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!

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