Category Archives: Seasonal

Off and Running in August

Most of these tips over the last several weeks have been about ending the Spring semester well, wrapping up the year, preparing for summer ministry, and getting set to hit the ground running in the fall.

Today’s tip is typically my last one of the year. But I will have one more next week.

Today’s focus is on the importance of a strong start in August, planning ahead, being intentional about our efforts, and maximizing the single most critical week of the campus year. Not everything applies in our missional context, but this article speaks to the urgency of the first week on campus and the reality of how quickly a student determines allegiances on campus.

“Every group I’ve studied has followed roughly the same pattern.  In fact, with only two exceptions, I have never seen a campus ministry grow after the first month of the year.”

Off And Running by Mike Woodruff

Three weeks into the Fall quarter finds most students in a rut.  They’ve picked their classes, joined their clubs and scheduled every waking minute between now and Thanksgiving.  Some have carved out time for “significant others,” most will have set aside entire weekends for football, pizza and parties, and a few will even have blocked out an hour or two for class.  But by the end of the first month it’s all in stone.  And if attending your large group meeting isn’t in their schedule by then, there is little hope it will be there come May.

During my 8 years with a church-based campus ministry in Washington State, I watched student involvement at our large group meetings climb from 150 to 700.  With the exception of one small hiccup up, all of that growth occurred in the Fall.  If we ended Spring quarter with 200 students, we started back in September with 350.  That May we’d be down around 300-far from growing, every group seems to lose numbers over the year-but by the next Fall we started with 450.  We grew by starting strong.  Every other group I’ve studied has followed roughly the same pattern.  In fact, with only two exceptions, I have never seen a campus ministry grow after the first month of the year.  And that means that if you’re serious about expanding your influence you need to begin with a shout.  If ever there was a time for a home run, it’s the first meeting of the Fall quarter.

Be Ready: Of course, starting strong is hard to do because first meetings are full of early season mistakes. The worship team is rusty, the microphones are lost and no one can find a three-prong adapter to plug in the overhead.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Use the summer to jump start the Fall.  Put summer students to work preparing publicity and drama.  Work on your first message during June and July so it’s one of the strongest you give.  Ask the worship team to come back to campus a few days early for a planning and preparation retreat.  Or hire the worship band from a local church to help you begin with a bang.  Hold a dress rehearsal the night before.  Make it a party and buy pizza for the whole team.

Additionally, apply the popular business philosophy of continuous improvement. Keep a separate file folder just for the events that occur during the first few weeks of the Fall quarter, and as those events unfold critique them.  What could we do next year?  How could we have reached out more effectively to freshman?  Should we have started the meeting earlier? Later? Gone shorter? Longer? By continually updating this file-technically called an After Action Report-you can insure that your kick-offs get better and better.

Be Visible:  If you normally meet in a church or a room that is the least bit hard to find move your first meeting.  We picked one of the most visible buildings in the middle of campus even though that meant competing with a back-to-school kick off dance right outside the door. If your school has an activity fair where you can advertise, set up the best booth and offer the most free food. I’d suggest spending up to seventy-five percent of your advertising budget for the entire year on your first couple of meetings-and be creative.  Anybody can do posters.  Try banners, balloons, sandwich boards, flyers, blackboard blitzes and, of course, personal invitations. We sent out letters to all returning students welcoming them back to school and inviting them to our first meeting.  The invitation includes the who, what, where, when, and why of every event we have planned during the first week, and ends with me egging them to invite anyone and everyone they know to our very first meeting.  If they will send me the name of someone they’d like invited, I’ll send them a letter or give them a call.  We also make a special effort to reach freshman by handing out lots of flyers around the freshman dorms and in their registration lines. I know several Christian groups whose members come back to campus early just so they can help freshman move into the dorms.  They find that by being one of the first friendly faces a freshman meets it’s easy to form friendships that might later lead to a chance to share the Gospel or invite someone to a meeting.

The Sardine Effect:  During the 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy’s advance man picked small high school gymnasiums for their political rallies.  He didn’t want the nicest auditorium to meet in; he wanted a place they could pack.  We’ve done the same. In fact, the room we now use seats 150 fewer students than we expect.  The fire marshal hates us, but the energy we create is incredible.

Pray, pray and pray:  But not right before the meeting.  The last place you want your leaders just before the start of the first meeting is locked up in a room with you.  They should be out inviting friends, greeting early arrivals or picking up newcomers who need a ride.  Hold your prayer meeting earlier in the week or earlier in the day. That frees everyone up to deal with last minute headaches and mingle with people.

Force Fellowship:  Helping freshmen feel welcome is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face; especially since upper-class students all gravitate to friends they haven’t seen in three months.  Place greeters at the door, plead with your Bible study leaders to befriend lost freshmen and end the meeting by asking people to find two people they don’t know and introduce themselves. I also explained that everyone-including our staff-feels like everybody here knows everybody else-except them.  The bigger the group the more of an issue this becomes and the more proactively you need to deal with it.

The Meeting:  First meetings are not for regular attendees.  Serve food, skip inside jokes, explain all terms, don’t sing any songs that you do not have the words for and otherwise bend over backwards to make visitors feel welcome.  Screen all announcements and any drama to be certain they are done well.  Seekers and nominal Christians are more likely to check you out at the beginning of the year-actually, most everyone is there to check out the opposite sex.  This is a point I make during the beginning of my talk because it’s guaranteed to prompt lots of nervous laughter-so adjust worship and your first message. Be light. Be user friendly. Be funny. Be short. Your goal is to get them to sign up for a Bible study and come back next week, not explain the finer points of the hypostatic union.

“… the first 168 hours after a student sets foot on campus represents the most strategic time for them to get plugged into your fellowship.”

Follow Up:  Life long friendships are often formed in the first few days of college, so cram as many opportunities for bonding into that week as you can.  We held a picnic the afternoon after our first meeting and sponsored a social event that weekend. Additionally, our staff worked around the clock placing people in small group Bible studies.  Our goal was that everyone who signed up for a study was contacted within twenty-four hours by his or her study leader.  That means at least one all-nighter for our staff, but it was worth it.  We wanted Bible Study leaders to be able to spend time with the members of their study during the first week.  They could meet with them at the weekend social, walk with them to church that first Sunday and sit with them at the next large group meeting.

Was all of this work easy?  Not hardly.  Trying to jump-start a college ministry is a lot like trying to kick start an aircraft carrier.  At least two or three people will nearly die of exhaustion.  But someone has to do it and without question the first 168 hours after a student sets foot on campus represent the most strategic time for them to get plugged into your fellowship.  Plan now to begin with a bang.

Previous Coaching Tips

Advertisements

Summer Growth Options.

Most of us are aware that Greek has two words that are usually translated into our English word “time”.

  • Chronos, χρόνος, is where we get “chronology”. It marks the successive aspect of and measurement of time.
  • Kairos, καιρός, is also translated “time”, but contains a sense of an opportune moment or occasion, such as “make the most of your time”, or “taking advantage of the opportunity”.

I’ve been talking these last few weeks about the many important priorities we have going on at this time of the year. During these weeks, we aren’t just counting down the chronos time. These are kairos moments. And we are keeping spring, summer, and fall emphases in mind all at the same time. Last week, I focused on sending seniors well (spring), and the week before on passing the baton (fall).

In today’s tip, let’s look at some summer options.

For years, we had a specific focus on summer survival for students not attending a summer mission. Some of us would hand students several pages of information about time with God, fellowship, and personal discipline. While this material is dated and there are other ways to meet these needs, some find that some of the material is still helpful.

For most of us, Summer Connect is a great way to help students grow over the summer and come back to campus in the fall with an anticipation of what God will do in and through them. Here is the promo video if you need it. This is where to register: Cru.org/summerconnect. And this is the process for joining Summer Connect.

Some of your students may be interested in putting their faith into action in a more specific way. One way is to consider ministering to high school students back home. Our high school ministry offers several ministry ideas with that in mind. High school students often look up to college students and that could be a great way for them to pass on some of the training they received from you this year.

And finally, you may be aware that InterVarsity and Cru are teaming up on a project to see a ministry launched on every campus in the country. The first critical piece in that endeavor is to prayer walk campuses with a view to seeing what God is already doing and whom He has prepared to reach their campus. The EveryCampus project will officially launch this Christmas. But our Prayer team, headed by Dave and Courtnee White, said that 340 campuses have already been prayer walked.

If you have students who would be up for prayer walking a nearby campus, they can go to the EveryCampus.us site, indicate the campus, and post their story and pics to Instagram.

As you meet with students and prepare them for the summer in these and other ways, you may be creating kairos that may have far-reaching impacts.

Previous Coaching Tips

 

Juggling in April

It’s April! There is a lot to do this month. Some campuses will be done before the end of the month. And some summer missions start the first week of May.

How are you at juggling? You have a fair amount to juggle during this last month of the spring semester. You are trying to end the semester well. You are thinking about the summer. And you are already planning for next year.

Here is a list with some helpful resources.

Spring

Summer

Fall

A few perspectives on this busy time.

Recall the old adage about how you eat an elephant—one bite at a time! You don’t want to give that whole list to your leaders all at once. You’ll want to prioritize these and then coach them through this in the time remaining this spring.

One way you can help your leaders own all that needs to be done is to have them brainstorm what they think needs to be done. That’s better than springing a list on them like I just did! Let’s just say that I gave you “The Answers”!

Previous Coaching Tips

Engaging Spiritually With Friends and Family Over Break

Does this happen in your experience?

  • Conduct a survey.
  • Separate surveys by interest, Yes/Yes, Yes/Maybe or No, Maybe or No/Yes, No/No.
  • Ask student leaders to follow up those most interested first.

If so, I wonder

  • Do most leaders find themselves following up in other dorms those most interested?
  • What if there are No/No’s on our leaders’ dorm floors? Must they choose between going somewhere else to “have a ministry”? or seek to be winsome with those No/No’s?
  • What are we doing to equip students to minister to those who initially say they aren’t interested?

Read on for ways to use the semester break to equip ourselves in ministering to those who appear uninterested.

We don’t usually survey friends and family about spiritual matters. Rather, we have an intuitive sense of their spiritual interest.

First, let me encourage you to print out a copy of the Missional Map. It was developed to help see that people don’t just easily fit into interested/not interested categories. Rather, it asks five questions about each person in our lives.

  • Do they Trust Me?
  • Do they have a Growing Curiosity about Christianity?
  • Are they Open to Change?
  • Are they Seeking God?
  • Are they Following Jesus?

If you’re familiar with I Once Was Lost by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp, these questions are similar to the five thresholds of faith a person must cross to come to Christ.

Take some time at the beginning of break to consider whom you will interact with and where they are on the map. What you will experience with your friends and family over break is more typical of what a graduate will face as they enter the marketplace. Ministry is far more relational and requires intentionality.

Second, familiarize yourself with 30 Ways to be Missional in your Workplace. While this is designed for recent graduate beginning work in their new jobs, it offers ideas for engaging others socially, serving others, and honoring them. These are very practical ways to build trust and relational capital with others.

Third, consider downloading Doug Pollock’s 99 Wondering Questions. You will certainly find some conversation starter questions that fit your personality.

And a bonus fourth, consider how to share your testimony in snippets. A three-minute testimony in conversation can become a monologue if we aren’t careful. But Snippets helps to keep it a dialogue.

What I think you will find is that the apparently uninterested are just “not interested yet”. We are giving ourselves permission to take the time necessary to be winsome, woo-ing, and salty. In the process, the trust we build can open the door to being able to create curiosity. As you do this, you will better equip those graduating from our ministries and entering the next season as a life-long laborers.

Fall Coaching Tips

Mention Spring Break Opportunities Now

Before we finish the semester, it’s important to encourage students to talk with their parents about Spring Break opportunities while they are home over break.

There are the typical Big Break weeks, but with the many disasters this year, service opportunities abound.

Eric Heistand and the Gospel in Action team have put together a slate of Spring Break opportunities that both meet needs locally, as well as puts us in a light that others not yet involved with us might consider connecting around a common mission.

Check out the Cru Gospel in Action Opportunities page. You will find information about Hurricane Harvey relief efforts for all four weeks of Spring Break. But knowing that today’s students have a strong helps and mercy bent, there are several other care opportunities as well.

  • Filter of Hope’s Clean Water missions in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Currently, these missions are full, but there may be more coming available.)
  • Vision Trust’s Orphan Care in Lima, Peru.
  • Cru Inner City’s Urban Immersion opportunities in Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, LA, and Orlando.
  • House of Light is addressing Human Trafficking.
In addition, Global Aid Network (GAiN) offers numerous Humanitarian Trips.

Those not involved, but willing to connect with us around humanitarian concerns, often become more open to the Gospel and a deeper connection with us after. Let’s trust God together that parents will be encouraged by our students participating in these missions.

This is my last Coaching Tip until January 8.

Merry Christmas.

Fall Coaching Tips

December Checklist

If you’re like me, you have a ton going on right now. I’m writing this in an airport on Saturday, headed home after a four day conference. I’m watching my own to-do list grow.

Recruiting is still in full swing for the Winter conference. You might be thinking about Christmas outreaches and how to end the semester well. You know you need to think about the spring semester, Spring Break opportunities and you’re encouraging your students to ask parents over break about going on a summer mission. Oh, and you probably are working on your end-of-the-year ask, doing Christmas cards, and some shopping and parties…Gotta do the parties!

If you are trying to remember all you have to do, maybe this checklist will help.

Winter Conference.

  • Keep encouraging people to attend.
  • Help with fund raising.
  • Arrange rides.
  • Exchange email and cell phone numbers.
  • Finalize plans.

Summer Mission Opportunities.

End the semester well.

  • Christmas party. Invite International Students. It’s a great way for them to learn about this holiday.
  • Take the time to praise God for what He has done this semester.
  • Gather movement indicators and enter them.

Review plans for the Spring semester.

  • Try to reserve the same room you met in this fall for consistency.
  • Reserve a place and the time during the first week of classes to do a campus wide survey.
  • Print off posters and flyers to advertise your weekly meetings.
  • Consider an evangelistic event each month.
  • Replace leaders graduating with new ones.

Prepare students to have a regular devotionals and prayer times during the break.  

That last one is really important. You will want to prepare your students for the break and their time home. The advent season can be a very worshipful and celebratory time and a great way to have gospel conversations with friends and family as we focus on Christ’s coming on our behalf. But it can also be a time of letdown for many students if they go home to the rush-rush or less than favorable family situations. For all of us, the time spent in the Word is vital.

If this list is helpful for you, I’ve created a shareable Google Doc that you can copy to your drive and add your own tasks so that it works for you.

Fall Coaching Tips

Advent Devotionals

The first Sunday of Advent is next week. We are entering that wonderful time in the church calendar for preparing for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son…” NIV. God orchestrated events over hundreds of years so that when Christ entered the world, the good news could be carried everywhere.

In the same way that God prepared the world, let us intentionally prepare our hearts, and help those we work with, to celebrate.

This time of year can be so busy with ending a semester of ministry, preparing for Winter Conference, and thinking about the spring and summer ministry opportunities. Students are preparing for finals. And we have our own checklist of Christmas preparations, parties, gift buying, decorating, etc.

Setting aside time for Advent readings and reflections helps to prepare our hearts for celebrating His coming, even in the midst of checking off our to do’s. A Google search for “Advent Devotion” reveal many options. Here are a few.

This is also a wonderful time of the year for sharing our faith. Here are some ideas for Christmas outreaches.

May we all find our hearts and minds stirred by the mystery of our Creator becoming a baby.

Fall Coaching Tips