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Five traditions to improve your weekly gatherings

There is a reason weekly gatherings are a staple in campus ministry.

Whether your students meet in a private student center, in a campus facility, or in a nearby church building, these gatherings provide an opportunity for students to worship together, hear a message from God’s Word, and stay in the loop on upcoming activities.

I’m a big believer in creativity. After all, we’re made in the image of a creative God. So I’m always on the lookout for ways to enhance these gatherings. I like to use creative elements that mix things up, spark curiosity, create more opportunities for student involvement, and give students one more reason to come back and invest themselves.

You’ve probably experimented with a number of creative elements by now and have seen the impact they can have.

These may include simple things like using name tags, guest speakers, having students share their testimonies, or using videos to highlight events.

Here are five “traditions” I’ve used off and on over the past twelve years that have proven to be worthwhile and worth passing on:

Compassion Vessel

Every week, have a designated student leader shoulder-tap a student in advance to come up on stage and receive $10 (or whatever amount you wish to budget).

The volunteer is then prayed over and commissioned to spend the next seven days to help someone in need as a vessel of compassion.

At the next gathering, the volunteer is then invited up front to share the story of what they did. Hit repeat and commission the next volunteer.

It’s an easy way to create a culture of compassion in your ministry.

You can even record these stories and use the videos at end-of-the-year banquets or for fundraising purposes. You’ll be amazed at the creative things students can do with $10.

I’ve seen students buy blankets for the homeless, place free Bibles around campus, give a big tip to a waitress having a rough day, and treat struggling friends to coffee.

Hot Seat

At the appointed time, bring up the “Hot Seat” slide on the projector and invite a different student on stage to sit on a stool to answer 8 to 10 questions.

After addressing simple things like name, hometown, year in school, and major, select some questions that are a little more personal and interesting. For example:

  • What clubs or extracurricular activities do you do on or off campus?
  • What job do you want someday and how will you use it to help people?
  • Tell about a defining moment in your life.
  • Who is your greatest hero and why?
  • What are three things on your bucket list?

It’s a great way to help students get to know each other. I like to highlight student leaders in the fall and new students in the spring, alternating male and female.

Adopt a Cause

Our ministry at the University of Tennessee has partnered with the Christian Relief Fund to sponsor a child.

Every week, we pass around a football helmet to collect money for our child who lives in Kenya. About $35 a month covers food, education, and medicine.

We also send her letters from time to time, and have a bulletin board hanging in her honor where we post her letters and pictures.

Adopting a cause is a great way to encourage students to be mindful of the needs around the world. Check out these organizations to to learn more about causes that you can adopt:

It also helps them develop a pattern of generosity that will likely endure beyond graduation.

In fact, don’t be surprised if you see students compelled to serve in those causes through mission trips and internships!

Prayer for the Nations

There is a great book I recommend picking up called Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation, by Jason Mandryk.

In it, you’ll find an A-Z profile of every nation in the world, complete with demographics, statistics, historical information, and suggested prayers.

Consider setting aside a few minutes in your gatherings to pray over a different nation every week. Sure, it could take years for your ministry to get through the entire book, but so be it.

You might even place a world map on a bulletin board and put a pin on every nation you’ve prayed for.

This tradition will open students’ eyes to the persecuted church among others things, and create a greater sense of gratitude and responsibility for bringing Christ to the nations.

It’s also a weekly reminder that international students are coming to our campuses from many of these nations. What an opportunity!

Kingdom Assignments

The last idea I’d like to share involves giving students a weekly challenge to engage the campus in a practical way.

I recommend putting the challenge on a PowerPoint slide at the end of your gathering, as well as printing the challenge on slips of paper and passing them out as students leave your gathering. For example:

  • Invite one non-Christian friend and one stranger to [your next event].
  • Share your testimony with one person.
  • Offer to pray for one of your professors.
  • Ask a friend the following question/s: _____________.

You get the idea.

You can leave it at that or, like I’ve done in the past, you can invite students who completed the challenge to put their name in a drawing at the next gathering for their chance to win a door prize.

Prizes could include the latest Switchfoot album or a movie like Blue Like Jazz or To Write Love On Her Arms. You could also give books like The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn or How Good Is Good Enough? by Andy Stanley.