Friday, October 31, 2014

Three Types of College Students....Which Are You Reaching?

Over simply put, I believe there are three types of college students.

Type #1. Pretty/Handsome/Charistmatic Personality - They may have looks and personality or one of those characteristics. Or, another term would be "The popular students". Everyone wants them to be part of whatever is happening on campus. Some College Ministries try to appeal specifically to this group because they see them as "Influencers" that will multiply the ministry. They are drawn to large crowds and want to be where the action is. Sometimes, they are quick to move on when the lights begin to dim.

Type #2. Hard Workers - These students stand out because they do not necessarily function by their appearance or personality, but rather they are your "do-ers". Give them a task and it will get done. Some would describe them as your "Manager types". The Hard Workers typically want to accomplish something. Give them a task to do and empower them to do it. They can be impatient with those that "don't do".

Type #3. Quiet or Introverted - they tend to not like large crowds and often are drawn more to smaller groups and when they commit to something or someone, they are intensely loyal. Yet, they want and need someone to recognize their value and affirm and encourage their abilities. Often, they are not good at bringing others due to their personality and preferring things being smaller.

Is this overly simplified? Yes. But, I believe it is basically true. Now, which of these students does your College Ministry most appeal to or try to reach? Some ministries intentionally try to reach one of these groups. Others simply find that is who they are reaching.

Now, let me state the obvious: God loves all these students! So, do you have students out of each of these categories in your ministry? Or, does your ministry just represent one of these groups? If so, why is that? Should you be doing something that would encourage and find a place for each of these students in your ministry? Some would say, "When you reach one group, it tends to exclude another group.". I think that is true naturally. But, that is where your ministry has to work against what comes "naturally".

So, which group are your primarily reaching and why is that? Which group are you primarily not reaching and why is that? It is a deeply held belief of mine that a healthy College Ministry has a variety of types of students in it....the In Crowd and the Out Crowd.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

One difference in Campus Based and Church Based College Ministry

I am of the strong opinion that church based and campus based College Ministries are or should be different. I see some church College Ministries that are doing some good things and reaching a significant number of students that are really doing a campus based ministry. Some campus based ministries try to replace church.

For me, the huge difference and a plus that Church based ministries have is a huge number of different age people! One of the great opportunities that these ministries have is to connect students to these adults of all different ages. These adults can mentor, teach, feed and love on students and it matters.

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to be involved in the "Student Adoption" event at our church. Families of all ages were paired with college students. We will have them in our homes, feed them, etc. I posted something on Facebook about the event and former students of mine through the years began to comment about what their church adopted family had meant to them. One commented how her "adopted mom" from 30 years ago was still a blessing and encouragement in her life. Wow!

Some years ago in our campus based ministry I began to think what a huge plus these kind of relationships were. I began to consider enlisting families out of our churches to serve as these adopting families. I backed away from that idea because there were lots of complications....and....the biggest complication for me was I realized that was a ministry that rightly belonged to the the church based College Ministries. They were not only more suited to do it, but it rightly was theirs to do. I didn't need to move into that area.

Whichever ministry you do, are you being what a campus based should be or are you being what a church based ministry should be? There are strong pluses to both. We need both.

But, even more importantly, are we doing all we can to encourage and connect college students to strong adult role models of all ages? Students have plenty of buddies. It is up to us to help meet a different need in their lives. One of the great things church College Ministries can do best is multi-age connections!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Collegiate Connect Day - January 25th

Sunday, January 25th, has been designated Connect Day for Collegiate Ministry Churches. That day has been set aside to specifically encourage college and university students to join the church they have been visiting. It has become a trend in recent years for students to just attend somewhere, but never join. This lends itself to floating around more and never really digging into one church both for their own growth and for service to the church.

Collegiate churches at one college or university might decide that another date works best for them. Agreeing on one common date will help more students be aware and to hear the message of connecting to a local church. What can you do to help promote Connect Day?

1. If you are a Campus Based College Minister, work with your cooperating churches in working together and promoting Connect Day. Everyone being on the same page will benefit everyone.

2. Announce Connect Day to your students and why committing to a local church is of value and important.

3. If you are a Church Based College Minister, have a meeting with either interested students or at your large group meeting where you talk about joining and HOW to join. Many students have grown up in one church and have never joined another church. Or, they have come to Christ in college and have never joined a church.
-One large College Ministry Church sends a letter about this time in the fall to every student who has visited encouraging them to consider joining on a particular Sunday and telling them of the different ways they may join. They also include a form students can fill out in advance and bring with them, if they choose.

4. Youth Ministers should consider sending a letter to their graduates who are away at school about joining where they are on Connect Day.

One of the most important things we teach in College Ministry is not just attending a local church, but committing to a local church...being a part, serving.

Why Should College Students Be Active in a Local Church?

1. For worship, Bible study, and fellowship

2. To use their spiritual gifts in service to others.

3. To be part of a family of believers of all ages.

4. To benefit from pastoral and staff leadership.

5. To meet adults in the church who can serve as role models and mentors.

6. To connect with and develop friendships with other Christian college students.

7. To begin or continue a lifetime relationship with the local church.

Whether to have Connect Day is not the question. The question is whether January 25th is best for your location or if another date is best in your situation. Students need to connect!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When College Talk Titles Can Hurt You

I recently did a blog where I talked about the value and importance of good "promotable titles". I used the example of the College Ministry at FBC, Denton and their series, "How to Date, Mate, and Procreate".

It is also my belief that "sensationalized" titles can hurt you. Several years ago a ministry on our campus rented an auditorium that would seat 300-400 and advertised they would have an event where the speaker would speak on the topic, "How to have Maximum Sex". They had fewer than 75 attend and they soon left the campus and did not continue their ministry on our campus.

What went wrong? Why didn't this work? Two things: the ministry was known for their "bait and switch" tactics and the talk did not deliver what it promised. The talk was how a marriage based in Christ worked best....a principle I am in total agreement with.....but, that's not what they promised.

Some questions to ask about your titles:

1. Do they accurately promote the information that will be given?

2. What impression does this give of our ministry? I believe there is a difference in "promotable titles" and over-sensationalized titles. Over sensationalized titles draw ridicule and scorn. You don't want to be the joke of the campus. And, you never want to be known as a "bait and switch ministry".

Have titles that attract....but...make sure you deliver what is promised!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Learning From Those Ministries NOT Like Yours

One of my glaring weaknesses is that I tend to think I am right...ALL the time. There are lots of problems associated with this weakness; one is that you never learn from those who are different than you or your ministry.

In doing College Ministry, it is so easy to fall into this trap. Obviously, each of us do things we think are best, but do we really have all the good ideas.....all the best methods? The obvious answer is NO!

Do you disagree with the theology or methodology of a growing ministry on your campus or in your area? But, what should you learn from them? What do they do best? How do they do it? Don't let a genuine disagreement about theology keep you from learning from their methodology! That is dumb pride.

One well worn definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result". Thinking inside the same boxes results in recycling the same thoughts. To learn from the ministry of others who don't share your theology is not a cop-out. Even if you disagree with their methods, they may give you an idea that would benefit your ministry.

Some Things to Think About in Learning From Those with Whom You Disagree:

1. Can I visit one of their large group meetings? I've driven two hours to go to another ministry's large group meeting. My handsome young Assistant was able to fade into the crowd....I'm old and scruffy looking, so they came back to the back row to find out who I was. Here was my creative answer, "I heard you guys do a good job and I just came to see what I can learn".

2. Do they have written materials I could read?

3. Could I call one of their leaders and offer to buy lunch and ask why they do some of what they do?

4. What's one thing they do totally different to us.....why?

6. Do they reach a different type student than we do and if so, why?

Now, I am not talking about stealing their best idea and duplicating it. I've had the experience of seeing someone's Freshmen mailout looking just like ours and advertising a freshmen event just like ours. You don't steal someone's signature event. In the fairness sense of the word, it has their "copyright". Look at principles. You may discover they have strengths or gifts you or your ministry do not have.

Alright now: What ministry drives you crazy? How and what should you learn from them?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to Up Your Attendance by 200...Or, The Importance of Titles!

I have long believed that giving good attractive titles to your college student talks is huge. My friend, Austin Wadlow at FBC,Denton, demonstrated that this fall. He opened the semester with a six week series entitled, "How to Date, Mate, and Procreate".

In a survey previously quoted and listed at this blog site, "The 7 Top Reasons Students Attend the First Time", number 2 is "An appealing event" and number 1 is "Someone invited me". An appealing title makes an appealing event. An appealing title makes it easier...and more likely that your students will invite other students. Now, here is the crazy part of this story.....his attendance jumped by 200! Now, obviously he had a strong and large ministry going already AND he did a good job each week with the topics. With titles we have to beware of over promising and under delivering....if anything, that will cause our ministry to decline. But, a jump of 200!!

One way to think about titles is, what are the heart felt needs of students on your campus? Do your titles show you are speaking to those needs? Some students will come to an event with a "Bible Study". But, does your title give a reason for someone who has never come to consider coming? Is it a title that your students will tell friends about? For several years, I spoke once a year using the title, "How to Have a Marriage Better than Your Parents". I did not do the same talk, but used the same title. It was always one of the largest attended. Lots of students' parents were divorcing, struggling, etc. It spoke to a heartfelt need.

Your campus messages may be on a book of the Bible.....have you thought about titling each talk? Pick out one truth from that chapter and use that in the title.

Ok; for those of you who are ready to up your attendance by 200, here by Austin's permission, are the titles for each week and the scripture:
Week 1. "How to Fail in Love" IJohn 3:16
Week 2. "How to Date, Court, or Whatever it's Called" Matthew 7:13-14
Week 3. "How to Find Mr/Mrs Right", Proverbs 31:30
Week 4. "How to Have Good Sex", Proverbs 5:1-23
Week 5. "How to Recover from Bad Sex", Romans 5:6-10; 6:1-5
Week 6. "How to Have a Marriage that Counts for Something", I Corinthians 7:28-31

Some might say these topics could be short on Gospel, but I disagree. You can talk about God's love and forgiveness. You can talk about how God used a "man after his own heart" who had not behaved that way. I find lots of students who feel they have done something that has put them outside God's love....and lots of time it involves sexual behavior. Sit down with a group of your students and talk about some of the talks you are planning. They can help you with the titles.

Titles won't suddenly make a ministry, but well thought out titles with good, practical messages to back themm up and well advertised help students to consider coming and, and make it easier for your students to invite friends

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The 2 Biggest Killers of College Ministers

Some would say low pay which forces some out of College Ministry is the number one killer of College Ministers. Others would say it is the long and sometimes crazy hours. Or, an argument can be made for growing older and no longer being able to relate to college students effectively. A good case can be made for all of these and most of us know someone that has left for one of these reasons. But, I don't believe either of these is the "main killer".

The two top killers are Comparison and Feeling Alone.

Comparison - Most of us who do or have done College Ministry know the feeling of working yourself silly And not seeing the response you hope to see and seeing another ministry with bigger crowds. Or, we are wrestling with tough issues and other ministries just seem to glide along each year. Comparison is evil. Comparison is wrong. Comparison is UN--Christian. I do it all the time!! Maybe, I'm the only out of control sinner in College Ministry....maybe. Here are some things to remind yourself when you get into comparisons:

1. You never know all that is going on in another ministry.

2. Numbers represent people, but a big crowd is not all there is to it. One of my students suggested we name our worship band, Free Beer. He said we could advertise, "Free Beer at the BCM Thursday Night!". I think we would have had a great crowd that one night. A crowd is not the only measure of success.

3. Long haul faithfulness beats short term flashes. Sometimes, we compare ourselves to the "latest hot thing". Your ministry was there doing well long before the flash and will likely be there going strong after the flash has past.

4. Comparison tempts you to do things that don't fit with your gifts or even cause you to continually be changing your ministry instead of building on proven things.

Feeling Alone or No One Else Cares - as much of a killer as Comaparison is, I think feeling alone and no one else cares is ten times worse! I believe it is the number one killer of College Ministers. People leaving College Ministry because of low salaries and needing to provide for growing families, etc is just a symptom of feeling no one cares. "If people cared, they would provide us with decent salaries". "If people cared, I would have a decent budget for this campus". Things to remember and do when you feel no one else cares:

1. Have one or two friends in College Ministry you can talk to every week and fuss totally honest with.

2. Don't isolate yourself with just college students and your ministry. Our crazy hours and schedule tend to take us out of "the normal adult world". Several years ago, my wife said to me, "You don't know how to talk to anyone but college students". I was working on campus all week and teaching college student Sunday School. I started teaching an adult class and suddenly had more friends! I found out others cared and they learned some things to care about.

3. Go to regional and national conferences that re-juvenate you, remind you of your calling and connect you with old and new friends.

4. Take a day or two off occasionally. The Bible seems to say it is a sin to work 7 days a week.....except if you are in the ministry? I have a friend who works like crazy....then, he takes a couple days off and goes hunting. For a period of years, I took Tuesday afternoon off and scheduled no campus events on Tueaday night. I picked my girls up at school AND we even ate supper at a normal time. I worked hard and lots....just not on Tuesday afternoons and night.

My observations and that of others that know far more than I do indicates that the strongest, largest or most successful College Ministries are run by College Ministers who have been in it long term. To have lots of strong College Ministries we need to have more College Ministers who are not killed out of College Ministry by Comparison and feeling no one cares!