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Getting to the heart of your campus: which students should you target?

September 18, 2010

Get out the most recent school annual, campus directory, and map of the college.

Start to list all the different affinity groups at your college. Break down these different “people groups” by:

  • Dorm floors
  • Athletic teams
  • Greek chapters
  • Clubs and organizations
  • International student groups
  • Student government
  • Off-campus groups
  • Commuters
  • Races
  • Religions
  • Classes (freshmen, senior, graduate, etc.)
  • Majors
  • Gender
  • Faculty
  • Other

Begin to pray over each group, and list individuals you currently know. Some ministries also divide the student body into influential, interested, and isolated categories. In doing this, they are trying to target the students who have the broadest network of relationships in order to impact the maximum number of people on a campus.

You will need to decide if you are going to focus your energies on penetrating one of the affinity groups you listed or simply any individuals that you meet on campus. If you choose to target groups, then you and your team members can pray, brainstorm, and match up each of you with the affinity group that you most relate to, feel connected with, or feel led to reach out to. Maybe you were part of a sorority or you played high school sports or you’ve traveled to different African countries at one time in your life, and it just makes sense to tie you in with a corresponding group. If there is a large group of Chinese Malaysians or just a particular dorm that no one is targeting, that may be a signal from the Lord that He wants you there initiating ministry.

Focus on freshmen

When I was a head counselor at camp, one of my jobs each May was to welcome and orient a fresh batch of college counselors, eager to learn, serve, and fit in. If I had told them we got up at 5:00 a.m. for calisthenics each morning, they would have all been there, ready to go. The veterans, though, were sometimes harder to motivate and get excited because they had settled into a routine of doing things like they’ve always been done. The saying, “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks” can be true of camp counselors as well as college students! Whether it’s someone trying to trick them into buying elevator tickets or you recruiting them to a floor Bible study, freshmen are much more open and receptive than upperclassmen.

As I write, I am looking out my office window at our back deck where tomorrow fifty of the leaders in our campus ministry will gather for a cookout, have some fun, pray, and plan on how to reach out to the twenty-five hundred freshmen moving onto our campus the next day. These leaders have arrived early to spend three days and nights unloading freshmen cars, carrying their boxes up to their rooms, building relationships, andinviting them to Happy Hour, our weekly meeting, but most of all they’re just trying to make good first impressions.

The first person I ever met

First impressions can be monumental events. I’ll never forget the first person I met when I got to campus; the first person who helped me unload; the first person who showed me around when I felt like a lost puppy; and of course, the first person to invite me to a dorm Bible study. If you will commit to spending the first thirty days of each fall semester meeting, befriending, and recruiting freshmen, you will see your personal ministry continually be refreshed and reloaded with willing, hungry, teachable young men and women who will follow you anywhere in repayment of your kindness toward them in their hour of need!

My wife and I mainly focus on working with the fraternity and sorority students on our campus. I’ve been meeting this week with different guys, inviting them to be part of a Greek men’s discipleship group I am starting this fall. I’m only inviting three guys from each of the top four fraternities to participate in this weekly time of Bible study, prayer, and reporting on our ministries. One of the requirements for each guy is to lead or co-lead a Bible study in their fraternity. I will be helping each of them spearhead a study or two among the most reachable and recruitable category of persons in their chapter. You guessed it─the freshmen pledges!

Not only are freshmen usually the most available and accessible, but if you can lead one to Christ or get one really growing, you have at least three to four more years to establish and equip them. Each spring and summer we train our campus leaders to come back in August to once again focus on the freshmen. It is a perpetual cycle that brings new lifeblood into the movement each year and helps ensure a future generation of leaders. Freshmen─you gotta love ’em!

An Excerpt from The Fuel and the Flame
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