Getting to the heart of your campus: plan the three seasons of your ministry
Even as an old man, I will probably still be dividing my year up the way students do: fall, spring, and summer. We all get a new lease on life and ministry come mid-August each year. As the new school year begins, it’s a prayerful time of planning out our work and then, hopefully, working out our plan! Just as the farmer performs a different function in each season, so the campus worker must know what to do … when! Read Isaiah 28:23–29 for some “back forty” wisdom from a farmer who understands that sowing, cultivating, reaping, and even preparing for the next season are essential procedures for successful annual crop yields. We’re going to dig much deeper into these tasks in later chapters, but for now let’s do a short overview in planning out a ministry year:
A. The fall
Whether it is just you starting out or you have a team of workers colaboring with you, August is the key time to meet students and start the recruiting process. The goal for the first thirty days of school is to meet as many students as you can and recruit as many to small group studies as possible, inviting every student to your large group meeting (if you have one). The Greeks on your campus are probably rushing students to pledge their chapter. Why can’t you sponsor “rush parties” to recruit students to your ministry the same way? This time of sowing can make or break you for the school year. Students come to campus with a fairly clean slate but then spend the first two to three weeks filling up their calendars with commitments and relationships that lock them in throughout the year. Make sure you get a slot in their whirlwind lives before it’s too late!
The emphasis during September and October should be evangelism and recruiting. Each week, in your small groups and one-on-ones, be looking for opportunities to share your testimony and a gospel presentation. Ask God to give you solid decisions as you ask students if they would like to invite Christ into their life as Lord and Savior. Along with a consistent diet of witnessing, build relationships through fun activities along with recruiting them to any kind of fall conference or event you are planning.
As you continue to saturate your campus with prayer, you’ll want to start following up those students who come to Christ or really want to grow in Christ. Don’t zero in too soon on students. Give them a chance to show their interest level and faithfulness. Loving and serving the students individually and as a group will show them you really care. If you do have a large group weekend event or a Christmas conference, use it to reinforce the vision and values you’ve been preaching in your one-on-ones, small groups, and any campus-wide meetings you’ve held. By the time mid-November rolls around, though, you ought to be starting to challenge each student to a higher level of commitment for the Spring semester.
B. The spring
Students are usually eager to return to school after Christmas break. Those who attended a ministry event over the holidays are anxious to apply the truths they gained. If you presented each with a customized challenge to pray about over the break, they have now had time to pray and decide if they want take you up on the offer you’ve made. Along with any investigative groups (for non-Christians or young believers) you might start, you’ll want to make sure you gather the faithful, growing students from the fall and incorporate them into a small group that will challenge them to take the next step in their maturity. Select the spiritually hungriest students to plan weekly time with, developing them in quiet time, character, and witnessing.
As the semester wears on, begin to recruit them as a group and individually to any summer growth or mission opportunities that you provide or know about. Whatever your students do during the summer, make sure that you give each a good summer growth plan to follow and a personalized challenge to become a ministry leader come fall. Always be planting seeds and planning ahead to the next cycle of ministry.
C. The summer
Some ministries gear down during the summer, but I have found it to be an incredible time to give focused training to the committed ones. You have spent time sowing and cultivating; now is the time to reap. I have found the summer opportunities are a great season to consolidate the leaders and train them to colabor with you when August rolls around. If you don’t have a summer training program attached to your ministry that you can utilize, why not start one yourself or plug them into an existing one that another ministry has operating?
Our ministry started summer projects in 1981, and thousands have had their lives radically and permanently changed as a result. One of the highlights of the projects is the final “Back to Campus” week where the students begin to pray and plan toward what kind of personal ministry they want to have when they get back to their school in August. You might even want to have the student leaders come back to school a bit early for group prayer, planning, and moving freshmen into their dorm rooms. The cycle begins again, except this time you have a whole new cadre of workers to assist you!
An excerpt from The Fuel and the Flame
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