The format we use for our weekly large group gathering in our ministry significantly affects what we can accomplish and what students are likely to come.
As I said earlier, simply put, there are 3 formats:
-Large group worship with a band and a speaker.
-Fun event with games, skits, icebreakers and a brief student testimony or brief teaching time by the leader.
-Interactive Bible study - no music, etc.
Some would say that the Interactive Bible study is not large group. But, I know many Bible study groups that are as large as lots of Large group worship events.
Many years ago when I came to Arkansas State as the Baptist Campus Minister, we were having a weekly program made up of testimonies, skits, music and sometimes different speakers. In addition, I was told the previous BCM Director had done a Bible study on Monday night, so I thought I would do it for one year and then do away with it. The Bible study went well. Students loved the interaction and I continued it for several years.
After some years, we decided to add a weekly Freshmen night to our schedule. Something had to go. I gave the students the choice...drop the Bible study I led, drop the Variety program or combine the two. They overwhelmingly decided to combine the two. So, we had music, testimonies, some skits and I did a Bible study.
We were the only ones offering anything like it. As the different churches in town began to grow their college ministries, they added a week night large group worship with a speaker. Now, all of us who were working together were doing the same thing to reach the same students. That leads to who has the best band or who is the coolest speaker.
It raised several questions in my mind, is large group worship all students need? Does students going to 2 or 3 contemporary worship events during the week increase the likelihood they will not attach to a church with people of a variety of ages? Is there only one format?
My first thought was we did this first...you guys get your own thing! But, my second thought was, maybe we need to change our format. Is there another format?
Shorten the story, I went to Interactive Bible study. I realized that what students had loved about our Monday night Bible studies was the interactive nature of it and since we had combined our variety event with the Bible study, I had just become more of a speaker. We kept the worship band and skits, but we had students asking questions, talking, sharing their doubts and questions. I was prepared and I spoke, but often the best thing was said by a student. Our thing/format was different. It met a need that was not being met.
Here's the point, if there is already a successful ministry, don't just do what they are doing! Students don't need to attend multiple large group worship events during the week and we sure don't need to base our ministries on who is the coolest or has the best band.
Intentionally choose your format. Students need discipleship..not just sit and listen. And, believe it or not, not all students like Cnristian bands and worship (oh my gosh, did I just say something blasphemous?)
Maybe, there are more than 3 formats!!!