What do you do during your first meeting with a new student
First impressions make a lasting impact. If a student’s first meeting with a staff is awkward, condemning, or unclear, it could push them away.
What should you cover when you’re meeting with a new student for the first time? How can you lead it in a way that cares for them well?
I set the expectation early on in the meeting (within the first 5 minutes), tell them that I’m glad to meet them, and I have three goals for the time:
- Get to know them
- Give opportunity for them to get to know you
- Share the vision behind your campus ministry. For me it’s DiscipleMakers Christian Fellowship (DCF).
This gives a framing for our meeting, and allows me to transition the conversation topic without being awkward.
It cares for the student, by giving them a proper expectation for how this first (potentially awkward) meeting will go.
Don’t expect a freshman to know how to lead an hour-long conversation over coffee or lunch. It’s your responsibility to lead. They’re waiting on you to set the tone. Especially if you are the one that initiated the meeting.
When I get to know the new student, I’m trying to cover a broad range of their basic profile: What made them decide to come to this campus, what’s their family like, what’s their spiritual background, where are they from, what kind of hobbies or special interests do they enjoy?
If you sense that you’re hitting an area they want to share more about, ask a few more questions. It’s important to slow down to love and know them. Relational ministry is based on trust, so please don’t skip this step.
When I offer for them to get to know me, usually they don’t quite know how to lead that conversation. So sometimes I’ll offer them some help by sharing more extensively on my answers to their questions. Or I can answer for myself the same questions I had asked them just a few minutes ago.
Don’t let the conversation be one-sided, like an interrogation of the new student. If you share too, that will build greater trust.
Many students are confused as to who you are and why you’re on campus since you’re not a student. Clarifying that you’re on staff with a ministry and serve a student group provides the needed context to make them more comfortable.
When I share about DCF there are three things I focus on: What, Why, and How.
I share about the core of DCF: We make disciples.
Usually I’ll open my Bible and have them read Matthew 28:16-20.
I elaborate on the different activities we do (Bible studies, large group meeting, service projects, parties) but how the core goal we have with all of that is making disciples—hence our name, DiscipleMakers Christian Fellowship. That’s why one of the central things we do is one-on-one meetings, and training of our student Leadership Team. It’s what Jesus told Christians to do, so it’s what we focus on.
I like to share this to give the students a proper expectation of the purpose of our community. We’re not just singing songs each week. We’re not just leading Bible discussions. Our core goal is making disciples. Everything we do is trying to accomplish that goal. (Note: Don’t say this if it’s not true. Make sure that you do have alignment with your staff and student buy-in to whatever your core goal is)
What motivates our disciple-making? The Gospel.
Here’s where I grab a napkin and draw out a brief illustration of the gospel. Usually I like to use the 3-circles explanation from this video. When I’m done, I ask them if they’ve heard an explanation of the gospel like that, and I see where the conversation goes.
This is basically a revised version of the Gospel Appointments that Paul Worcester has described and advocated for.
I share that the motivation and power source to make disciples doesn’t come from just begrudging obedience, but from the gospel itself. We have been saved and rescued by Jesus, and now we follow Him with joy. We also want others to be saved by Jesus and follow Him. That’s why we make disciples.
How to get connected! I share that DCF has weekly email updates (through MailChimp), periodic text message updates (we use the free service Remind), a Facebook group, and we’re on Twitter.
I ask them what method serves them best, and I get them signed up, right there on their phone for texts, or in the MailChimp app on my phone for emails. This helps ensure that the student doesn’t fall through the cracks after this one first meeting, but continues to stay connected.
I also try to connect them after the meeting to our student leaders. If they’re interested in a Bible study, or visiting a local church, I make the relational connection between them and a leader or driver.
The benefit of consistently following this model for every new student is that you build relationship by getting to know them, as well as sharing the basic core of what your ministry is about. You also get them connected so they’re in the loop with future events.
And most importantly: You ensure that each new person is hearing the gospel explicitly and clearly.
We don’t assume if someone is a Christian or not, we just share the gospel every time. It may be the first time someone hears it (how exciting!) or just a needed reminder of the most important message in the world (still exciting!).
This might not be the best way to lead a new student meeting, and I have been refining it this whole Fall semester. But I think I’ve landed on a method that works well, and I hope to see good fruit in the years to come.
What way do you lead a first meeting with a new student?