How to kick start a college ministry in 12 months: Part 4

By Brian Frye

Like seasonal changes in the weather, changes happen in your college ministry cycle as well. The fall semester is heavy on recruiting, connecting and engaging new students, especially freshmen—the future lifeblood of all thriving college ministries.

Spring semester is different. The majority of your time, energy and resources need to shift toward cultivating the students to produce spiritual fruit. Does this mean you ignore new students or stop sharing the gospel within the university context? Absolutely not! Always be watching for opportunities to engage others. If you want to see your ministry continue to expand, however, you need to focus increasingly on equipping students to follow Jesus more deeply and preparing them to lead other students toward Christ.

This series has highlighted the need to build a team to lead and develop the college ministry program and to have weekly rhythms of disciple making. These are still essential for continued growth—they are, and will remain, the backbone of your ministry.

If your students have continued to grow in depth and your group has grown in size throughout the fall, you need to turn up the heat by making bigger asks of their time and faithfulness. In fall semester, catalytic moments centered on small “asks”—short-term, low-cost events, trips or gatherings. Now you need to ask them for bigger commitments that will press their faith and stress their role in making disciples, planting churches and expanding God’s kingdom. Here are some excellent ones to consider:

Creating spring semester catalytic moments

  • Passion Conference (January) – National college ministry groups and tribes, often the time between Christmas and the spring semester, hold national gatherings to synergize and energize college students toward mission. There are plenty to choose from, but we recommend the Passion Conferences. I attended as a student, have taken multiple student groups over the years and have met and interacted with hundreds of other leaders who have been impacted by the worship, preaching and challenge delivered through this experience. This three-day event will provide a spark for your college program, and it may well change life trajectories for many in your group.
  • Leadership retreat (February) – Upon returning from Passion (or a similar J-term conference) you will likely see leaders emerging in your ministry. It is extremely important to develop them into leaders who can lead within your college ministry now AND who can develop multiplying groups after college. To accelerate this growth, plan a smaller, leadership-focused retreat with these students, your leaders and a leadership facilitator or trainer. Whether from the university or church, utilize that leader to cultivate your group as a team and to lead you through spiritually-focused vision and strategy work for your college program. This process helps the team connect and also helps students begin speaking into the future direction of the ministry. For vision building tools, see Will Mancini’s works Church Unique and God Dreams.
  • Spring break mission trip (March/April) – Remember how valuable fall retreats are at building community and exposing students to God’s activity over a 48-hour weekend? Spring break mission trips are the same, but amplified. Not only do students have opportunities to experience community and engage the Father, they also have a pathway to actively participate in God’s mission to bring the world into relationship with Himself and the family of Christ. You can do a mission trip on your own or go along with another group. Local, national and global mission trips are availed through all types of ministries, but we recommend global trips through the International Mission Board (IMB) or trips nationally like Send Relief Projects and Beach Reach. Whether on your own, with another group or through our ministry family, we cannot encourage you strongly enough to get your students on a spring break mission trip. It will benefit you and your ministry in more ways than you know!
  • Graduation and summer commissioning (May) – As the school year winds down, your most important leadership team moment emerges. For those students who have joined your ministry over the last year, you have earned the opportunity to celebrate the last year with them and to paint a preferred picture of the future for everyone there. Rather than do a similar Sunday morning recognition or some picnic in the park, go for the gusto! Make a memory. Leave an unforgettable mark! Do a fancy banquet (as much as you or your church can afford), dress up, present a highlight video, sing together, have leaders share what they have seen happen, have a photo booth, give humorous and serious awards and culminate the gathering by commissioning and calling them toward kingdom goals. For example:
    • Call graduates to 1) leverage their lives for the gospel, 2) to make disciples wherever they land in work and life and 3) to begin investing in your college ministry now with a $50 pledge/money to expand the college ministry at your church
    • Call students going home to 1) find a church to engage over the summer, 2) to start a small group in their community and 3) to come back early in August to help with new student orientations and outreach activities
    • Call students going on summer mission projects to 1) share Christ daily with the lost, 2) to pray for new students who will arrive on campus next semester and 3) to prepare now to take on leadership roles when they return in the fall.
    • Call your adult leadership team to 1) invest another year in reaching the campus, 2) to allow graduating students to live in their homes with them (rent free) to focus on reaching the campus and 3) to invite others church members to begin investing in students like they have.
  • GenSend project (Summer) – Throughout the school year, it is likely you will see some students grow rapidly in their faith. Wanting to fast-track them into mission and ministry multiplication, you may be asking: “What can I do to continue developing him or her over the summer?” Almost every collegiate ministry group has answered that question by developing some type of 8-10 week summer project. Like spring break trips, we strongly recommend summer projects as well. At the North American Mission Board, we offer a summer project called, Generation Send (GenSend for short) that engages students in gospel sharing, disciple making and church planting in the largest cities of North America. For more information, check out Generation Send.

This article is the last (4 of 4) in the “How to kick start at collegiate ministry” blog series. Be sure to check out the rest of the series as well. Also be sure to check out the page for more articles, events and resources.

If you like what you’ve read hear today, consider reading the following books:

  1. Church Unique by Will Mancini
  2. The Secret of Teams by Mark Miller
  3. God Dreams by Will Mancini
  4. Movements that Change the World by Steve Addison
  5. After College by Erica Young Reitz

If you’d like to continue this conversation, email Brian Frye at or connect with him on Twitter via @brifrye. For other insights on engaging, disciple making and church planting with college and university students, check out or join the Collegiate Collective Facebook group to connect with others engaging the campus with the gospel.

Published July 28, 2017

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Brian Frye

Brian N. Frye is National Collegiate Strategist for the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Collegiate Evangelism Strategist for the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (SCBO).