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?

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