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The Send Network Church Planting Blog

How to kick start a college ministry in 12 months: Part 1

July 24, 2017 by Brian Frye

Have you ever looked at the college or university campus in your community from a missional perspective? On the campus next to you, just a few blocks or miles away, sits one of the greatest mission fields of all time. It is a mission field that has the potential, if engaged with the gospel, to rapidly expand God’s Kingdom in your community, across the nation and around the globe.

If an extreme opportunity exists so closely to you, and God’s call is clear to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), maybe you should consider this question: “Has God be preparing me and our church to start a healthy, reproducing collegiate ministry to reach the campus?” Would you pause now and take time to think about this question? Could God be asking you to start a ministry to reach the campus?

If your answer is “yes,” and you’re ready to get started, your initial steps are
1. Continue seeking God’s direction and guidance.
2. Begin to pray daily for the campus, for leaders and for students to follow Christ
3. Design an simple, rough-draft ministry plan.
4. Build of team who will join you in launching a college ministry.

In the process, keep the following thoughts in mind:

Build a strong team to lead the ministry.

First things first, build a team of two to four couples and two to four students who will give a year to building a college program. Why do you need this team composition? College students have access to campus and relationships, and couples have homes to host students, make meals, and provide space for ministry.

Create at simple, short-term plan.

By giving your team a starting point and ending point, they know what they will be committing to do, and they know that there is an end in sight. This clarification will make recruitment easier at the start, and both you and the team will have an out if the process goes haywire or team members go rogue in the process.

People own what they help create.

Once you have the team and you have the vision set on what you want to create, stop and build together. Do not create a plan on your own, and do not over-lead the team. To make your college program thrive, you must bring others along in the creation process so they have ownership in its success and they learn how and what it takes to build a new ministry from scratch. Building this way will take more time initially, but it will amplify leadership and ministry building over the long haul.

Short-term wins are key for long-term success.

Once you have a team and they demonstrate buy-in, be careful with the expectations you frame for your ministry. Paint too big a picture (“If we win this campus, we can win the world”), and they will likely be easily discouraged. Paint too small a picture (“If we just get a Sunday morning Bible study with a dozen students”), and you’ll dampen expectations and limit effect. With your team, set goals and expectations that fit your ministry context. Also, at every turn be ready to celebrate wins with your team.

Stop after 12 months to evaluate effectiveness and pivot.

No matter what happens, convene your team after 12 months. Take them out for a meal to thank them, celebrate with them and evaluate how effective the college ministry has been. Whether it is dying on the vine or it is exploding, a one-year evaluation will give everyone a chance to look back on learning and accomplishments and to choose their next steps. It is likely that you’ll need to pivot some people or roles. Maybe you’ll have a couple ready to quit or a student ready to graduate or a new person or two to add to the team. Regardless of what happens, the 12-month evaluation gives you the ability to keep, repeat or delete elements of the program that you love or hate. Trust us on this one. Once you start, calendar a stop for evaluation. It will save you pain and make you, the team and the ministry far stronger.

What do you do once you’ve built a team and you have a preliminary plan to launch a ministry? Build a weekly rhythm and begin fine tuning your plans for the fall. Watch for upcoming articles in this series, “Develop a Rhythm,” “Catalytic Moments – Fall Semester” and “Catalytic Moments – Spring Semester” to learn how.

If you like what you’ve read today, consider reading:

  1. The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshal and Tony Payne
  2. Start with Why by Simon Sinek
  3. Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
  4. Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

For other insights on engaging, disciple making and church planting with college and university students, check out www.collegiatecollective.com, or join the Collegiate Collective Facebook group to connect with others engaging the campus with the gospel.