Friday, January 29, 2016

How to Speak so College Students Will Listen

When someone is not a famous speaker it seems a little presumptuous to tell others how to be a great speaker. So, here are my credentials. As Baptist Campus Minister at Arkansas State University for 32 years, I attended more than 900 of our Outreach Lunch Programs. Each of these featured a Christian speaker. In 900 times I saw it done great, well, acceptable and oh my gosh poorly.

Keep in mind that the audience at these 900 plus events were committed Christians, non-Christians, and lots of students who had walked away from their faith in college. The size of the audience varied from 15 to 300 through the years as the event grew and developed. But, it was not your plain "I'll listen to anything cause I love Jesus." crowd.

So, here is what I take from those 900 speaker experiences.

1. Tell stories.
Nothing communicates better with students than a story well told. Ed Seabough, the great college speaker of the 60's and 70's, was one of the best story tellers ever. He said he practiced telling his stories. One story told well will gain attention, identification, and it has sticky value with those who hear it.

2. Speak casually.....don't preach.
Tone is huge with these college crowds. This is like talking to a friend. It has a personal warmth to it. Yelling doesn't work, no matter how good the content. Many see loud as offensive.

3. Humor always goes well....not corny jokes.
Laughter is a wonderful lubricant that makes things go well. Be willing to laugh at yourself. A funny story told on yourself is always well received.

4. Pace matters.
Pause. Don't hurry. This is part of speaking casually as talking to a friend. When our adrenalin is pumping, we usually wind up speaking faster. Slow down.

5. Know when they have quit listening.
When their heads are up, they are listening. When their heads are down, they have quit listening. But, lots of times, I have seen heads come back up. A new point can draw them back to you. When the heads stay down, it is over.

6. Quit before they quit.
Simply put, shorter is better than longer. I know many Christian speakers speak 40 to 50 minutes these days. But, I don't think that works well with student crowds as a whole. At a Lunch Program with a strict time limit in order to make the next class period, 20 minutes was the max. Get done in your time limit...don't just have to end. There is a reason TED talks are 18 minutes.

7. Speak without a podium or pulpit.
If there is one, get out from behind it. This changes it from a lecture to a conversation. This takes the barrier out. Your notes can be in your Bible. Students have lots of people who speak to them in boring fashion from behind a podium or lectern.

8. Ask for a response.
I'm not talking about a walk the aisle invitation. Ask a "How many of you have ever.....?" kind of question with a show of hands. This involves them in it. Often, this can tie well to a personal story you are telling. When I do this, I usually hold my hand up or say, "On that, I need to hold both hands up."

9. Don't read to them.
At one of our lunches, I saw a Seminary professor cling to his notes like they were a life raft. He read some great things....but....all the heads were down. Nobody heard it. A speaker the next week could have warmly said the same thing to them and they would have sworn they had never heard that before.

There are only a few gifted speakers, but all of us can be a better speaker by working at it and knowing who our
audience is. College students are people....but, a unique people! Don't just speak so committed Christian students will listen to you, speak so lots of different students will listen to you.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Maximizing Hot Spots and Dead Spots in College Ministry

Maximizing Hot Spots and Dead Spots is one of the "12 Qualities of Super Effective College Ministers" (see my January 22 post). So, what does that mean and how do you do it?

Hot Spots and Dead spots refers to two things. First, it points to those times in the campus calendar. An obvious Hot Spot is the first three weeks of the fall semester when students are more reachable and available than at any other point. A dead spot is Thanksgiving to the start of Spring Semester.

The second thing the term Hot Spots and Dead Spots refers to are places on campus where students are available and easy to connect with in a very non-threatening way. One of the things that makes us more effective in our ministry is to identify these spots.

Campus Hot Spots:

I stumbled into my awareness of this idea many years ago. There was a University Post Office located directly in the center of our campus. One day I went to the Post Office at 9:00 a.m. and ran into some students I knew and they began to introduce me to others. It wound up with me standing there talking students for thirty minutes. I walked to the Student Center and came back to the Post Office at 10:00 and the almost identical thing happened. I began to make it a habit to go different days at 9:00 or 10:00 or both. One day one of my students was standing out front of the Post Office handing out his campaign material for Student Senate President. I asked, "What are you doing?". He said, "I'm just doing what I have seen you do and it works."

In these days of email, cell phones and Facebook, you could die a lonely death standing out in front of a campus Post Office! But, there are places that work that way. My favorite is the cafeteria. I must confess to eating two or three lunches as I connected to two or three different tables full of students. Where on your campus are the Hot Spots and what are the max times to be there? It can be coffee shops, work out centers, etc. A Hot Spot is both a specific place AND a specific time. Have you identified yours?

Campus Calendar Hot Spots and Dead Spots:

I often have referred to these as "Seasons" on campus. The first three weeks of the Fall Semester is not when you want to be contacting alumni. Necessary work like that fits great in the Dead Spots.

I have also learned that certain days of the week or times of the day are Dead Spots and so there are "non-student tasks" I plan to do at these times. On our Campus Friday is usually a Dead Spot. For me, that spells paper work and administration. Friday is "Clean off my Desk Day".

Have you identified and maximized your Hot Spots and Dead Spots? Every campus is different and sometimes, even each semester is different. Know your spots and times!

Friday, January 22, 2016

12 Qualities of Super Effective College Ministers

1. They don't peg themselves theologically with just one group.
-They are able to connect with and encourage all those that want to walk with the Lord.

2. They intentionally seek out and invest individually in students with great potential.

3. They network.
-They talk with and are friends with college ministry people in different states and in different kinds of ministries.

4. They realize they are the picture of their ministry.
-Fairly or unfairly, they understand their ministry is judged by them.

5. They maximize the dead spots and hot spots.
-They recognize the different rhythms of semesters, breaks, summer, first month of school, etc.

6. They plant themselves in one place and build one year on top of another which grows momentum and support.

7. They advance the careers of others.
-They are always willing to benefit others, especially young College Ministers.

8. They live in both the present and the future....maximizing the present, but looking ahead by planning and adjusting for the future.

9. They are high touch.
-They have very personal and warm relationships with students.

10. They are uniquely themselves and comfortable with who they are.

11. They learn from others continually....even those who may not know as much as they do.

12. They practice a very personal faith and growing relationship to the Lord that keeps them humble and grounded.

Monday, January 18, 2016

5 Ways to Reach More Students.....But and However

1. Start a second large group worship event at a different time or day...same weekly message with same speaker or utilize a different speaker.

2. Enlarge your Leadership Team to bring more students into ownership roles.

3. Stop doing something you do programming wise to put more time and effort into outreach for your main event.

4. Make food a part of every worship event....before or after.

5. Change locations of your main event to a better, more convenient location.

BUT, decide in advance if the change(s) will cause your ministry to lose something you must not lose. HOWEVER, be honest with yourself about the need to touch more students' lives for Christ and that a crowd is not all that matters. Balance reaching more with the need to build deeply in the lives of a few students. More is not always automatically better.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Addressing the "Black Hole" for Church Drop-outs

The "Black hole" is the term Steve Parr and Tom Crites use in their book, "Why They Stay", to describe the college age years when they say 61% of young adults disappear from church. So, what are we doing about it? I maintain we are not doing nearly enough. For those of us who work in college ministry, we must do an even better job addressing this issue....AND...we must enlist more partners in this cause.

Parr and Crites say that, "If a student connects with a local church in fall semester of their freshman year, they are 138% more likely to be in church at age 30.".

If you serve in a College Ministry Church or as a Campus Based College Minister, now is the time to begin to plan for your fall enlistment, enlist partners, and budget for those crucial first weeks of freshmen coming to your campus. So, what do we do? If you are the campus based college minister, you can be the catalyst for getting the churches together to develop a plan. It doesn't have to be your plan, but you can be the "starter". Work with those who are willing to be involved. A group can be two churches. Don't let those who don't want to participate keep others from cooperating.

1. Enlist as many to work together as possible.
Invite all churches that want to be involved to partner and let each contribute as they are able..but still be full partners. A few combining resources and volunteers can do more than most can do on their own.

2. Decide that it is not just if students come to YOUR church.
There is no one church that is perfect for or fits every student.

3. Budget, find, beg enough money to do it well.

4. Make it more than just one is about the first month of school.

So, what are some things that could be done?

1. Enlist church volunteers to do a large campus wide "Move-In Day" event. Use trailers, golf carts, etc to help parents and students get from vehicles to dorm rooms.

2. Have a Progressive Supper thru various college ministry churches.

3. Have a cookout on the lawn for students and parents on the first day. One joint group I know has a big luau.

4. Have first class printed materials listing church options....either all in one piece or in a packet. Everyone gets the same materials in the joint efforts.

5. If yours is a football school, the first couple of home game weekends should be special events for your college ministry...those weekends are huge opportunities. These weekends offer huge potential! Advertise all of that at the beginning.

6. Have special Football Homecoming Sunday Services where parents are invited. Have that in your materials Move-In Day. If the parents are coming, the son or daughter will be there that day....even if they have not been been back since the start.

7. Here is the crazy suggestion.......share names between churches of who has visited and who has not been back. Often, students disappear between churches and we just assume they went somewhere else. Also, we can know who has joined or attached somewhere thru regular involvement.

Other Thoughts:

If you have one month to impact the life of a college freshman, are you planning for the WHOLE month? Or, are you just having one event and packing it in?

Are you budgeting "wisely extravagantly"? Some years ago I had an aha moment when a fraternity told me how much they budgeted to recruit 50 guys in their Rush period? It's not about having a "big name" do a concert, but doing well done first class events. Don't waste money, but do what you do well!

But, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, it is about personal connections and follow-up. Do you have people meeting, welcoming and making new students comfortable when they come? And, do you let them know you are glad they came. Don't get new students there and then let them feel weird and unwelcome.

These thoughts barely, barely scratch the service of beginning to think about this fall. If 61% of college students drop church during Freshmen year, are YOU, WE working on that enough?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The "Black Hole" of Church Connection....New Insights into Young Adults as Church Drop-outs

I have just finished a very quick run through (I have not read every word.) of the new book, "Why They Stay" by Steve Parr and Tom Crites, which is the result of their survey of 1400 young adults.

They use the term "Black hole" to describe the years from high school graduation to marriage where "61% of those in the survey who no longer attended church strayed during their college years.". First, it is their contention that a significant factor is many churches which have no class or group for those who have graduated high school, but are not married. They argue that churches need a college age ministry whether they are in a college town or not.

Parr says, "Our research revealed that a young adult who is connected with a congregation quickly after high school is 138% more likely to stay in church than the young adult who does not connect with a church in the transition time after high school.".

I have long contended that the first three weeks of freshmen year in college are golden in opportunity and need. As college ministry churches and campus based college ministries we must ask, "Are we putting the priority and resources necessary toward reaching and connecting freshmen to church in that first fall semester...... those that come to us AND those that just left our youth ministry?". Or, are we just accepting that we will lose 61%?

Are we addressing the "Black hole" as we need to?

Factors they state for young adults staying connected to church:
-Loved their pastor when they were young.

-Had a good children's and youth ministry, but not necessarily a full time person.

-Have a high view of scripture.

-Parents demonstrated a strong and balanced involvement in church.

Some factors in those who leave:

-frequent turnover of youth leaders and pastors (Stability of ministry is huge!)

-church conflict or moral failure of church leaders

-youth were separated from families in worship

For me one perhaps over simple conclusion from this book is, we must admit that we do not have a student's college career to reach and connect them to the is almost fall semester or nothing! If we really are concerned about the loss of young adults to the church, are we putting the necessary emphasis on this crucial time frame? Some of the young adults surveyed were asked what in their opinion the church thought about them. A common answer: "They don't think about us.".

This book is good for parents, church staff and college ministers who help churches and parents. Some sections are written to parents.

"Why They Stay" by Dr. Steve R. Parr and Dr. Tom Crites, Westbow Press, a Division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan

Monday, January 11, 2016

What Defines College Ministry Success?

There are many definitions of success inside and outside the Christian faith. Sometimes non-Christian standards are used to define success in Christian circles. It has seemed to me that "success in College Ministry" has been even more difficult to understand or define...both for those who do it and those looking in from the outside. The most common success measure in almost anything is a big crowd. I like big crowds and know lots of College Ministries that have them, but that can't be the goal or purpose or we serve a very fickle master....and not Jesus.

Al of us have in our head and heart our own definition of success whether we have admitted it out loud or not. That's one place we have to get honest with ourselves....what success formulas are driving me AND what success formulas are being used to evaluate my ministry. We possibly are operating on one and being judged or evaluated by different ones.

Here are some of the most mentioned definitions of success in College Ministry:

-Have at least 1% of the student body at your large group event (5,000 = 50/10,000=100, etc).

-Does your ministry look like the campus (variety of students, groups represented, athletes, Greeks, internationals, etc)?

-Do students serve and lead or do they just come to a large group event?

-Is the Gospel intentionally shared with non-believers?

-Am I utilizing my particular gifts/strengths to the max?

-Am I building on the unique needs and opportunities that my campus offers?

-Am I doing what the people who hired me, pay my salary, support the ministry expect of me?

Each of these has something to say to what and how we do and should not be ignored and I believe there is some truth in each of them.

My Two Top Definitions of Success in College Ministry:

2. When I leave this ministry, will it be stronger than I found it?

1. What do the students who come out of this ministry do after college in terms of Christian walk, service and church involvement?

Our personal definition of success is a key factor in what drives us. I would encourage you to clarify your own and....clean it up or change it, if necessary. It will help you as you plan, serve, and survive or thrive!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Is it 25% for Spring Semester Startup?.....And One More Thing!

If you have ever read any of my material, you know I believe the first three weeks of the fall semester are "solid gold" or "If you don't do the first three weeks of the fall right, nothing else matters".

So, what about the start of the Spring Semester or Winter Quarter? Many just see it as an extension of the previous semester and just see the Christmas Holidays as a break and we pick up right where we left off. I don't believe it works that way. In many ways there is the good and bad of a new start.

First, I think utilizing the first couple of weeks in serious outreach can be valuable and be about 25% as beneficial as the Fall Startup. Here are three groups for which it can make a difference.

1. There are Christian students who came to your campus last fall as freshmen who did not live as Believers.....and they have realized it and regretted it. What can you do that might connect to them and give them a new entry point to your ministry? And, a new walk with the Lord.

2. Transfer students often come in January from Junior College or Community Colleges. No body is much doing all the "Welcome Glad You Are Here Events" that fall offers. Is there something you might do that would reach into the group of transfers coming to your campus and bless their lives....and help them survive?

3. Students who were in and out of your ministry during the fall often need encouragement or help to reconnect in the Spring Semester. Make a list and consciously check on them or assign them to some upperclass leaders.

One More Thing: I have observed a "magic thing" happens with several freshmen when they come back from Christmas Break.....they are not "such a freshman" anymore. I have no explanation for it. It seems they have turned a corner in maturity or at least are ready to turn that corner. Put a group of them together for a Bible study group you might lead for potential new leaders. Or, start meeting one to one with a few of them. Help them have a vision for how God might use their life on campus in the next few years. Plant a dream and a God sized goal in their heart.

Are the first three weeks of Spring Semester 25% as valuable as the first three weeks of fall? We will see.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Internships Available for Those Exploring Full Time Ministry - Spread the Word

Calvary Baptist Church in West Lafayette, Indiana (near the Purdue campus) is seeking three to four Interns who are exploring Vocational Ministry. These positions would start in August 2016 and serve for a period of one year. Applications are due by March 15. In April final candidates will be invited to West Lafayette to interview and make arrangements. Calvary is a fast growing church that has more than doubled in size over the past 2 1/2 years (with 130 of them being new Christians) under the leadership of Pastor Daniel Berry.

Ministry Areas to Apply For:

-Children's Ministry (5th grand and under)

-Student Ministry (6th - 12th grade)

-College and Young Adult (18-25)




-Others such as Discipleship, International Ministry, Missions, Connections.

Applications and other information can be found at

Monday, January 4, 2016

10 Over Simple or Outrageous College Ministry Principles or Truisms

1. Your ministry must be bigger than what you can do by yourself.

2. Money won't make a ministry, but it's hard to have much ministry without have to raise just do.

3. Making big changes in your ministry EVERY year demonstrates a lack of consistent philosophy. You can't blow it up every year.

4. Don't do ANYTHING in the fall you can do in the summer.

5. Meeting individually with student leaders isn't optional.

6. You must walk across the campus and through the Student Center every day.

7. If you aren't going to a ministry with the intent of being there at least three years, don't go.

8. When you quit recruiting and training leaders, you have begun the end of your ministry.

9. If you don't do the first three weeks of the fall right, nothing else much matters.

10. You ought to be fired if you don't work with alums.