Monday, September 22, 2014

Defining Success in College Ministry

How do you measure your own success? Some in College Ministry carry a load of guilt for "not being successful", or even quit the ministry entirely. Many people determine success based on their ability to "fill a room" or lead great numbers of students to Christ. Others determine success by "the biggest ministry in town" or "the largest ministry on campus".

What is a realistic formula for success? I believe that we often let others determine our definition of success and that can lead to great frustration. Yet, you can feel successful and those to whom you are responsible to do not see you as successful. There are even some who wind up reporting false numbers in order to appear successful

Here are 5 Elements of a realistic and honest success formula:

1. Expectations: What do you have to do to keep your job? Do you have a clear understanding of what is expected of you?

2. Spiritual Gifts and Strengths: The New Testament clearly teaches that God has made us unique and wants to use us in the areas in which he has gifted us. The danger in comparing ourself and our success to someone else is that we may have very distinctly different God given gifts. A sense of success comes from using to the best the things God has placed in our life. Are you exercising your gifts in the ministry or are you trying to be someone else?

3. Campus or Church Setting: Your ministry setting helps determine what you can and cannot do. All campuses are different and all churches are different and if you continually compare yourself to different situations, it will likely keep you from finding God's purpose for YOUR setting.

4. Resources: Whether you run your ministry out of a backpack, a broom closet, or a magnificent new facility, your resources will and must help define your definition of success. You can always learn something from another ministry, but comparing yourself and your ministry against the 13 staff, mega budget ministry is futile and leads to huge frustration. How are YOU doing with what YOU have? But, don't let it be an excuse either.

5. Satisfaction: Satisfaction is in many ways more important than success. I know successful people who have no sense of satisfaction. The degree to which you are satisfied with your work is something of a reliable barometer in deciding, if you are doing what God has called you to do. What is it you or your ministry has to do to provide you with a personal sense of satisfaction? I have a friend who is all about taking student teams to China. Because this outreach is very important to him, these trips are key in helping him define his work as successful. What are your "hot button" issues that must be a part of your ministry...for your one sense of success.....apart from what anybody else thinks?

Finally, your definition of success must be determined by what YOU can control. Are you doing what you believe God has called you to do? Are you working hard and smart? It is possible to work hard and stupid! The two greatest killers of College Ministers is comparison and a sense of being alone or no one else cares. Be YOU where God has call

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Be Old School in Social Media!

In one of our leadership meetings last fall, I asked a question I often ask, "What do we need to be doing better?". Their immediate answer was "Social Media".

We talked Twitter, Instagram, etc. Let me add a perspective to that different from what your students will add, as they are super tech savvy for the most part. In many students' eyes Facebook is old fashioned and for old people now. To some degree that is true (even though I see lots of student posts on Facebook), so here is the "Oh boy factor" in that at least partial truth.

Some of the people you most need to communicate with look at Facebook.....pastors, alums, donors, older ladies who prepare and send meals.

You can post a picture made at your large group picture there may be worth 10,000 words. You can post a picture of an International student Conversation Club. You can post a picture of the volunteers who brought your Lunch Program food and say, "Thanks to the South Fork Church for providing our food today where 100 students heard the gospel". You can post a picture from last year's Alumni Homecoming Event....inviting folks to this Year's.

I will bet there are people who follow you on Facebook who don't get anything you mail out. "Thanks to the TEL Sunday School Class who provided the University Breakfast this past week". It not only thanks people, it gives other people ideas of what they can do. I have one friend who is building a large new campus center. Every few days he posts a picture on Facebook of the progress on the Center....which I would imagine is seen by people who gave money to help it be a reality. And, seeing how well their money is being used, they may just give more.

Are you using Social Media to the best advantage with those who need to know the great work you are doing? If Facebook is for old people.....that may just be good news for you!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Being a Better Speaker to College Students

Whether you speak each week at your main event or occasionally.....each of us want to be a better speaker. I am not a great speaker....But....I am a good speaker. That's not meant as vain....if it's part of your job, you better work at being good. So, how do you work at being good?

Sue complimented me the other day on a presentation I had done. And, she is a tough critic for me! I said, "Why do you think it went well"? She said, "You prepare...lots of people don't prepare". She didn't mean they don't do any preparation, she meant they don't do enough. If you speak, have a set time to prepare. Then, after you have prepared, stand up in a room by yourself and "speak it". Do it just like all 20 or 500 were sitting there listening. Do it out loud. You will realize some part or idea isn't working and so you readjust on it. Then, you "speak it" again. If you don't do that you are speaking your "Rough draft". I realized that some years ago, by not speaking it out loud as I would do it, I was speaking my rough draft.

My two all time favorite College Speakers from my student days were Grady Nutt and Ed Seabough. They were both masterful story tellers. Everyone relates to stories. They remember the story, if nothing else. A story is the hook they can hang the "teachable truth" on. Think about an experience of your own or one you have read that you can share. Personal are better, if possible. Then, practice telling the story. Grady Nutt told the details in a way you could see exactly what he was talking about. Ed Seabough told me his secret.....he practiced telling the stories. Yes; he "spoke it" before he spoke.

Laugh and smile when you; don't be weird, but....smiles and laughter when appropriate go a long way. Enjoy the stories with your audience. Studies have shown audiences respond better to a speaker who smiles...weird huh? Beware of telling the same stories again and again (I struggle with that. There are just some I like to tell.) Beware of stories that always make you out to be the hero. I find students responded best to my stories where I was an idiot...and there are so many! Beware of sharing experiences students have told you that might reveal a confidence.

In short: Prepare. Speak it. Fix it. Speak it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Tribute to Jamie Jones

Jamie Jones died Tuesday, September 9th in Fayetteville, AR at the age of 91. Jamie served as Baptist Student Union Director at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville from 1951 to 1988.

Jamie and his wife, Beverly, met in the Baptist Student Union at Auburn. After they married and came to Fayetteville to begin his ministry at the U of A, they lived on the top floor of the house that served as a BSU Center on the bottom floor. Jamie was known for, teased and admired for his "frugal habits". Students would tease him about the notes he left taped to the walls. They usually involved turning out the lights and ended with his trademark, "This means you!". He never wasted anything and had no desire to be a person of things. He just loved the Lord, his family and students at the UofA.

Jamie loved the local church and was sometimes called "Deacon Jones" because of his unselfish service and ministry to his church, First Baptist of Fayetteville. He modeled to students and all who knew him what it meant to be a follower of Christ through the local church. He was continually called on throughout the years to assist with funerals for people in his church who loved and admired him. Some said he did more funerals than any pastor.

In 1979 he temporarily left the UofA and moved to Little Rock to lead the "BSU Third Century Campaign" to raise a million dollar endowment. It would enlarge the ministry of the BSU throughout the state of Arkansas. It was the first such campaign done in the Southern Baptist Convention. Jamie could have simply stayed in Fayetteville and kept on there, but he would not ignore the call to strengthen ministry to college students throughout Arkansas.

Jamie modeled Servant Leadership and as a result, he mentored future ministers and missionaries who served all over the world. He loved the UofA and he gave his life simply to serving Christ there. Long before the term, "Campus Missionary" became popular, that is what Jamie gave his life to.....being a Missionary for Christ to the Razorback Nation. One of God's choice and humble servants has left us.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why Are We Losing Youth and College Students to the Church?

A friend of mine says, "For every difficult question, there is usually a simple answer.....that is wrong". I think this question may be the perfect illustration of that truth. Likely, it is a collision of factors. One expert in the area of transitioning Christian high school youth to college churches and campus based ministries estimates we are losing 75,000 youth per year in Baptist life alone.

What are some of the colliding factors that are producing this loss?

-Many youth disappear from their youth group when they get their drivers license. All those youth that are recognized on Senior Sunday have not been active the whole time. Some estimate as many as half have not been active the last couple of years of high school.

-Everything costs more and youth and college students are working more and longer hours at part time jobs.

-Parents are less active or committed to church and therefore, the expectation on their son or daughter is less.

-College campuses are becoming increasingly unfriendly to campus Christian groups. On some campuses, Christian groups cannot require all their leaders be Christian with certain beliefs in order to be a recognized group.

-The short tenure of Youth Ministers in many churches allows youth to fall through the cracks in interims or from one youth minister to another. This obviously applies to youth who have gone to college and their Youth Minister that connected to them is no longer at their home church.

-Lack of communication between churches and campus based ministers as to who is coming to their campus is significant. One state wide collegiate ministry sent a letter to 1300 churches requesting a list of their students going to college and got fewer than 20 responses.

-The emphasis on evangelism in campus based ministry can subtract from effort of reaching and keeping those who have already made a profession of faith.

-Our society continues to become a more "instant and continuous entertainment oriented society" and a College Ministry isn't always, flash, bling and entertainment.

-College young people tend to isolate more due to their technology. They can stay in their room and watch movies, talk world wide on their phone, google anything, and even never go to the library.

-As college students isolate more, they have fewer friends and the number one factor in college students attending a campus Christian event the first time is a personal invitation.

-College students and even high school youth are exposed to a wider array of beliefs and non-belief than ever before. When they used to sit next to a Methodist and a Presbyterian, they may now sit next to a Buddhist and a witch.

-Continual promotion of sexual images and alcohol use have caused great college student and youth involvement which leads to feelings of guilt which helps isolate them from their faith group.

Obviously, there is no one simple answer. It is a reflection of changes in our society. But, here are three over-arching suggestions:

1. Youth Ministers and College Ministers MUST connect more and partner more.

2. Churches and College Based Ministries must work at making it possible financially for their ministers to serve more long term. Short tenures are anti-productive.

3. Church and Campus based Ministers must partner more with parents and provide more information and training for parents.

4. We must also painfully be reminded that every youth who liked pizza and summer camp was not necessarily a fully committed disciple......and I'm not opposed to pizza or summer camp.




Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Should Christian Collegiate Special Events Be Free?


Now for the longer version. I am speaking here about Retreats, etc and not weekly worship events, etc. We even charged for our Freshmen Survival which was the first day of class or the weekend before classes started. We wanted as many freshmen to come as possible.....and we charged for it.

Here is my reasoning. Free sometimes gives the message....not worth much. Free to sign up takes no commitment. One of our partner churches used to offer a Collegiate Retreat for free. Students just had to sign their name on the sign-up list at the church....and they did. It's just that the majority of them didn't show up for the Retreat. They signed their case they should decide they wanted to go. For free, it took no decision or commitment to sign up for the Retreat. The Retreat was lightly attended and much of the food they had prepared for the large number who had signed up went to waste.

A deposit or sign up cost takes some commitment. Do I want to go to this? Is it at a time I can go? Do I need to make arrangements to get off from work? Paying some money takes some thought.

I believe in costs not being high. I even believe in loaning students money to go....on the 20 year pay plan. I believe in communicating that everything in life is not free. Commitment costs something. But, I never charged all that the event cost. But, it wasn't free!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

5 Things to Do This Week (Like you didn't already have a long list)

1. Look back over your list of names or cards from your first event or two. Who has not been back? Assign those names to upperclassmen to contact.

2. Double check with and encourage any of your leaders that are struggling.

3. Get together with Campus Ministry partners for encouragement and figuring out what the trends are for this year. Then, you know it's not just you.

4. Set up a weekly work schedule you can live with for the rest of the semester. Don't just live by the loudest squeaking wheel. Set a pace you can maintain.

5. Take your spouse to lunch, since they probably have not seen you much the last couple of weeks.