Sep 07, 2015


What to do after the back-to-campus rush

Tim Casteel offers direction for how to focus your ministry now that the back-to-campus rush is ending.

In the first few weeks, it’s all about generating momentum, meeting a lot of students, sowing the gospel broadly.

After the first few weeks on campus, now what?

In the first few weeks the mission is so urgent, the pace so fast, your team is pretty aligned and all moving (at break-neck speed) toward a common mission – meeting and sharing the gospel with as many freshmen as possible. After the first few weeks it can become easy for staff and student leaders to to lose focus. Real life starts hitting students (first round of tests) and the starting-the-fall-adrenaline starts to wear off. Staff are tired and sometimes disappointed to see that their immense exertion of energy/time didn’t result in quite as many students as they had hoped.

Now that the sprint is over, it’s a great time to re-focus your staff and leadership for the marathon of the whole year. You must define what success looks like in this different season of the school year.

So here’s a non-exhaustive list of what you need to be thinking through now that the first few weeks are done:

1. Help your team remember their identity is in Christ – not in ministry success/failure
No matter how your first few weeks have gone – fail or succeed, I have Christ. Paul David Tripp has said, “It is very tempting to try to get your identity from your ministry success.” And the opposite is true as well – it’s very tempting to let ministry “failure” define you and shape your trust in God.

I’ll let Tripp continue to preach (from his excellent book Dangerous Calling):

“Because you have a secure identity as a child of God, you don’t need to seek identity from the success of your ministry. You can do this because your standing with God is not based on your performance but on the perfect obedience of Christ. You need to preach these truths to yourself daily, because in ministry you either seek to get identity from your ministry or stand firm and secure in the identity you have been given in Christ.”

2. Re-Cast Vision for what you are trying to do
A few weeks of crazy hours and hard work can tend to zap vision/zeal. Vision leaks. Remind your students and staff often what this ministry is trying to accomplish.

3. Help your team know where they are in the year.
The traditional Cru movement operates on the cycles of momentum. That typically means 3-4 major “waves” during the year:
First wave – surveys, move-in week freshmen outreaches
Second wave – right after fall retreat
Third wave – after Winter Conference
Fourth wave – after spring break

It’s helpful to know- “Oh, OK we just crested the first wave and now it’s time to invest in the involved.” On our campus, we continue to pursue and share the gospel with thousands of contacts – students who have filled out a spiritual interest survey requesting more info on a Bible Study or growing spiritually.

But we also begin to shift our attention from meeting new people to investing in the already involved. This does not mean we do not pursue new people. It doesn’t mean we stop doing evangelism. It just means there’s a bit of a shift toward investing in our current students

It’s a common business axiom: it’s easier/cheaper to retain a customer than to earn a new one. In college ministry, it’s around this time that we seek to retain students so that THEY can involve other students (see “Getting Freshmen Behind the Table“). It’s mobilizing the involved.

4. Move from the urgent to the important
Walk your team through the strategic plan. Remind them of the big picture and the specific things you’re trying to accomplish in the year at a macro level. You should be using phrases like: “Now that we’re through with the first 3 weeks…” “Here’s what we are doing now.” “Here’s our 3 priorities for the fall.”

Come up with goals for your team and invite them to pursue the “win” together.

5. Help your baby small groups thrive
For our team, success= students in Community Groups. So as the dust of the first three weeks settles around us, we make it job #1 to help our baby CG’s thrive.  For us, that means helping our students leaders meet (and usually share the gospel) with every single student who has come to their Bible study.

6. Get students to Fall Retreat
Make sure your leaders are going. If they go, their small group members will go. Cast vision for how strategic it is for community – your group will grow in community more this weekend than the rest of the semester.

Coach them in how to recruit:
Talk about it at your Community Group – “We’re all going together. It will be an epic road trip!” (bring fall retreat flyers to pass out/show the promo video)
“I’m driving, I have three seats open – come with me!”
For our staff team, during weeks 3-6, success = people in CG’s and recruited to Fall Retreat.

7. Start planning how you’re going to capitalize on the momentum from Fall Retreat
At Fall Retreat, students are at the height of their excitement for what God is doing through your movement. Give them an immediate next step into mission (and deeper community).

This is a great example from Sioux Empire Cru of how to capitalize on that momentum:
– On the first night of fall retreat we have the student emcees say, “This is coming – we’re all doing this together.”
– We  give all 250 students at the retreat an easy, appropriate next step into mission that anyone can do.

This is not only a win in students taking a baby step in evangelism but it helps with community. On our campus we’ve noticed that we are able to get a ton of students to fall retreat but those students don’t stick- quite a few of the students who come with us to fall retreat aren’t with our movement at the end of the fall.

8. Start recruiting students to summer missions opportunities.
Your staff need to know where they are spending their summer. “Come with me!” is FAR more powerful than “You should go!” Camps start showing up to campus in September and students start committing their summers. As summer mission teams form, this provides another opportunity and motivation for new students to pursue deeper community.

What’s your plan? What have you found to be key strategies for capitalizing on back-to-campus momentum?

about the author

Tim Casteel

Tim works in college ministry at a university in Arkansas.