Thursday, September 29, 2016

What's the Lid for Your College Ministry?

A lid is defined as, "a removable or hinged cover for closing the opening...". The lid for a ministry is where it just will not reach more students or grow further. The lid is closed. All ministries have a lid. Your ministry may not have reached it's lid yet or you may be comfortable with your lid. Or, you may have come to the point of saying, "Why are we not reaching or keeping more students involved with our ministry?".

If you are in that last category, have you identified your lid? Think about it; what is the lid that has the opening of your ministry closed tight at a certain point? What determines your lid?

Here are some common lids:

This is likely the most common lid. You simply have grown to the max that your meeting space will hold or that your students are willing to crowd any further.

You already are using all the creativity you have to keep going on your limited budget. You just can't afford to feed any more. Or, you can't afford to do mail outs. Maybe you can't afford an administrative assistant to do tasks that keep you from having time to connect with students or meet with your leaders one on one.

Most really large campus based ministries have really large staffs (10-20). Large church based ministries tend to offset that some by some of what churches can provide in other ways. Students need to talk to someone. Who does the individual discipleship? Who does the crisis counseling? Who is meeting with and developing multiple student leaders?

Vision or lack of vision is a lid. Are you just happy with the number you are reaching? Or are your student leaders happy with where the ministry is? Or, has it even occurred to them to think bigger? All they know is what they have seen.

There are only X number of Discipleship Groups. They can only hold a certain number. Or, there are only X amount of places for leaders and therefore other potential student leaders leave the ministry to look for other opportunities. Is your current organization structure forming your lid?

What other ministries do can affect what you are able to do. You may suffer by comparison or another may foul the waters for everyone. This is possibly the toughest one to address.

So, what is the point? If we have reached our lid and we can identify the lid, we may be able to do something about it. Do you need to focus on raising your budget? If you raised your budget, could you hire additional ministry people or admin help that would free you to do other things? Should you experiment with meeting somewhere else? Should you add another Discipleship Group or two? Or, should a new D Group meet at a different time? If comparison to another booming ministry is hurting you, have you identified what the unique strength of your ministry is and leaned into it?

If the lid is insolvable, is there a detour around it? Could changing or improving something else minimize the effect of the lid?

The hardest place to see and understand is often our own situation. Three suggestions:

1. Enlist three or four ministry people you trust apart from your ministry to analyze and brainstorm with you. They need some distance to see things from a different perspective. Could they give you a full or half day at some point?

2. Take two or three days totally away from all of it by yourself to think, pray, and consider options and solutions.

3. Take 5 or more than 10 students away for a full day of thinking, praying and brainstorming. The group needs to be big enough to see and think different ideas, but small enough that it doesn't take forever to talk about something. They also can't be shy or reluctant to speak up.

What's your ministry lid? Have you addressed it? Or, have you helped others to see what the lid is?

The first step is to honestly identify your lid.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Some years ago I had a student leader who when he spoke he would often say something was "really, really true". I would tease him and ask, "Is really really true more true than something being just true?". I recently heard myself saying something was REALLY REALLY true.....that really really true fact is the number one reason students come to a Christian event the first time is a personal invitation.

I continue to believe in promotion, publicity, etc, but have renewed my belief in the reality of personal invitations being a huge key. I have recently been a volunteer assisting my church's College Minister in some of our start of school enlistment events. We have done some really first class events. We spent a significant portion of our fall budget. The simple result has been, regardless of the event and promotion, those best attended were the result of personal invitations.

A friend who leads a large ministry shared with me recntly that his students now seem to be more comfortable inviting and bringing new students to their small groups first rather than to their weekly large group event. That is totally contrary to what has been true for them previously and in all of my experience. He doesn't know quite why. But, we do know that it is REALLY REALLY true that the personal invitation is key.


Friday, September 23, 2016

What Do You Do When You Have Done ALL You Know to Do?

A friend called recently who serves on what might be one of the top 10 toughest campuses for Christian College Ministry. He has been there a few years, begun to understand the culture and how to work in the midst of it. He has seen positive response and growth in students' lives and in the numerical size of the ministry. This first month of school he has done those things that have worked so well the last couple of years.....with very little response.

What do you do when you have done all you know how to do.....and it does not bring the success, attendance, gospel conversations, salvations to which you are accustomed? Some years ago, I was lamenting about one of those such falls to my wife. She said something simple that helped me grasp reality....a little. "Every year cannot be bigger and better than the previous just isn't possible."

So, what do you do when you have done all you know to do?

1. Be faithful. Keep on!
Trust the Lord. Keep doing what God has called you to do. It does not mean the Bible is no longer true. It does not mean God's Spirit has left. Keep being faithful and serving where God has called you.

2. Focus on who and what you have.
Do you have more time available? Invest it in those students who continue to be active in your ministry. Connect with administrative people who have an effect on your ministry.

3. Don't fuss at those students who have responded.
Most of us who have been active in church for some years have had the experience of having the preacher fuss at those of us present for those not present. Be careful to not cast a negative gloom over the ministry due to your disappointment and frustration. It can have a negative impact on the spirit of the ministry.

4. Is a different door opening to you?
Be alert to the possibility that a new ministry option or opportunity on that campus may present itself. We can miss it, if we are all doom and gloom and stubborn in fighting with the circumstances. "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.". Psalm 118:24

My friend said he called to get my "wisdom". This is the "wisdom" I shared, "Some years are just like that..they just are.".

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It's Hard to Draw a Crowd on a College Campus!

It's not unusual to hear someone complain that some college ministry is not having as large of a crowd as they should. Usually, those voicing the concern have never done College Ministry.

Recently, Sue and I attended an event on campus to hear a speaker the University was hosting. The speaker was nationally recognized in his field, had published at least one book. His appearance had been publicized on campus and we had read about it in our local newspaper. The article had stated that the event was open to the public. Sue was interested in his topic and I am always interested to hear "professional speakers" to see what I can learn from a speaker's perspective.

I have confessed in previous writings that I am "a counter". I not only count at my own events, I often count at other events. So, at this highly advertised event, I counted. There were thirty-five (35) people there to hear this nationally recognized expert at a well advertised event.....35....thirty-five.....35! I would imagine they had paid him several hundred dollars. It is a reminder that the amount of money spent and good publicity don't insure a large response. I am reminded again that the number one reason that students surveyed said they attended a Christian event for the first time was...a personal invitation.

Having a crowd on a college campus is hard.....and....getting harder. I had my own first experience recently when NO ONE showed up for a collegiate event for which I was a co-speaker. NO ONE...NO ONE! That was a first for me.

When you are disappointed with your attendance, remember there are high dollar events with small attendance. Keep on!

Monday, September 5, 2016

5 Simple Rules for a Positive Campus Ministry Presence

1. Know the rules and keep the rules.
If the campus says don't put flyers on windshields, don't put flyers on windshields, etc.

2. Know the key holders and make sure they know you.
This can range from janitors to Administrative Assistants to the VP of Student Affairs. Lots of people on campus can help you or block your way. Do they know you and do they know the value of what you are doing? If they know you, they are more likely to help you.

3. Speak no ill of other Campus ministries.
You will not agree with everyone's methods or theology. But, unless they are absolutely a cult doing great damage to students, keep your lip zipped about them. That increases the odds they will do the same about you and it does not feed negative impressions of campus ministry as a whole.

4. Walk through the main Student Center EVERY day.
You will see students who need to see you. You will see key holders and key holders will see you.Students you know will introduce you to other students. You will have a greater sense of what is going on throughout the campus...not just your thing.

5. Go to campus events.
You will see students you know. You can meet students you don't know. Key holders will see you. Especially make a point of going if a key holder invites you.