In exactly 23 days (from the time this post drops), about 45,000 students (28k undergrad) will swarm the University of Cincinnati campus once again.
That includes about 7,000 first-year students (aka freshmen).
Campus ministers typically coach one another about how critical the first few weeks of a new semester are. In fact, one author I remember reading early on famously stated that you have about 3 days from the time a new student begins classes to capture their attention (with your organization) and invite them to be part of your community. Otherwise, chances are slim that you’ll EVER connect with them. Wow, no pressure, eh?!
As a more “mature” campus minister (i.e. old) with my own 3 kids to parent and a coffee roasting business to manage and a non-profit coffee shop to help run, the pressure of Welcome Weekend and a new semester can be intimidating but here are my three main strategies as I prepare to launch my 11th year of ministry at UC (after about 15 years of youth ministry in the local church which means I’m starting my 26th year of full-time ministry…again, that tells you I’m old!)
The 3 strategies could be summed up with 3 words: People, Product & Process. Yeah, I may have stolen that from Marcus Lemonis.
#1. PEOPLE: I’m building a team of student leaders and equipping others to invest relationally with college students. Also, a focus on people in campus ministry means working hard early each semester to connect with as many students as possible and invite them to events and conversations.
#2. The “product” we are inviting students to “consume” (engage would be a better word) is community and belonging steeped in Christian hospitality. Basically, we want to help students connect deeply with some Christian community during their time at UC.
#3. PROCESS: In our specific context (a non-profit coffee house called The 86 Coffee Bar), our process is built on our core leadership (staff) as well as a “congregational” element of student volunteers who help run The 86 daily. Every semester we have 40-60 students who volunteer in the cafe and those students are the ones I am most immediately responsible to in terms of ministry or pastoral care. Our process also includes leveraging our relationships with other campus ministries and their leaders to create a bit of a hub or network of campus ministries who are part of our cafe community.
So for anyone launching a new year of university ministry, these three principles could be a great guide: People, Product (or Purpose), & Process. Evaluate your people resources as well as the people you want to reach. Know your purpose (the “product” you are providing for students) and then develop a Process which is efficient and sustainable. Blessings on your outreach to college & university students!