Aug 06, 2018
5 Focuses for the Fall Frenzy
David Worcester shares the five focuses that are key for college ministries seeking to impact campuses during the Fall Frenzy.
I’m currently starting a collegiate-focused church and our team has been asking what we should focus on this Fall. It doesn’t matter if you are a brand new plant or a long-time college ministry, your focus the first few weeks of Fall is the same.
At San Diego State, we have 11,000 new students coming in this year. Our goal is to reach as many of them as possible. In the Fall, we put everything else on hold and go all in with outreach! As the Salt Company says, “Give me freshmen or give me death!”
We are seeking to discover those who are ripe for the gospel. In John 4:35 Jesus said, “Wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.” There are people coming into your campus who are already ready to receive the gospel. We are on a spiritual scavenger hunt, looking for those not connected to Christ or community BUT open to it. The harvest really is plentiful. Our goal is to connect with as many of them as possible. For more inspiration in this area, check out my twin brother’s article on the topic.
If you want to harvest the spiritually ripe, here are the five things you should be focused on the Fall Frenzy:
1. Meet Tons of People
We use whatever excuse we can to meet as many people as we can. One resource we use is a version of the “30-second survey.” We have started doing these on our phones using Google forms which is great because when we enter their contacts, it goes straight to a database. Whatever way you meet them, make sure you are getting their numbers so you can text them personally. As my brother Paul says, “It’s all about the contacts!” We actually have received some really valuable feedback from our surveys. When we were thinking of names for our church, we surveyed people asking which name they like best. Be creative, and go out and meet as many people as possible!
Another important way to meet interested people is make sure you are a part of whatever student involvement fair your school puts on. Also, if you can, set up an information table everyday during the first week.
We always do a raffle for a free gift card (Amazon or Starbucks). If you got the big bucks, raffle off an iPad as a way to get contacts at the table. While they are filling out the raffle card, we talk to them about our group and ask them to check the box if they are interested. Then we text them and invite them to our next event.
If you are short on staff or student leaders, recruit a S.W.A.T. Team (Servants Willing And Temporary) from your church or an out-of-town mission team to help you the first week of the semester.
If you are a new ministry, this stage of “Meet a Ton of People” doesn’t stop with the first weeks. You have to keep meeting a ton of people to have a steady flow of visitors to your group.
2. Meet Ups
Party with a purpose! Most campus ministries have fun events at the beginning of the year, but here are a few principles we have found helpful when planning effective fun events:
- If at all possible, make your events on campus. When students are first getting to school they are less likely to venture off campus, especially if they don’t have a car.
- Think through which events will have mass appeal both to guys and girls.
- Food is the best! We always have some kind of food at our first couple weekly meetings as an extra incentive for people to come back to.
- Don’t be afraid to just do the tried and true events like a free BBQ, dry house parties, game nights, and beach bonfires work well here in California (Sorry, Oklahoma friends!).
Strategic, fun events position you to make a less intimidating first invite to a new person you just met before inviting them to your large group or service.
You are going to be eating a lot of food the first few weeks, so unbutton that top button! Try and get as many meals and coffees with the people who are showing signs of interest. This can be informal or you can use this as a way to do Gospel Appointments. If you have a home where you can host people, invite students over to have a home-cooked meal, but a good meeting at Starbucks or Chipotle on campus is great, too!
Make sure at the beginning of the semester that your meetings are targeted at welcoming new, unsaved people. I personally recommend setting up your large group to always be welcoming to non-believers; but at the beginning of the semester make sure it’s really FOR THEM! Involve the newcomers as soon as possible with helping to put on the meetings. Make up a job for them if you have to so they are motivated to come back. One simple thing you can do is ask people to bring a snack. For some more insight on how to make a meeting that non-believers love to attend checkout my summary of Andy Stanley’s Deep and Wide.
We also make it a goal to get a Gospel Appointment with everyone who visits any of our services! Gospel Appointments are a great way sit down with them personally, hear their story, and share the good news.
Also, as you have opportunities, start outreach-focused small groups targeting specific “pockets of people” on campus.
For example, one of our students is an RA this year. We are planning on starting an evangelistic group in his dorm. Don’t start right away with a “bible study”; start by doing fun events, and then once a community forms invite the people to an outreach-focused study that deals with the needs of lost students.
Marketing is last on the list because it’s the least effective. Marketing is a supplement for your personal outreach, not a replacement. Personal is always more powerful. With that said, good marketing does help position you positively in the minds of students.
Get a website, but keep it simple. See your website as an extension of your flyer. Don’t put anything on your site that could be confusing or a potential turnoff to an unsaved person.
There are some wise ways to use internet marketing. Some churches have learned to use Facebook effectively, but get advice before just boosting a post, etc. Also, if Meetup.com is in your area, it is a great site for people who are looking for stuff to do! We have had several people check out our events just from MeetUp; one guy even came to our service the next day!
Get simple flyers, but don’t rely on them alone. Flyers really work best along with a personal invitation. I like smaller invite cards that guys can put in their wallets.
The best marketing is a personal text from an actual person they have met.
Obviously, there are a lot of other things you need to do when starting up your group, but these things are going to help you cast a wide net to catch as many “fish” as possible!
If you are the primary speaker at your group, plan ahead and write your talk over the summer, get your other organizational stuff (like becoming a student org) done before the first few weeks so you can dive fully into outreach without distraction!
Meet with your workers and leaders for a vision night a few days before the new students show up. Use this time to cast vision and get everyone on the same page about reaching people. You could even read this article together! After a really big day or week, meet up again to celebrate and share stories of how God is changing lives.
Finally, when you’re sweating in the hot sun and feel like giving up, remember why you are doing this. “All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:15 We do what we do for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. The more people we reach with God’s grace the more worshipers God gets and the more worshipers there are the more glory God gets; that is what ministry is all about!