Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve Giving and College Ministry

Some years ago, a man I did not know called me on New Years Eve morning. He said, "Could I buy your lunch?". Being a College Minister I probably said something like, "Oh boy!". He named a well known and popular restaurant and said he would be wearing khakis and a white shirt. It didn't seem like a potential robbery to me.

I met him at the appointed time and we had a nice lunch and visit. He told me of a brother who had been a foreign missionary with whom I was vaguely familiar and a daughter that had come to our Outreach Lunch Program some as a commuter. He said he appreciated people who had given their life to the ministry. At the end of the lunch he gave me a check for $1,000 for our ministry. I was blown away. He gave regularly after that.

I have always wondered what if I had not been available that New Years Eve day.

I am acquainted with someone whose company hands out profit sharing partnership checks mid or late afternoon New Years Eve day. They have no idea how much it will be until they receive it. He and his wife immediately make some decisions about how much of it they will give to their church and they have also given generously of it to our ministry. Often, he will go around and drop off the checks. But, a couple of years ago, they mailed the checks knowing that if they were postmarked New Years Eve, they would receive a tax deduction for the very generous gift and the ministries would use it just the same.

After several weeks of not receiving any acknowledgement of their gift, they called to learn it had never been received....evidently, it had been lost in the mail. They now prefer a physical handoff.

After my New Years Eve lunch invitation when I served on a local campus, I made it a practice to be in my office and or to have a message on our Ministry phone which said something like, "Happy New Year. Today is New Years Eve and I am running some errands at the moment, please call me on my cell phone. I'm not far away. Here is my number 870.761....."

Is someone from your ministry available to go to lunch or receive a check on New Years Eve?

Besides sending a thank you....make sure you send your contributors a statement they can use for tax purposes.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Value of a Personal, Handwritten Note

This week Chris Larmoyeux, the pastor of an Arkansas church, posted on Facebook a picture of a note he had found in a box of college stuff from the 90's.

It was a note from Darrell Cook (Now Baptist Campus Minister at Virginia Tech.), who then served as Associate BCM Director at Arkansas State University. The note had been written to the then high school senior who had visited the BCM Center on his college campus visit. The note invited him to be part of the ministry, if he chose Arkansas State. The pastor went on to say how the ministry had been used in his growth, calling and meeting his wife.

I am a huge believer in writing personal notes, rather than just doing texts, phone calls, emails, Facebook, etc. Although, I definitely believe there is a place for all of them.

1. A handwritten note communicates a personal touch.

2. A handwritten note to a student is often seen by their parents which has a variety of good effects.

3. A handwritten note can be brief but draw atrention to an enclosed brochure or flyer that might not get as much attention if mailed alone. (The pastor also posted a picture of the brochure about the ministry's Freshmen Survival event.).

4. A handwritten note Indicates a personal interest by the College Minister.

5. A handwritten note to a financial contributor communicates a greater sense of gratitude than a form letter.

6. A hand written note can be just three or four sentences and communicate way more than a printed letter.

Some years ago I read of a congressman who never let a letter to a constituent be mailed without his quickly adding a hand written Post Script. Most of the letters were a form letter that had been customized, but he personalized each one.

"I Paul write this greeting in my own hand..." 2 Thessalonians 3:17 NIV

Monday, December 14, 2015

Teaching and Modeling Excellence in Your College Ministry

In my previous Blog I said that one of my non-Negotiables was teaching and expecting excellence. I gave the, to some, silly....but true......example of how for our Outreach Lunch Program, we put the fork on the left (on the folded napkin)of where the plate would go. And, we put the knife on the right of the plate with the cutting edge toward the plate. One out-going Lunch Team Leader even presented their successor with a chart showing the correct place for all pieces of silverware. That illustrates my first point about teaching excellence.

1. Excellence is taught in little things.
We could argue that where the fork goes doesn't matter...just so they have a fork. But, if we are sloppy in little things, why do we suddenly expect excellence in big things. Coaches say, "You play the way you practice.".

2. Don't ever expect something from your students that you don't model yourself.
Our students are watching and listening to us all the time. We may be teaching the most when we least realize it.
Are you on time? When you tell your students you will do something, do you do it?

3. If you have a facility, Center or room, it should look it's best.
It may be old, but it can be clean and even freshly painted. Or, if there are chairs randomly stacked around during our event, does that present a picture of excellence? The rows can be neat and symmetrical (yes; I'm a nut about how the chairs are arranged.).

4. Evaluating regularly is a part of teaching excellence.
It says we are always trying to get better.

5. Apologize to a student when you need to.
Sometimes, we will forget to do something we said we would. When we apologize, that says we take it seriously.

I don't think Jesus ever said to the disciples, "Guys, second and third best is ok.". Yet, we say that when we don't attempt to model and expect excellence.

Friday, December 11, 2015

What Are The Non-Negotiables for Your College Ministry?

There are so many things we are asked to do and just things that come our way each day we can lose the main thing. Have you thought about what your non-Negotiables are? Another way to say it might be, what are the basics and these things must happen?

Some years ago after refusing to do so prevously, we made the decision to enter one of our students in the Homecoming Queen and Court voting. She was selected to the was the first time a religious group nominee had been selected to the court. It was amazing the positive doors it opened for our ministry with the school and opportunities it provided. However, along with that came the invitations to enter the barbecue competition, the Greek Bowling Tournament, etc, etc. None of these were bad things, but it was easy to see the requests and "opportunities" could be overwhelming. I was reminded of the freshman girl who told me that her mom said when she came to college, "Remember to keep the main thing the main thing.". It was at that point I realized the importance of articulating your non-Negotiables and working to be true to them.

Some of my Non-Negotiables:

1. We are a Christian ministry.....not a campus club. Be true to the Gospel.
There are a ton of things we can do that are good, wholesome, and healthy....but they are not the main thing we are here to do.

2. Enlist and train student leaders.
The day we stop keeping that central we have begun the end of our ministry.

3. Try to reach a variety of students.
There are all kinds of students here....we are trying to reach all kinds.

4. Tweak...don't strafe and burn.
Some ministries seem to start over every year. There are no constants. I believe that is damaging to your purpose as well as to students simply knowing what to expect. Till we get it perfect, there are always things that need adjusting and cleaning up. But, we don't start over every year.

5. Be grateful...write thank You's.
Never take for granted those who help you and support you. Some thank You's need to be written daily and some at the end of the year. If you don't know where you and your ministry would be without _________. Then, somebody needs to be thanked and know you are grateful and that what they do matters.

6. Meet one on one with student leaders.
It's part of developing and training leaders. It's part of teaching them to walk with the Lord. It's is one of the ways God will speak to their life.

7. Talk about forgiveness often when I speak.
Many Christian students do something contrary to their commitments and "raising" when they come to college. As a result, they often feel God is done with them or that they now can only be second class followers.

8. Expose students to some of the best.
Early in my Christian walk, it seemed to me that Christian leaders were often not the sharpest and most competent. That was one of the great "Oh-boys" when I went to college and met Christian students and particularly Christian leaders and speakers who were tops. From my earliest years in College Ministry, it has been a goal of mine to expose students to some of the best.

9. Stress excellence!
"That's good enough for government work." is an old saying....through the years, I have felt like for some the idea was, "That's good enough for church work.". If we represent and point students to the one who created the universe, second, third best, and shoddy does not represent Him well. My students sometimes rolled their eyes that for our
Outreach Lunch Program, the forks went on the folded napkin on the left; the knives went on the right of the plate....thrown on the table was not ok. Excellence is not just about big things, it is how we do everything.

But, these are mine; what are yours? If you had to write down right now what your non-Negotiables are, what would you list? Are you letting other things....even good things....squeeze out the non-Negotiables?

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Different Thought on Collegiate Ministry Evaluation and Feedback

I am all about evaluation. Until we do things perfectly and people and situations never change, we alwau have to evaluate and adjust. My boss told me one time that my students were the most critical of all the students who filled out evaluations at at our annual state-wide event. I think that came from the fact that our students were very used to filling out evaluations and being in sessions where we evaluated different aspects of our ministry all the time.

It is my strongly held belief that radical change for a ministry each semester or year is the wrong thing to do. But, I am a big believer in tweaking.

If you are looking for a tool or list of questions to help you as you do semester end evaluations, let me recommend Stephen Lutz's "20 Questions for Mid-Year Evaluation" at

Here is my different thought on evaluation.....we need the input of those students who no longer are part of our ministry. Here is where this thought comes from. I am strongly committed to the concept of a specialized freshmen ministry. I believe it is the single most effective way to reach more students. Some years ago we asked all the Freshmen involved in our Monday night Freshmen Family Groups to fill out an evaluation of all we had done that semester...Bible studies, individual ministry, etc. One thing we were trying to identify was how we could not have as high of an attrition or loss of students as the semester progressed.

The evaluations came back glowing. Our Freshmen Ministry was the best thing that ever happened. So, why did we lose students? Then, it dawned on me. We were asking the wrong students. We were asking the ones who stayed involved.....we needed to be asking the ones who had dropped out! A business would not ask happy customers why some customers were unhappy.

So, three thoughts as you evaluate. First, if you have students fill out evaluations, do one at mid-semester....not just at the end of the semester. This will give you a wider Range of viewpoints than from just those who love everything you are doing and will stay with you no matter what.

Second, it is too late to do mid-semester evaluations now. So, identify some students who started the fall
strongly involved in your ministry and did not finish. Then, ask some of your students who know them to take them a comment or evaluation sheet to fill out......without signing it. You can mail something to them with a return envelope at their home address over the holidays. But, the return rate on this is very low. The personal contact is the best way to get a response.

Third, ask two or three students no longer involved if you can buy their lunch. Tell them your purpose is to continue to make the ministry more effective and their honest feedback would be very helpful.

Evaluation requires a clear-eyed view of things. Perhaps those that are not our fans can give it best. At least, it will point to what they see as lacking in your ministry. However, sometimes students dropped out because they did not share your purpose. Don't let that shake your resolve if you believe in your calling and purpose. One of our student leaders told me one time that several students he had been inviting to our outreach Lunch Program said they would come, if it were not always a Christian speaker or emphasis. My response was, "Then, they won't come because we are doing a Christian event.".

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

#Givetwentyfive.....Page 2......#Give25

It has been encouraging to see people spread the word to give $25 to a College Ministry that blessed you during college days.

I received a message from a College Minister who serves on a campus where his is the only ministry. He raises his own salary (with a wife and children) and he said, "I am behind in support right now, so extra one time gifts would be awesome.". He also named a friend in College Ministry who serves in a different state who has taken a par time job to make ends meet.

A former BCM'er posted on her Facebook page that she had "learned Bible study skills, how to lead Bible studies, scripture memorization, outreach, accountability, leadership skills and much more" and challenged her peers to give $25 to a College Ministry that had encouraged them.

Sometimes, I am embarrassed at how little I realized or appreciated people who poured into my life and what that has meant to who I am today and God's call on my life. #Givetwentyfive is just a small way of saying thanks AND seeing that others in college now and the days to come experience what you and I did. It is a way of saying thanks.

I can say from personal experience that when a College Minister receives a check/gift to the ministry (or his salary fund) is encouragement to keep on. Some days one word of encouragement goes a long way!

Would you tell your story and/or encourage your college days friends to give back this month? What if a million College Ministry alums gave $25 this month?