Don’t Torpedo Your Summer Project
Planning a summer project that can provide housing, jobs, spiritual growth and development for hundreds of college students is no small task!
Although the overwhelming logistics can be enough to make a campus minister’s head spin, there are some big picture areas a ministry needs to get right as well.
In my experience, avoiding these destructive mistakes is essential for a winning summer project.
Don’t bomb this amazing opportunity to impact students’ lives by dodging these summer project torpedoes!
Scaring students off before they get there
I have firsthand experience with students not even finishing a project application that asked questions about purity.
Students have so much shame in this area, and we don’t want that shame to keep teachable students from a much needed opportunity to grow.
Allow them to come, then address issues of purity and holiness on the project.
We have separate men’s and ladies’ time at least once a week on the project when we address these issues.
I don’t just want spiritual “five stars” on my project. I also want students who are willing to submit to authority and open to letting God work in their lives.
Limiting the number of students who can attend your project
Don’t let location or housing limit your ability to take students. The more students you allow on project, naturally the more lives that will be changed.
Some campus ministers want a staff to student ratio that is close, but I prefer equipping as many students as possible in spite of the size of my staff team.
Settling for crappy housing
The organization that I work for used to rent the cheapest houses they could find in order to make the price of the project affordable, but from what I have learned from students, they don’t mind paying a little bit more to have better quality housing.
Not empowering staff and student leaders to lead
Give the staff on your project opportunities that will stretch them and allow them to lead.
When you are planning out the talk series for the project, ask them to consider giving at least one talk and then offer them good feedback.
Years ago we started challenging one or two students from each campus represented at our project to come back and be student staff the next year.
We have seen our numbers double by doing this because they inevitably bring their friends.
Going skimpy on project meals
Try to build in a budget to provide as many meals as possible. We factor in at least 3 dinners a week into the cost of the projects.
Try to eat together as much as possible. It builds community.
We grill out, as well as cater in meals from local restaurants.
Not scheduling time for community building
Most college students have never been a part of real Christian community.
In addition to team meals, we schedule free time during the project for students to just hang out with each other and staff and learn what it looks like to live in genuine Christian community.
Forgetting small groups
We divide students into small groups which meet weekly and also encourage our leaders to meet one on one with each student in their small group at least once a week.
If you are looking for something to go through with your students, I highly recommend The Gospel-Centered Life by Robert Thune and Will Walker.
They have a student book as well as a leader’s guide. We have used it for the past 8 summers, and it is great at helping students understand how the gospel applies to all aspects of life.
Not teaching them to be self feeders
More and more I am meeting college students who have never studied the Word of God and don’t even know how to do it.
We not only show the students how to have a quiet time with the Lord but build it into the schedule.
They say if you do something 30 days in a row it becomes a habit. We want this to become a habit for a lifetime.