When I ask leaders in North American churches, “In what season in life did you feel closest to God?” their response often points back to their college years. And when I press further asking for an exact moment, more often than not leaders either highlight some type of catalytic event or trip or they focus on changes in their lives that flow from those moments.
As you build your ministry from scratch, spend time thinking about and praying for catalytic moments for your students and for your ministry. Then prayerfully build them out with your leadership team. Ask your team: “What can we do or design in our program or disciple making process to create catalytic moments for our students?” Then plan those catalytic moments with precision.
Here is a primer list of events and trips to consider with commentary and links. This list can be copied and pasted easily, but more importantly, it is intended to be a starting point for your team to design a catalytic process of your own.
Creating Fall Semester Catalytic Moments
- Welcome week activities (August)
During the first 30 days on the campus, college freshmen make a huge number of decisions about career pathways, friendship clusters, study habits, personal routines and all kinds of other things. This window of time—especially the first 10 days—is your greatest opportunity to engage students. Helping freshmen with move in, setting up a booth at freshmen orientation, hosting/supporting university events and/or doing a huge meal at a church member or college students home are all great ways to meet students. Whatever you do, figure out a way to connect with as many new freshmen as you and your team can handle. Keep in mind that the goal is not to put them on a role or a mailing list. It is to create relationship. As you meet people, get contact information, follow up well and connect them with others in your ministry…preferably students.
- Welcome Sunday + Group launch (September)
Within two weeks of starting the fall semester, plan a collegiate engagement Sunday in which you invite as many students as possible, address collegians appropriately during the service, introduce your semester activity flow (weekly rhythms and events) and do a meal at a home following worship. Be careful not to overpromise on what you can deliver on your programming. Most importantly, utilize this Sunday to continue to foster relationships with new students. Hint: College freshmen love food, fun, friendships and familial connections in the community. Announcing a monthly college student meal at church members homes is a low-expectation, easy win for most churches.
- Fall retreat (October)
If a students attend a Bible student or small group once a week for 15 weeks, they get will around 25 hours of spiritual community time during a semester. If they go on a two-night retreat, they get far more time without interruption and in concentrate! Whatever it takes, find a way to engage new students in a well-planned and well-executed fall retreat experience that facilitates gospel-centric community and, most importantly, provides students with a optimal opportunity to hear the gospel, experience God and follow Jesus.
- Thanksgiving project (November)
Thanksgiving provides all types of possibilities for engaging students in mission. You can lead a project for students to serve in shelters, do a community leaf-raking project for the elderly or facilitate Thanksgiving meals or homestays for international students at the homes of your church members over Thanksgiving break. Whatever you do, provide strategic opportunities for students to live out the gospel by loving and caring for people in the community.
- Christmas Gathering (December)
December is tricky. Students are usually transitioning back home for break or coming back to your church from college. You might consider doing a Christmas meal and Christmas caroling together or focusing outwardly by doing Christmas gifts for a family or by serving or blessing a people group in your community. A swing for the fences, bold move of catalytic experiences is to take a team on the Christmas in China (CIC) project. On first glance, this project may seem crazy—but it has proven to be one of the most value experiences available at awaking college students to God’s call to love and reach the nations. Please pause and consider it now: Christmas in China.
With a good weekly rhythm in place and fall events done well, your college ministry should be ready to pick up speed in the spring. Watch for the final article in this kicks starter series to open spring semester with a spark and end it “lit” for mission.
If you like what you’ve read hear today, consider reading the following books:
- Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission by McCrary, Crider and Stephens
- Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to the Churches that Send by J.D. Greear
- Next Door as It Is in Heaven by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco
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.
Published July 27, 2017