Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The #1 Reason Students Stay Involved in a College Ministry

Relationships are the number one reason students stay involved....or leave.

Many years ago the Billy Graham organization did a follow-up study on people who came to Christ in their crusades as to whether they became involved in a church after that decision and if so, was there one influencing factor. First, they were disappointed with the percentage of those who followed up their decision with involvement in a local church. But, for those who did connect to a church, the overwhelming common factor was.....they knew someone in the church. There was a personal relationship.

No matter how strong your ministry is....no matter how good you are as a speaker....no matter how great your worship band is....no matter how funky your lighting is, most students will not stay if they do not develop some positive relationships there. Right now, most College Ministers are working 24/7 to reach new students. Many of them will come for 2 or 3 weeks then disappear.

So, what do you do?

First, help your leaders understand this and for them to have a mentality of wanting to connect to newcomers. Look for those who are by themselves. Don't think those who come in pairs are good. Often, a pair comes because one wants to and persuades the other to come with them. If that "persuaded partner" does not continue to come, the other will likely soon disappear unless they have connected to others.

Watch for those who come in late to your event, or after it has started. That is often those who know no one and want to avoid the awkwardness of being alone and feeling like a loser. Have a couple of your "relaters" hang back and watch for them and then go sit with them. Then, they Introduce them to others when it is over.

Food of some sort after an event helps people stay and visit. It can just be chips and drinks. But, food gives people a reason to stay and makes it easier to talk to others. Food is a magic potion in relationships. Encourage leaders and other core students to invite new students to go for ice cream or coffee after the large group event.

If you have a Lunch Program, have table or row captains who sit in the same area each week and get to know those
who sit there. We have noticed that in our Lunch program that core students tend to sit in the inner rows and those who are not core or are new tend to sit on the outside tables. Help your leaders to know where they sit matters.

Of course, the biggest "connecting factor" is if they become a part of a small group. That is why many ministries
have now gone to having small discussion groups that follow their large group worship event. These groups discuss the Bible study of the night, pray and do social events together. Or, at the end of your large group event during
the first month you might just do 5 minute get acquainted groups. Students simply circle up where they are sitting for two or three fun get acquainted questions. I am also a big fan of having a quick mixer at your large group worship during the first 10-15 minutes....not a mixer where everyone watches 5 people do something, but where
everyone actually mixes and meets at least a couple of people. But, if they just meet other newcomers like themselves, each may think neither was very friendly or welcoming.

Everyone needs and wants someone to know their name and care that they are there. And, if they don't experience that, they will disappear....and often you will not even realize it. Relationships are key and God works through relationships!

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