – stays at the forefront of your mind, the interview will look a certain way, too. You won’t only have questions/discussions aimed at determining Yes or No (regarding a leadership role). You’ll include questions, discussions, and maybe even feedback that aim to push the student further with the Lord and in ministry.

This may be a time to share strengths and weaknesses you’ve seen. This may be a time to ask questions they’re not usually asked. This may be a time to celebrate ways they’ve been growing – and highlight ways they could. This discipleship doesn’t just come through direct feedback (though you certainly should provide direct feedback during this time), but also by asking great questions – even questions that make the student squirm, with a lingering silence that you refuse to fill so the student realizes they should be able to fill it.

If your goal with just about any student meeting isn’t (first) disciple, then pursue all other aims, it should be. And student leader interviews offer some of the best possible chances to do that  – with students who see themselves as invested in your college ministry, aspire to be leaders, and have a special motivation to pay attention.

Yes, the school year ends. Pretty soon, actually.

And while you’ve likely got “finish strong” plans for both your large group teaching and small group curricula, it might be worth considering an add-on (or maybe a replacement).

What if your last few weeks were spent doubling down on all that has been learned this year?

Consider the potential return: Would it be more valuable to help students remember, reconsider, and reflect on several important truths, in such a way that they’ll remember those things through the summer and beyond? Or is it better to share even more new content (even while they’re focused on Finals and the upcoming summer)?

The way I’m asking that question is certainly slanted, but I don’t really believe there’s one right answer. However, I do think it’s worth considering the value of review-remind-reinforce during this season (in large group, small groups, or both), even if you do that in addition to whatever you’ve already got planned.

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.

You may be at the part of your season when you’re already pencilling in plans for the next school year. But are your student leaders involved in those?

And how involved will students be in decision-making this summer?

From small tweaks to large changes to regularly-scheduled decisions (like teaching topics), staff is making a lot of decisions for their ministries. But if you’ve got student “owners” – and hopefully you’ve got a lot – then they might desire to help with ministry direction, and they might have a lot to offer too.

How could you loop them in – not to rubber-stamp why you’ve already decided, but to help even before decisions are pencilled in?

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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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