Starting the School Year Strong in Your Campus Ministry
The beginning of the school year comes faster than you might expect. Rather than cramming in August, take some time to think about the fall semester in May and June. Many of us desire to start well, but surrendering to the urgent can often hinder us from looking ahead with eyes of wisdom! This article will provide you with a checklist of important things to talk about.
Have a planning meeting with your student leaders:
Your chapter will always rise and fall on the strength and commitment of your student officers. Before the semester begins, take the time to meet with these key ministry partners. You can use this meeting to (1) remind them of the vision and purpose of your ministry, (2) review the contacts you already know and follow up with them before they arrive on campus, (3) prepare for your upcoming promotional opportunities, (4) nail down each officer’s responsibilities on a weekly/monthly basis, (5) set goals for the year, and (6) fervently pray over the coming year. Also, give them some opportunity for input. They often know the campus better than you do! You might have this meeting months from now, but take the time to schedule it and get it in your officers’ calendars. You won’t regret it.
Decide on your preaching/teaching themes:
Think about your speaking topics for your main meetings and POWER groups. It’s often wise to start the year with an apologetic series that peaks interest.. Giving your POWER materials groups to your officers early gives them a chance to prepare. Also, when you hit the hectic pace of the first few weeks of school, having your series already prepared will give you more chances to follow up with officers and new students.
Prepare your overall promotional plan:
The first few weeks of the semester are a crucial time to meet incoming students. Those who prepare wisely can reap the benefits. We’ll talk even more about this in a future article, but here are a few things to think about.
Tabling Opportunities: Most campuses let student organizations promote themselves at promotional fairs. Make sure you’re with sharp promotional materials, fun competitions at the table, and readiness to collect contact information. You want your table to stand out in a good way. You only have a few seconds to make vital connections with students.
“Open-Door” Events: If we’re not careful, we make students commit to too much too fast. There will come a time for that, but we need to have some very welcoming “open door” events. For instance, if you host a free spikeball or cornhole tournament with free food, promotional materials, and a short Bible challenge/invitation, you might get the chance to meet tens to hundreds of students in a short period. If you check with your student organization, you might even be able to get your event officially promoted in the University’s “weeks of welcome” events.
Move-In Days: Many Universities allow student organizations to help students move into the dorm (or even international students get picked up at the airport). This is a great opportunity to be a blessing and invite these students to your Bible study! If you bring a good crew of workers, you could make a strong impact in someone’s life from the moment they arrive on campus.
First Main Meeting of the Semester: First impressions are so important, so take some considerable time to think through how to conduct your first meeting with excellence. Maybe bring young adults from your church to come to campus and help you start strong!
Transportation to Church: If you can, offer a carpool or shuttle ride to your church. Students looking for a church home will appreciate you making it as easy as possible for them to attend.
Social Media: Whether we like it or not, college students are on social media. Reach these students where they are by having a sharp promotion on Instagram and Facebook. If you do enough sleuthing, you might even find a freshman page (ex. Clemson Class of 2026) where you can reach out directly to the new freshmen.
These are just a few of many potential ideas. The point of this is to think through your whole plan for the first couple of months. You’re trying to promote the greatness of Jesus to students who greatly need Him to save them, so it’s worth thinking through how to put your best foot forward during that crucial time!
Network with like-minded churches:
Do you have sister churches in your area? Check with their youth pastors and see if any of their students are going to your University. They’ll be thankful that their student is getting discipled in their difficult context. You might also get the chance to have lunch or coffee with them before the semester starts and give you a “leg-up” in your freshman recruiting opportunities.
Pray, Pray, and Pray Again:
This step is more important than any other. Pray about everything in regards to your campus ministry. Pray over the students you know. Pray over the students you don’t know. Take a prayer walk on your campus. Pray with your student leaders. Pray for “divine appointments.” We could be the most prepared campus ministers on the planet, but if God is not in it, then our labor will come to nothing. If you earnestly pray that you can have an impact for Christ on your campus, God can answer those prayers in ways beyond what you can ask or think.
Take some time to work through this checklist early on, and you’ll find yourself being much more ready for the coming year. Tackle this new school year with joy!