Daniel Curran, Associate Director East Bay/San Francisco Metro, tells about a great way of building community for his students.
Margee and I throw these things called “Brownie Sundae Parties” every two months or so (even during the summer), for all the students and college pastors in our ministry scope. Because most of our community college students have little to no “college life”, these parties fill a big need for socializing with other college students of similar heart. It’s a chance for students who can’t connect on campus (because of their schedules), …to hang out with one another in a relaxed home atmosphere. I do all the publicity and get people to come out; Margee has this formula for what I call “Atomic Brownies” (1lb. bag of chocolate chips + 1 regular brownie box mix) they steal the show every time. We give every party a lame “timely” theme name (ie. “Welcome Back Party”, “Mid-Terms Party”, “My Birthday”, “End of the Year Party”). The theme is simply an excuse to get together, a catalyst for celebrating some aspect of the school year -or some silly event in my life. Every party is “B.Y.O.T” (bring your own ice-cream topping –it’s always a kick to see what they bring, …and my kids dig the leftovers). We supply everything else: drinks, salty-foods, ice cream, fruit snacks, games, and paper goods. The key to the success of these parties are three words “TIMELY”, “SIMPLE”, & “HOSPITALITY”.
I set the date on some Friday night from 9-11pm when a few of my key leaders (who have cars) say they are free. We encourage everyone to come out even if it’s just for 10 minutes and even if they can’t come until 10:55pm (we usually kick the last students out before mid-night). The day & time are key, because they can come to our party before or after other events, too. We’ve learned that students are NEVER all free on the same night, they are USUALLY disorganized and double-triple book things, and other things ALWAYS come up at the last minute to conflict with our parties. But, that doesn’t stop us, we live by the transferable concept “party by faith” (a few times Margee has asked me at 9:15pm, “Is anybody really coming???). But, God always seems to bring out a different set of students each time, they say they love these parties (esp. meeting other students who are following Jesus), and it helps connect them with Margee, my kids, and my home. Often they bring surprise guests (believers and unbelievers) and sometimes college pastors, parents, and little brothers or sisters tag along.
I send a mass email out 2 or 3 times a few days before the party (no flyers). This minimal amount of work, plus a few key phone calls, plus giving out my ph# to call us if they get lost, seems to do the trick. I always “warn” them ahead of time that I will do a short 5 minute “infomercial” about G3’s/”Groups of Three” and to shamelessly promote some upcoming CCC conference around 10pm. Around 10pm I ask everyone to gather in the living room, I make my plug, toss the brochures on the coffee table, sit down, and the party goes on. Students form friendships for life at these gatherings, sounds crazy, but it’s true. And, I must confess, we’ve actually been doing these “Brownie Sundae Party” gigs off and on for over 15 years, …and they never seem to loose their appeal. One of my former students, who is now the CD at University of Oregon, e-mailed me last week and said, “Hey Daniel, I still have good memories of those Brownie Sundae parties at your house in Seattle, esp. your “33 1/3 Birthday Party” (any excuse for a party). Wow, I must be getting old, I’m 33 myself now” (thanks Mike). Margee and I believe parties create the atmosphere that real friendships and lasting memories are made of. Someone once said to me that the magic of the L’Abri community in Switzerland wasn’t Francis Schaeffer’s brilliant philosophy, but Edith Schaeffer’s cookies (her hospitality). In the final analysis -the magic of our campus ministry won’t be my awesome Bible Studies, …but Margee’s amazing brownies. Party on!