Thursday, May 28, 2015

6 Ways To Be a More Effective College Minister

I am struck by how good some College Ministers are with students and yet how they are not very effective overall. Often, it comes down to a poor balance between being relational and task oriented. I believe if our ministry is to be of any size, we MUST be and do both. We must have a personal ministry (relational) and a larger ministry that we oversee and make happen (task). I once heard a person who worked for a national denominational entity asked to describe the College Ministers she knew. Her main description was "unorganized". I was insulted....yet, in many cases, I knew she was correct.

So, how can we be more organized or effective?

1. At the end of the day quickly jot down 2 or 3 things that need to be done the next day.
-That may be the normal day to do them or they didn't get done today. Then, you don't fall prey to simply what pops up first in the new day that might not be as important. You have started with a small plan.

2. Don't read email or Facebook messages before 11:00 a.m.
-They can often deter you from the plan you already had that day. This allows you to have already accomplished some key things that day. Don't ignore messages, but don't let them run your schedule totally. Your boss knows your phone number, if there is something pressing.

3. Respond to every email that is not junk mail.
-I don't mean each must get a long intensive response. A response can and often is "OK" or "Thanks". That way they know you got it. The information has been transferred and received. The only emails I try not to respond to are those which my response would be negative or argumentative. Those are often better left alone.

4. Don't spend so much time tweeting and retweeting about your ministry and other ministries that you aren't doing your ministry.

5. Remember that some tasks can be started or laid out and then handed over to someone else.
-You can become the bottleneck to your own ministry.

6. Have a certain day or morning or afternoon that you do certain on-going tasks.
-I once served as Chair of a national committee that had some on-going things to do and attend to. I made Tuesday morning the day those got done. That was freeing. When one of those issues or tasks came up, I put it in my Tuesday folder. I didn't feel guilty cause I knew it would get done. And, it got done not just laid on my desk and forgotten about.
Wonder what word others would use to describe you?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer Planning: International Ministry

Summer is the time of solving dilemmas in a thoughtful way...not an off the cuff, let's do this type decision. To me, International Ministry is one that requires good thinking. Many don't do International Ministry because it is so specialized and therefore, a huge time issue. And, your time is always an issue.

The case for the need for International College Ministry is simple. The students who come from other countries to our campuses are some of that country's best. Many of them will return to their country to become economic and political leaders. Reach them and we reach future leaders of the world. Some might even argue a case could be made for taking all the money put into sending foreign missionaries and put it into International College Ministry would be more productive long run.

I have never been especially good at International Ministry. That might be your case. Yet, I believe in the huge necessity of it. So, we just ignore it? Obviously, that's not the answer. I think there are different options that do International Ministry that don't make you add a whole other thing into your fall ministry plan that might already be too full. Here are some ideas:

-Enlist American Host Families out of your cooperating churches. Or, if you are church based, enlist them out of your church family. I believe the one most effective ministry we can do is get Internationals paired with an American Christian family. Have a potluck meal and pair your families and students.

-Enlist volunteers to meet once a week with an International student to do conversational English practice. This is always a pressing need.

-Have a regular or occasional meeting for International wives for friendship and conversational English. Many of these wives are in a strange place and existing in a small living situation with no outside contact.

-Have a Thanksgiving Dinner for International students. At the dinner we shared Thanksgiving customs. The first year we did it, we had a good response and the second year, we had a huge response. We did it with 4 different cooperating churches that each did different parts. We had students texting picture of pecan pie to China.

-Give or loan furniture or beds at the start of the semester. You might be surprised how many International students live in unfurnished apartments and sleep on palets on the floor. Some do a version of this with bicycles
atthe start of the fall semester. Many have no transportation and walk great distances.

A friend of mine and his wife do a wonderful job hosting Internationals and some come to Christ. A mutual friend called to ask him what curriculum they used. My friend said, "We have them over to eat; we say the blessing and they say, 'Who is Jesus?' and we tell them". Pretty simple curriculum.

I am not saying you should think about going all in for International Ministry, if that has not been a part of what you have been doing. But, could you do one thing?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

7 Axioms of College Ministry

1. Good falls are made in the summer.

2. The first 3 weeks of the school year are the most important in your ministry as students are more reachable and vulnerable to negative influences than at any other point.

3. The ministry you lead will reflect your personal strengths and weaknesses.

4. To reach a campus group, reach someone in that group.

5. A specialized Freshmen Ministry is the single best way to reach and connect more students to your ministry.

6. To create greater student involvement, build up student ownership of the ministry.

7. To strengthen your ministry and multiply your personal ministry, invest more time in building up your student leaders.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How Many College Students Shipwreck Their Lives the First Week?

I have often wondered how many college students get drunk the first time, have sex the first time or simply feel so inescapably alone they do something way outside their normal code of conduct, beliefs, or just good sense their first week of college. We can be the difference maker for their whole life!

One of the axioms of College Ministry is that the first three weeks are the most important of the whole college year. Students are more available and reachable then than at any other point. To add to that, I would say then that the first week is THE most important of the first three weeks. So, what is your ministry planning to do the first week of the fall semester....for your ministry's benefit...but....for the benefit of the students coming to your campus?

When I first started in College Ministry, the trend was to do a big Welcome Luau. I don't know why it was a luau, but it was. Everything the first week was some sort of big party where we basically said, come back next week. But, I began to feel that was not good enough. It wasn't wrong; it just wasn't quite right.

Through a group of College Ministry Colleagues who met in the summer to share ideas, we heard Dave Jobe of Texas talk about doing a Freshmen Survival event at the start of school. We all adopted it and adapted it to our campus situation. It contained both fun get acquainted parts and spiritual aspects. We recruited to it all summer. It was one of the two most important changes I ever made to our ministry.

We also stopped having the Welcome Luau and began to do our "normal weekly events" aimed at newcomers and done in a way to attract people (or "Seeker friendly") and we invited hard. Our Wednesday Lunch program would often have some sort of "name speaker" (usually a well known Christian coach) and our large group night worship event was "outreach titled" with food afterwards.

But, if I were planning for this fall, I would add an additional event. I would have an Outreach Cookout right by freshmen dorms, or a Midnight pancake supper in the middle of campus or a 99 cent steak dinner. I am aware of many who do such an event and the admission is often one filled out Information Card. Their core students are trained to mix, mingle and connect. But, such an event is do you fund it? Obviously, budget for it is one answer. Join with other groups and do it jointly. Estimate the cost and then make it known to your supporters what you want to do. You might be surprised at who might step up and fund it.

Plan how you will follow up such an event. Will every person who gives you info get a visit? Some call these "Gospel Appointments". Or, will you just hope they show up again because of information you gave out at the event?

The semester has ended. Maybe your fall plans are made.....maybe not. But, now that you have time to think, are you doing all you can to reach students before they shipwreck their lives? Is there a way you need to take "Outreach Week" to another level? Not work harder...but, work smarter!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

7 Things Graduating Seniors and Their Parents Need to Know!

1. Psychologists tell us the two greatest times of change in a person's life are birth to age one.....AND, High School graduation to Christmas.
-Boom, you just hit major change time.
-All of what has defined you is changing. You are no longer "the smartest in class" or a football player or cheerleader.
-It's a time of figuring out, who am I really.

2. A major cause of conflict between new grads and parents is that they see things from opposite ends.
-High School seniors/grads see it from the end that assumes the best possible thing will always happen.
-Parents see it from the end that the worst possible thing will happen.
-Usually, the truth is somewhere between the two extremes.
-Grads need to understand that your parents are just trying to protect you.

3. For those going to college: the first 3 weeks are the most important of your whole college career!
-What you do then goes a long way toward determining your success or failure in college.
-You will make your friends.
-You will get into a pattern and a schedule.
-Some blow off the first 3 weeks and get so far behind they literally destroy their college career then.
-Luke 2:52 says, "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man". That is all about life balance.
-Get into a pattern of sleep, study, exercise and eating right.

A Survey of 100 ASU students asked, "What's the dumbest thing you did as a freshman?".
The 3 Top Answers:
3. Not taking college's harder than high school (either classes or the freedom...or both!).
2. Not going to one checked on me and no one made me.
-The easiest thing you can do to do well in college is, Go To Class.
1. Not getting involved in campus activities and hiding out in my room or just hanging with high school friends.
-National studies show that students involved in campus activites are most likely to be happy, stay in
school and graduate.

4. Faith has to be intentional.
-4 out of 5 high school seniors active in church make NO spiritual connection in college.

3 Main Reasons:

1. Tough questions raised about faith by professors and students. "I don't know...must not be a good answer".
2. Proving independence.
3. Not making an intentional is busier than high school.

5. You need a possee. Friends matter!
-Pick your friends by your priorities...not your priorities by your friends.
-Want to make A's? Be friends with others who want to make A's.
-Want to grow as a Christian? Make friends with others who want to grow as a Christian.
-Want to get drunk every get the idea.
-You will be like the people you hang with.

6. A national study on Dating and Marriage shows something pretty shocking.
-You will marry someone you date!!!
-Don't date someone you would never want to marry.
-Lots of college students admit they are dating someone they would never marry.....but, then many marry that person.

7. You have a new start!
-Who do you want to be?
-You may have done it wrong in high you get to start over.
-Success or failure in high school does not automatically repeat in college.


Monday, May 11, 2015

The Seasons of a College Minister: The Statesman/Builder

Remember, there is no perfect season. There are strengths and weaknesses to all four. The point is to be honest about your season and play to it's strengths. All of us have seen College Ministers who are pretending to be younger than they are or those who have gotten out of College Ministry because they can't do it like they did when they started out. As one who has done College Ministry into near senility, I can tell you I believe wholeheartedly that it is a calling of the Lord that you can serve your whole career. Today's college student really does want to learn from older adults.

The Statesman or Builder is an experienced veteran who has done it long term. This is a time of sharing wisdom with students from a loving perspective, building for successors and being a prophetic voice for College Ministry.

Strengths of the Statesman/Builder:

1. You can fill a loving parental void in many student's lives. They can see you as they would their dad or mom and trust you on weighty matters.

2. As a result of having respect and peer relationships with upper school administration or senior pastors, you can weild greater influence.

3. You have a large and often national network of relationships on which to draw for ideas, resources, opportunities and support.

Weaknesses of the Statesman/Builder:

1. It is easy to "preach at" students.

2. It is tempting to focus on administrative tasks and relationships with pastors and administrators to the point of losing your student relationships.

3. It is possible to develop bitterness toward denominational or ministry organization politics or lack of career advancement and let it color negatively what you say and do.

Tasks of the Statesman/Builder:

1. Strengthen the structure of the ministry with your experience and insight.

2. Build the ministry support base and expand the financial support through your
relationships and earned trust. Some even are able to build a new or expanded ministry center at this point.

3. Lay the groundwork and build for successors that will come some day. Plan and work to give them something much better than you were handed when you came.

4. Give priority to speaking into students lives. Keep listening to them and learning where they are.

5. Use your wisdom and experience to be a spokesman for College Ministry.

6. Mentor younger College Ministers.

Obviously, it is hard to draw strict and fast lines between each season. But, here is a hint, you probably have changed seasons two or three years before you admit it. Play to your strengths. Let your age and experience work for you! College Ministry is not just for the young...students have lots of can be much more.

A wise veteran had built a large ministry and was trying to decide if it was time to leave. He said, "I am trying to decide if it is the end of a book or simply time to start a new chapter". Seasons are chapters that College Ministers often mistake for the end of a book. Unfortunately, many leave College Ministry about the time they know enough to do it.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Seasons of a College Minister - The Respected Veteran

This is the College Minister who has several years experience, has built a strong ministry and is reaping the benefits of time, experience, and respect.

Strengths of The Veteran:

1. There is a strong background to draw on. The Builder knows not just what to do, but why it works.

2. It is much easier to relate to pastors, faculty, and administration as a peer which opens wider doors of opportunities and support.

3. It is easier to find and draw financial resources because of your track record and your peers are people who have resources to give.

4. If your ministry has been done in one location for a considerable amount of time, you have alumni who believe in what you are doing that can be resources for finances and other resources. Even if you have not been there long term, your experience brings credibility.

Weaknesses of The Veteran:

1. It is easy to fall into the rut of simply doing the same thing every year with no freshness or enthusiasm to it.

2. Because you are now at a different point age wise, it is much easier to lose track of students needs, wants, and viewpoints.

3. It is also possible at this point to develop a rigidity to change and new ideas. This is the backside of stability.

Tasks of The Veteran:

1. Be intentional about staying tuned to students' viewpoints.

2. Begin to mentor and invest in younger Campus Ministers and other minister colleagues.

3. Build up the ministry support based with your earned credibility.

4. Be intentional about reading, learning and attending helpful workshops/seminars. Admit don't know it all.

4. Develop a ministry that is larger than your personal ministry with your ability to organize, administrate and draw on your network.

Next: The Builder/Statesman

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Seasons of a College Minister - The Cool Adult/The Role Model

The Cool Adult or Role Model is the College Minister who has a few years of experience and a young family or is a real world functioning single. They no longer just exist in the college world. They represent the next step in life.

Strengths of the Role Model:

1. They can model to students what it is like to be out of college and living "like a real person". Often, Campus Ministers in this season have students in their home for events.

2. They have developed some expectations in their ministry to build on. Every semester is not a blank page and they have some specific goals they are trying to accomplish.

3. They also have some real life experience to operate out of and can help students transition to this phase of life.

Weaknesses of The Role Model:

1. It is sometimes difficult to balance the demands of growing family responsibilities and a growing ministry. "Hanging out" all night is not as much of an option as it once was.

2. It is a temptation to have no separation between family life and the detriment of family...or to the detriment of the ministry.

3. It is easy to become sloppy in terms of work hours and proper work ethic.

Tasks of The Role Model:

1. Begin to develop a network of colleagues in campus ministry for support and learning.

2. The Role Model can draw on experience and developing philosophy to begin taking the
ministry to the next level. It can go past the "one group of friends" ministry.

3. Find a ministry to settle into for the long haul.

4. Develop a healthy balance of ministry and family life that will allow you to stay for the long haul.

Next: The Respected Veteran

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Seasons of a College Minister - The Starter or Near Peer

Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Seminary, spoke at the National Collegiate Ministries Summit about, "The Seasons of a Leader's Life" which is the title of his new book. As always, he did an excellent job. Iorg says there are three seasons: Learning, Leading and Leaving a Legacy.

I developed some years ago what I called "The Seasons of a Collegiate Minister's Ministry". Through the years I have shared them with different Collegiate Ministry Workshops and groups. Since the school year has ended or is about to end, it is usually a time of ministry and personal evaluation. I hope this will be helpful on the personal side. Here is my take on the different "Seasons".

4 General Thoughts in Regard to the 4 Seasons:

1. Our age and experience will and must affect how we do College Ministry.

2. No one season is the best season.

3. Each season has strengths and weaknesses.

4. We must be honest about our season and play to the strengths, as well as, address the weaknesses.

The Starter or Near Peer

This season is where the College Minister is both young in age and experience. Often, due to lack of experience this is the time that our ministry is focused around relationships. It has sometimes been called, "The Ministry of Hanging Out". This person often functions like an older brother or sister.

Strengths of the Starter:

1. It is possible to affect a few deeply as this College Minister will very often live right in their midst and these students see his or her deep commitment and learn from them as a role model.

2. The Starter can often start a ministry from scratch because they have great energy and optimism. Don't know it can't be done.

3. It is easy for them to operate in the student world as they look like one of them. An older College Minister might draw looks or questions, but The Starter looks like everyone else on campus.

4. The Starter brings a variety of new ideas as he or she has not developed a full blown philosophy of College Ministry and are more open to whatever develops.

Weaknesses of the Starter:

1. The ministry is often limited to one circle of friends or students who fit with that circle. For a student to come into that ministry they have to be comfortable with that group.

2. It easy to have blow-ups or disruptions due to the strong relational aspect (one boyfriend/girlfriend breakup can be disastrous).

3. University officials and older church staff members tend to not see the Starter as a professional and treat him or her as such.

4. Just as it is a strength in communication to see things from a young viewpoint, it may be that the Starter has a difficult time separating themselves from current student trends in viewpoint, etc.

Tasks of a Starter:

1. Look at different ministries and begin to establish your own philosophy of College Ministry.

2. Listen to and learn from experienced colleagues.

3. Find a mentor to teach, develop and nurture you in College Ministry.

Next: The Role Model