Why, when, and how to launch a weekly large group meeting on your campus
Every ministry yearns to have a growing, dynamic large group with lots of excitement, momentum and relationships.
In fact, many ministries and churches measure their success by how many people come to their meetings.
As important and valuable as a large group meeting can be, we dare not make that the highest measure of success.
Experience tells us that some of these meetings (and ministries) can have a lot of breadth, but very little depth.
Why start a large group meeting
This is the key question you must answer on a semester by semester basis.
Most ministries start a large group meeting, but cannot clearly identify the goal.
The fog of confusion and tyranny of the urgent can roll in fast and the unspoken goal can evolve to simply seeing how many people you can get into the meeting room each week.
That doesn’t stop some ministry leaders who, once they’ve lost sight of their goal, redouble their efforts!
Why the students are there or where you plan on taking them as a result of the meeting are questions that ought to be constantly addressed, but usually aren’t.
Here are some possible reasons to start and sustain a regular large group meeting.
A well attended, regular, large group meeting can be like a huge funnel that attracts more and more students.
If you will then initiate one-on-one gospel appointments and guide them into small groups, the momentum can be properly harnessed.
Creates an identity for the ministry
Many students seek out a meeting with a certain kind of student or worship or teaching.
If the large group creates an attractive “front door” to your ministry, it can enhance your recruiting efforts on campus.
Trains student leaders
Seek to use every responsibility, whether it be planning, recruiting, worship leading, or clean up, as opportunities to develop and train student leaders.
The more students own and lead the large group meeting (and any aspect of the ministry) the more committed they will be and more response you will see.
The meeting can be used to bring believers together for encouragement and deepening of relationships.
Every student desires to be part of a group that loves and accepts them. This can serve as the body of Christ on campus.
Depending on the purpose, your meeting can be used as a “seeker friendly” atmosphere where non-Christians feel welcomed and witnessed to.
Whether or not there is an evangelistic message or appeal, believers can still use the meeting to reach out to the non-Christians at the meeting or afterwards.
Teach students the basics
Some groups focus the topics and testimonies on building the basics of the Christian life into the students.
These can either be topics they may not normally hear at their church or topics that reinforce what they are getting at church.
The answer to the “Why are we having this meeting?” question will always determine the location and content of the meeting, including speakers, topics, worship style, etc.
One danger of a large group meeting is that it takes so much energy and focus from the staff and student leadership of the ministry that there may be little time left for evangelism and discipleship.
Remember, Jesus didn’t tell us to go into all the world and hold meetings. He said to “make disciples” of all the nations.
A large group meeting has the potential to aid in the overall discipling process, but, believe it or not, the meeting can also be the main obstacle in fulfilling the Great Commission on your campus!
When to start a large group meeting
The very first agenda item for most new ministries is to start a weekly large group meeting.
I wish, though, that campus ministries knew what most church planters know─that solid leaders and several healthy small groups are essential prerequisites before launching a higher profile, large group weekly church service that will be able to effectively attract others from the community.
In our mind’s eye, all of us dream of having hundreds of spiritually growing students coming to our weekly meeting, most of them having been won to Christ by someone in our ministry, and plugged into small discipleship groups and good local churches.
For this vision to become a reality, a couple of critical first steps have to take place.
Focus on grassroots ministry
If you want your students to win other students to Christ, then you will have to model that.
Just gathering as many believers as you can to start your large group meeting is the same way your students will operate in years to come.
However those initial students are recruited to Christ, you and your movement will determine the DNA of your ministry in the years to come.
Students will either become (1) just inviters of other Christians to meetings or (2) evangelists in their relationships and living groups, depending upon how much evangelism and discipleship you do before you start a large group meeting.
Lastly, your decision to focus your grassroots ministry efforts on isolated loners or mainstream leaders will determine who (and how many) will ultimately be part of your large group meeting.
Wait for a solid core to emerge
It will be difficult, but try to exercise self control as to when you launch the large group meeting.
Wait until there are several small group Bible studies operating with a growing number of student leaders who are taking personal responsibility for ministry.
When you have developed 15-20 key students who have a love for Christ and the emotional and social maturity to reach out to others, then it may be time to bring up the subject of a large group meeting.
These key students (I sometimes call them influencers) will be the magnets that attract other influencers, interested, even isolated students to your meetings.
Give them as much ownership as possible in the creation of the name, location, format, topics, etc. All of this based, of course, on the clear cut purpose of the meeting you and your leaders have agreed upon.
Whether you like it or not, your ministry will never grow beyond the quality and quantity of your student leadership.
My 10 commandments of large group ministry
- Get all of your key students committed to planning, leading, coming, and recruiting to the meetings.
- Be crystal clear as to the purpose of the meeting. Keep that focused in your mind and the minds of your students.
- Bathe the purpose, people, and program in prayer on a weekly basis.
- Rely mainly on your core of student leadership inviting and bringing others to the meeting, rather than signs and banners.
- Choose an on campus location that is slightly smaller than the number of people you are expecting at your meeting. (100 students in a room designed for 75 creates a lot more excitement and momentum than 150 students in an auditorium that holds 600.)
- Have a well liked, well prepared student emcee (MC) the meetings.
- Develop a high quality, high energy worship band made up of godly students.
- Use student designed, student led skits and testimonies to reinforce the point of the talk or the purpose of the meeting.
- Choose speakers and topics that are Biblical, relevant and impactful.
- Use the meeting to create momentum for your ministry, seeking to funnel as many students as possible into smaller, student led discipleship groups.
I am convinced the main reason students come to a large group meeting (or to any activity) is based upon who is there.
As great as the worship, message, or refreshments might be, the primary question they are asking as they first look around is, “Are these my kind of people?”
Some people are like magnets. How many spiritually, emotionally, and socially mature students you have at the core of your ministry usually determines the kind and number of people that initially come and then stick with your meetings─and your movement.
An excerpt from The Fuel and the Flame by Steve Shadrach
To order a copy, click here.