Friday, May 27, 2016

What if EVERY Church Or Parent Reported Their High School Seniors to

Those of us who do College Ministry know that what a college freshman does their first three weeks of their fall semester often shapes their whole college career and faith walk. Psychologists say the two greatest times of change in a person's life are birth to one...and high school graduation to Christmas.

In their book, WHY THEY STAY, Dr. Steve Parr and Dr. Tom Crites say in their study of young adults active in church demonstrated, if college freshmen connected to a church or campus ministry in the fall semester, they were "138% more likely to stay involved at age 30". I don't understand the math of that, but I have seen the reality of that truth. In connecting with young Christians who come to college, the fall semester is key....and I would narrow that down to the first three weeks. That is when shaping friendships are made and schedules are developed.

College ministry leaders have long been frustrated by the attempts to get the names of Christian students coming to their campus with little success. Some years ago, one State wide denominational college ministry sent a letter to 1200 of their churches requesting the names and contact info of their students going to college. They got less than twenty responses....out of 1200 letters!

We can greatly influence the likelihood of a college student walking with the Lord, if we provide their name and contact info to a Christian ministry on that campus. Southern Baptists have established where these names can be provided and they will be forwarded to the appropriate campus.

What if every church and parent made sure their son or daughter's name was provided? What if someone in every church would decide that every student graduating from their church would get a spiritual contact at the start of their college career?

Many years ago, my elderly mother each spring would go through her small town's weekly newspaper and make a list of the graduates who would attend my campus. She would then look up their addresses and send them to me. Wonder how many lives she affected for God's kingdom?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Two Things That Affect Your Ministry (Out of Your Control) You Must Address!

Often our ministry is dramatically affected by two things we don't control. But, we must be aware of them and address them.


You might say, "I've been here long enough that isn't a factor.". I had led the ministry at Arkansas State for ten years when someone got up at a meeting to voice a criticism of our ministry....that happened prior to my coming...ten years previous to that! We either stand on the shoulders of our predecssors or in the hole they dug. Here are five ways the previous ministry affects it now:

1. Reputation - You may benefit from a great reputation...or, you may suffer from a negative reputation. If it is a negative one, you must realize that and take steps to address it. Do you know what the general reputation of your ministry is on campus? Events on campus and advertising are not just about an event...they are about reputation.

2. Expectations - If the ministry has a history of being highly successful, it puts pressure on you to demonstrate the same level of success. But, students tend to perform at a higher level when that has been the expectation. If your stye is different than your predecessor, you must help stakeholders and students understand your different approach and why.

3. Type of Students Drawn to the Ministry - The style and personality of the leader affects the type of students drawn to the ministry. It may be that your style of ministry requires a different type of student leader than has previous led out. Then, you must be purposeful in connecting with those students. You must love the students who are already there while connecting to those who respond to your style and vision.

4. Budget - What has happened in the past and how it has been done is a factor in what the current budget is. If your ministry requires a larger budget, then you must demonstrate a vision for that size budget.

5. Attitude of College Administrators - If the ministry you lead previously had an adversarial relationship with those who literally hold they keys to the campus, you must work at developing a positive relationship. They must see it is a new and different day.


Whether it is fair or not, our ministry is affected by what other ministries do and how they do it.

1. No other ministries may mean a wide open door, or it can mean there is no realization or sense of need for what you are offering. You must completely plow new ground.

2. If there are one or more booming ministries, your ministry may suffer in comparisons that students make. Fair or not, students will compare,

3. You must develop your ministry's personality and find the niche that your ministry fits and the students with which you can connect. But, don't succumb to the temptation to copy the booming ministry. You will most always fail.

4. If other ministries have a negative reputation such as being confrontational or judgmental in their style, students may assume that is true of all campus ministries. You must work at demonstrating yours is coming from a different perspective. Bad reputations of any campus ministries affects all of us.

4. If another ministry is being particularly effective in one area, you may need to find another way of doing it. Or, your ministry may need to focus on another area. There are students who are not being reached no matter how large and successful other ministries are.

Our ministry never functions in a vacuum. We are affected by the past of our ministry and by the present (and past) of other ministries relating to our campus.

Friday, May 20, 2016

College Ministry Truisms or Platitudes

A Truism is defined as, "a statement that is obviously true and says nothing new or interesting". I love that definition. Every so often, I post some of the sayings that float around in College Ministry. Some I will claim as original and some no one knows who said them the first time or even how long they have been around. And, honestly not all would agree they are completely true. So, here are some truisms I function with and by.

1. No empty seats is discouraging to newcomers....too many empty seats is discouraging to everybody.

2. Your ministry has to be YOURS....reflecting the local situation and your own personal strengths.

3. The first three weeks of the fall determines your whole school year.

4. It takes three years for a ministry to become firmly established or for it to become yours.

5. Once students have been to and inside your meeting place, they are more likely to come back.

6. A ministry tends to reflect the strengths and weaknesses of its leader.

7. Good falls are made in the summer.

8. Spend wisely extravagantly at the start of the school year.

9. Who you reach determines who you can and cannot reach.

10. Students think and talk better with free food in their mouth.

11. Developing and building up more leaders will grow your ministry.

What are the truisms that you live and minister by?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Why do Local College Students Drop Out?

I was having lunch with a Church College Minister friend when he said the words I've heard lots and lots of times, "Why do local college students drop out?". His church is known for being serious about College Ministry and for having a strong one.

My home church is one that has asked that question lots of times. In my experience in this one place, I have seen those churches that do well keeping their own students involved don't seem to do well in reaching out of town students. And, the churches who do well reaching out of town students have struggled and often failed in keeping their own connected.

During the Spring Semester a year ago when I served as the Interim College Minister at my home church, I made a concerted effort to re-connect local students who had grown up in our church. I experienced 99% failure in that area. The previous College Minister had spent his first summer having all the local graduates in his home weekly for a Bible Study and had averaged about 30 per week. Wow! He had made a turn around. When school started in the fall and the ministry went back to their regular fall events, one...ONE of those 30 came once...ONCE!

As you already know, I don't have a magic answer, but here is what I think. They feel like strangers in their own church and it offends them! A local told me he went to the first big fall event at his home church College Ministry his Freshman year and got mad. When he walked in the door, a student he had never seen held out his hand and said, "Welcome to________Baptist Church". It was an out of town upperclassmen doing what we teach them to do. He was welcoming someone he did not know.

Yet, you say what about all those that didn't even come once? I still believe there is some fear there about all the strangers in "my home church".

Here is one thing I would try. I would enlist as many locals as possible to serve as Greeters, Welcome Table Personnel, etc for those first few weeks. I would pair them with an out of town upperclassmam and introduce them in advance. They would have a reason to be there. They would already know an upperclassman. And, they would recognize and welcome other locals. This would help prevent others being treated as strangers in their home church.

I have always worked at having a balance of guys and girls up on stage in "face roles". I would also work at having a balance of locals and out of towners in "face roles". if you have some sort of leadership team, I would ask some locals to serve on it.

No one likes to feel like a stranger......especially not at home!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Are We "Preaching" Too Much to College Students?

I confess that this is a title that may get me in trouble....first, let me explain....then I may be in trouble. For many years it is my belief that College Ministers were seen as more teachers than preachers. These days when I see a picture of a College Minister, it is likely one speaking up in front of a big crowd. I've got a couple of good ones of me like that.

So, what's the issue? In my several years of leading a campus based ministry, I saw us as a partner with local churches. I saw our ministry sharing the Gospel, but speaking more to the every day issues with which students were faced than the chuches did and could. We did lots on relationships, personal discipline, how to know what to do with your life, etc. Obviously, all of that was done from a biblical context. Yes and I did try to explain the book of Revelation some.

I have two concerns. First, I believe College Ministers must never lose our role as being one who works with students individually. The more we see ourselves as preachers, the more we isolate ourselves to prepare and study. A couple of years back I wrote a blog about how I didn't like "Green Rooms" where speakers waited prior to speaking to students. When I speak, I would rather have sat with students leading up to my speaking and have talked with and hugged many of them prior to the start. I believe in walking across the campus every day and talking with students individually...not being one they only recognize on the stage with a spotlight on me.

My second concern is that we are doing only "salvation talks or sermons". Yes; there are tons of students who need to hear and respond to the Gospel. But, we cannot forget the 7 out of 10 who walked with the Lord in high school and are walking away from faith in college life. Many think they have already done all that all you have to say? What about the ethical and moral issues of our day? Who helps students answer the tough questions they are getting in class and all across campus?

I hope you get to speak to huge crowds and proclaim the Gospel, but that you will not forsake your role as a teacher of every day life. And, you will continue to be one a student can talk to when their girlfriend/boyfriend just dumped them....with a text message.

Some years ago after I spoke at a Sunday worship service in an area church, a man told me he had enjoyed my "little talk". What I think he meant was, I didn't sound much like a preacher. That was ok with me....lots of my students had quit listening to preachers a long time ago.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"Never underestimate the power of a free hot dog." ...Pete Wilson

Pete Wilson, well known Nashville pastor and conference speaker, while speaking at the National Collegiate Summit said, "Never underestimate the power of a free hot dog.". He was describing how a cute girl had invited him to go to a BCM Welcome party Cookout his freshmen year.

The three top reasons students say they attended a religious event the first time are:
3. Free food
2. An appealing event
1. Someone invited me.

So, as this school year goes into the books, it is a good time to begin to think about, brainstorm how you will start the fall. I have an axiom for the start of the fall semester, "Spend wisely extravagantly". What events will you do at the beginning of the semester? I have tried different things through the years. For some years, we did a big Luau. But, I began to feel that students had a great time, but when it was over had no sense of who we were and why we were there. In more recent years, our ministry tried to combine the serious and the fun event.

If you know me at all, you know I am a huge proponent of Freshmen Survival events which contain both fun and serious parts. Remember, the two things Freshmen come to school looking for are Friends and Fun. Your ministry can help them.

So, what do you do for a fun Welcome Event? Here are some different "Idea Starters":

-Mark Whitt, while at Murray State, had a big pizza tasting event. Students sampled all the different pizzas available in Murray and then voted on the best which became the "Official Pizza of the BCM" for the year.

-Several Christian groups at Florida State go together to host a campus Luau on a large scale. Zac Allen is one of the leaders of that.

-Texas Tech BSM has done a huge 99 cent Steak Dinner for years. Several years ago the Texas A&M BSM would block off the street in front of their Center to do a huge steak cookout.

-Midnight Pancake Suppers in the middle of campus or in campus centers have been a big finals event....what about a Welcome Party event?

-The Million Dollar Shot-Someone told me of a Christian group who set up a basketball goal with a shot line 50 feet away. A ticket to shoot was a completed Info Card. If anyone made it, their name was placed in a drawing at the end of the day for some grand prize. There could be several variations of this.

Some events are tied to the first large worship event of the year and others are stand alone events with individual follow-up being the key. Paul Worcester at Chico State is a great example of how to do follow up individually with Gospel Appointments.

But, if you want your students to invite students to an event, are you giving them an attractive event to invite others to attend? Now is the time to plan to, "Spend Wisely Extravagantly".

Let me know your Welcome Event ideas and I will share them in later weeks.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Next for a College Minister....Your Website or Facebook Page

It is that time of year where you may have had your last event or you are just plunging into that series of last events. I call it "The Banquet Season" because it is full of dinners and cookouts. But, there is one thing that needs doing as soon possible and before you totally exhale.

Your website needs updating.

As high school seniors graduate and come to campus for Summer Orientations, they hopefully will be checking out what your ministry might have to offer. Some of you have already had one or two Freshmen Orientation events. What about those students you connected with then or handed a flyer or card about your ministry? What if they really are interested? Will your website encourage them to further connect with you? I sometimes check out different websites of College Ministries. And, I am dumbfounded by how many are out of date or even say "Not Available".

Some things to consider for your website:

1. Pictures - I am a picture freak. Pictures answer more questions than you could ever think to answer...and in far less space. At the very least, I would try to have one picture that represents each of my regular weekly events....two weekly events...two good pictures. If you have a meeting place or a Center, a good picture of it is important.

2. Is there a first special event for Freshmen? If so, what and when is it? Can you have a picture from last year's that would show me what to expect? If it is a Survival type event that requires advance registration, does your website tell them how and when to do that? How much does it cost?

3. Videos - Some websites or pages have a brief video from the College Minister while others have a brief testimony from a student. I prefer the student one....but, you may be extra pretty and charismatic. Often I think it is better to do "Snippet Quotes". Here is an example: "I met my best friend....It was the best thing the first week....I got my tough faith questions was crazy fun....I became a Christian....exactly what I was looking for.". You can ask several students to write one or two sentences and then pick snippets you want to use.

4. Location - Does your website/Facebook page tell where your church or campus center is? Could someone find it this summer
when they come to town?

5. Links - If yours is a Campus based ministry, it could have links to local churches. If it is a church based ministry, it could have a link to the campus based ministry with which you connect. Remember to partner well. Or, if links are not an option, a simple statement of partnership or a list works.

6. Contact Info - So, is there a way to call, email, text, or whatever?

7. Remember the two F's for freshmen. They are looking for FRIENDS AND FUN! Many college freshmen ship wreck their lives finding friends and fun in the wrong places and ways in those first weeks of college.

A website or Facebook page does not have to be elaborate. At the very least, it can be up to date and have one good picture (no not of you).