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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

5 Things That Shape the Personality of a College Ministry

Every ministry has a personality.  It is a vibe...a feel. It is the culture. It is part of what draws people to the ministry, runs them away and affects the overall effectiveness of the ministry.  Some things that help make up the personality of the ministry are beyond our control.  Some we are able to have some affect on.  But, it is important and helpful to try to understand what the personality of the ministry is.


Whether we like it or not, our personality is a huge factor in the personality of the ministry.  The longer we serve as the leader of the ministry, the more it will take on our own personality.  The ministry will usually reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the leader.  When a new leader takes over a ministry, there will be lasting effects of the personality of the previous leader.  One benefit of a multi-staff situation is the blend of personalities that shape the ministry.  Our personality being the huge factor it is makes it even more important that we recognize our own strengths and weaknesses and bring others into key they student leaders, staff, or volunteers.  Others can mitigate the issues caused by our own weaknesses.

Each campus has a personality and that personality helps determine what students come there which in turn continues to shape the personality of the campus.  Our ministry will somewhat be the product of the campus where we serve.  It is why we must be a "student of our campus".  As missionaries in foreign countries must study, understand, and relate to the country where they serve, College Ministers must study, understand, and relate to the campus where they serve.

One of the most basic truisms of ministry is that groups attract and keep people who are most like themselves.  Blue collar churches attract blue collar believers....white collar churches, etc, etc.  The impact of the personality of our leaders is such that we must work at having a variety of leader types and work at their functioning as a team.  A wide variety of leader types offset our weaknesses as well as broadening the culture and personality of the ministry.  A wide variety of student leaders helps develop a ministry with a wide variety of students.

I will confess to being almost overly concerned about the appearance and set up of a meeting space.  Yet, I believe that when a student arrives....particularly for the first time....the appearance and "vibe" of the meeting space goes a long way toward determining their response.  This would be only second to the welcome they receive from other students....and sometimes it will come even before they can be welcomed.  A meeting space may not be first class, but it can be neat, arranged appropriately and not disheveled.  Lighting is another a poor, good, or inappropriate.  Fix and control what you can fix and control.  And, dream, work, and budget for the future! 

If the ministry has a philosophy of outreach and witness to non-believers, it will affect all areas of the ministry.  If the ministry is one aimed at impacting the entire campus, that will affect the "feel" of the ministry.  If discipleship and growth are central to the philosophy, that will impact the personality.  HOWEVER, a philosophy cannot just be that of the leader, but must be continually and well promoted continually throughout the ministry.

So, What do we do about our "Ministry Personality"?
1.  Be a student of your campus....continually work at understanding it.
2.  Be honest in understanding your own strengths and weaknesses.
3.  Work at understanding the personality of your ministry and what has shaped it.
4.  Develop a wide variety of leaders...not all just like you....and give them latitude within their gifts and responsibilities.
5.  Realize that if God has led you to that ministry, He wants to use YOU there.  How can you be the best instrument there?  What are your strengths that need to be prioritized and what are your weak areas that need development and the help of other leaders?

Arliss Dickerson is the author of five books on college ministry available in eBook format for 99 cents each at  His paperback, FIXING A BROKEN COLLEGE MINISTRY, is currently available for $3.99.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Unnecessary Competitiveness....Or Bumping?

In polling some Campus Based College Ministers with regard to what their number one frustration was, the term "Unnecessary Competitiveness" in their working with churches was used.  I thought that was particularly well stated.  In situations where there are multiple ministries...especially of the same denomination....there will be bumping up against each other.  But, there is a difference in "bumping" and unnecessarily "competing".

One Campus Based BCM Campus Minister told of going to a campus where the relationship between the campus ministry and the local Baptist Churches had not been good.  At the first big freshmen event sponsored by the BCM, the new Campus Minister told of inviting the local Baptist church College Ministers to be there and say something about their ministry.  The new BCM Director was stunned when one of the church College Ministers announced a weekly event at the same time as the BCM weekly large group event.  My friend said, "He just did that with my microphone.".Was that fair or unfair?  Was that "bumping" or "Unnecessary Competitiveness"?

I was standing near a group of students when a Church College Minister said to a student who was active in another church, "Just come hear me preach once."  Did he not know the student was already active somewhere else?  I thought that he did...maybe he did not.

Here for me is a bottom line.  "Bumping" will happen. We need to accept and understand that.  So, how do we deal with "Bumping" and avoid "Unnecessary Competitiveness"?  When students sense competitiveness, it hurts everybody and is harmful to God's Kingdom.

Work at communicating with those whose ministries are likely to bump into yours and vice versa.  Is it possible to have a monthly lunch with those who are trying to do the same things?  Simply knowing each other personally goes a long way.  If a joint lunch is not possible, do an occasional one to one lunch with those whom you are most likely to bump.

I share the frustration of the BCM Campus Minister who said, "He just did that with my microphone.".  Yet, I think inviting that person was the right thing to do.  But, churches can also invite the campus person to speak at one of their events as well.  Now, if I am totally honest, I might put that person last in the order to speak next time...but I would still invite them again.

I don't mean hang out and be creepy a lot.  But, simply go to one of their events a semester, if possible.  Be encouraging of what they are doing.

When I was BCM Director at Arkansas State, I sent a letter to each Church Campus Minister telling them I hoped they would come to our Wednesday Lunch Program as often as possible and enclosed a ticket good for the year.  I told them that their presence was a plus.  I figured they could afford a dollar, but the "Lunch Pass" made my invitation stronger.

When it is leader selection time, talk to each other about who each wants to use and why.  In my experience the most painful "bumping" is often in regard to where a student commits their leadership time.  Sometimes it may be possible to agree who will use who.

Obviously, all of us think our ministry is the best to every touch a college campus.  But, the personalities of students, Campus Ministers, and ministries make some people fit better one place rather than another.

If that student is being benefited and growing in the Lord, that is what you want to see.  Even if they were "stolen" by another ministry, that is not their fault.  Keep the doors open and want what is best for that student.

When we bump into someone we say, "Excuse me".  When you and your ministry bumps into a fellow College Minister or ministry, say "Excuse me".....and mean it.  Genuinely try to see the difference in "Bumping" and "Unnecessary Competitiveness".  Ask the Lord to help you continually work at seeing the difference.

Arliss Dickerson is the author of five books on college ministry available for 99 cents each in eBook format at  His paperback book, FIXING A BROKEN COLLEGE MINISTRY, is specially priced at $3.99.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Trends in College Ministry

1.  College Ministry is being done more different ways now than ever before.
-Accept that it.....hate it.....does not change it....Accept it.
-See where you fit in the process.  The campus or church situation and your individual gifts are still the main factor in determining the best way for your ministry to be done. 
-Learn from the new, but beware of chasing fads.

2.  Social Media is huge.....everybody with a "Twitter Finger" is an expert.
-Be on social media....learn from social media.
-But remember, just because someone tweets 50 times a day and has a million followers does not mean that they are an expert on how to do it on your campus or in your church.

3.  Money is going to continue to be a struggle.
-Be creative in your use of it.
-Prioritize what expenditures get the most bang for your buck.
-Do not just keep doing some things because you have always done them.  Are they as effective as they used to be?
-Excellence is not always about not sub money for excellence.

4.  Church and Campus based ministries are going to bump into each other more and more.
-Work at communicating and cooperating.  Don't give up just because it is harder!
-Some of the biggest harm being doing to college ministry today are ministries competing or at least not communicating.

5.  College Ministers are becoming more entrepreneurial.
-It may vary from fund raising for staff, budget, or their own salaries.

Arliss Dickerson is the author of five college ministry books available in eBook format for 99 cents each at  His paperback, FIXING A BROKEN COLLEGE MINISTRY,  is currently priced at $3.99.

Monday, March 4, 2019

What's the #1 Complaint of Campus Based College Ministers?

A while back I was in a national meeting of church based College Ministers and their overwhelming number one complaint was the inability to get to campus many days due to meetings at the church.  I have begun to wonder what the number one complaint of campus based College Ministers is.  I sent a message to some veterans of college ministry (all Baptist Collegiate Ministers) to ask not just what their main complaint was, but what did they hear from others.

Their responses were somewhat varied, but fell into these five categories.


This leads to a concern for the future of college ministry as resources decline.  Many outside of college ministry do not see or understand it as a valid lifetime calling.  One shared of his mother asking, "When will you get your own church?".  I think most of us have experienced that at different times.  When I would speak in a church, it was not unusual for someone to come up after the service and say, "I think you could have your own church."......or....."You could be the pastor of a big church.".

This lack of understanding and in some areas and declining resources leads to an uncertainty about the future of college ministry or the security of jobs.  One even said he has heard it said, "Will BCM even exist in 15 years?"


The specifics of this varies from state to state in Baptist life.  In some states, Baptist College Ministers are raising all of their salaries and in at least one state, they are raising a portion of their salaries.  For those with campus centers, there is difficulty or concern about maintaining them at a high level.  This is complicated in some situations about policies in regard to who College Ministers can ask for money or how they can ask.  Some raise money from alumni and others are not allowed to do so.  Many are not allowed to ask a church for money and must depend on communicating the value of what they do and communicating how they are funded.


This is a part of numbers one (1) and two (2).  If the value of the ministry is being questioned, the issue of numbers is always there in one way or the other. Many outside of college ministry do not understand that a "college ministry congregation" turns over at least 25% every year.  Students graduate and transfer or drop out.  Those who are part of a constant church congregation often do not realize that in many ways a College Minister starts all over every fall.  Some Universities also require their students to do off campus internships in other locations which may take key leaders away for different periods of time.  A college ministry of fifty will touch more different people in a four year span than a larger church will, yet that is hard to see and communicate for those outside of college ministry.  "How many did you have last night?" can be the dreaded question for a College Minister!


Within Baptist life there is a greater emphasis on churches reaching college students which is a good thing.  Yet, what this often leads to is overlapping ministries or a failure to see the value of cooperation on all sides for the good of reaching students and the strength of all ministries.  This also goes back to number three (3).  When a person feels the pressure to produce numbers to justify their job, budget, etc, it is sometimes hard to do what is best for the overall good.  One BCM Director said, "Churches expect me to provide them with students and then they keep them so busy that they drop out of my ministry. When my ministry gets smaller, its harder for me to do what they are asking me to do."


It is easy for a College Minister to feel like "neither fish nor fowl".  They are not church staff and they are not faculty.  In many places, there is no one else doing what they do.  All of us need someone who "gets it" when it comes to who we are and what we do.  Thankfully, current technology with cell phones, Zoom, Skype, etc this can be alleviated to some degree.  College Ministers must find kindred souls and connect to them for their own health and survival.

So, what's the answer to these "5 Complaints"?  Obviously, there is not a simple answer.  But, here are a few thoughts.

1.  Communication is huge!  We must continually communicate well what we are doing.  Slower times on campus (Breaks, etc) must be utilized well in connecting with our stake holders (Alums, church, staff, etc).
2.  Commit to excellence and trust the Lord!  I believe God is at work in all of this. Do what we do as well as we can do it.  That is what we can control.
3.  Be the best steward of resources you can be.  If we are wasteful or our building looks shabby and dirty, why should people give their resources to us?  Demonstrate you use well what you have.
4.  Write personal thank you notes to people who give you money letting them know you are grateful and something that was accomplished with what they gave.
5.  Be intentional about connecting with others who share your calling...both in the Baptist tribe and those outside it.  Go to regional gatherings where you will meet and know others (Oxford, July 8-10?).

Arliss Dickerson is the author of five books on college ministry available for 99 cents each in eBook format at  His paperback, FIXING A BROKEN COLLEGE MINISTRY, is currently priced at $3.99.

Friday, March 1, 2019

More Crazy, Stupid Rules by Darrell Cook

Our BCM staff at Virginia Tech (Taylor Terrill, Katy Terrill, Scott Anderson, Chelsea Anderson, and myself) talked about last month's article "Arliss' Crazy, Stupid Rules for College Ministry" and shared with each other a few of our own.  They are born out of our context and many assume working out of a ministry center, but hopefully some might be useful.

=Most if not all after 10 p.m. questions from students can wait until morning.

=Seek to get continually better at asking questions.

=Coming into your highest traffic events of the year, know where the plunger is and be watchful.

=Whether you are out and about doing things that are deeply spiritual or extremely mundane, take students with you.

=Our students don't drink soda anymore, so we don't waste our budget on it.

=Never set out more chairs than necessary just tol fill the space, this can make a room seem empty and too spread out.  It is better to add chairs as needed than to have too many chairs.

=Anytime an alumnus visits the building get their name and contact info, even if you think we already have it.

=anytime a high school student visits the building get their name and contacts info, even if you think we already have it.

=Know where the water shut off valve is for your building.  (Not a bad idea for your residence as well.)

=Keep a box of tissues on your desk.  (Sometimes for you, sometimes for students.)

=Be merciful to students often, except when it comes to managing parking spaces.

Darrell Cook
Senior Campus Minister
Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Virginia Tech

Let us hear YOUR Crazy, Stupid Rules for College Ministry.  Email Arliss at

Arliss Dickerson is the author of five books on college ministry available in eBook format for 99 cents each at  His paperback, FIXING A BROKEN COLLEGE MINISTRY,  is currently priced at $3.99.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Why Should a Variety of Students Come to Your Retreat?

Many years ago, I realized that if we were going to reach a wide variety of students for our Back To School Retreat, we needed to offer a variety of things.  So, I began to think about the widest variety of Breakout Seminars.  We listed those in our promo materials about the Retreat.  Plus, I realized that one thing we need to do in equipping our students for the life to come that we needed to be teaching life skills.

So, many years ago I started having my wife, Sue, teach a "How to Cook Seminar".  She would make up a little cook book and give it to them.  In the seminar they would always have a great time working on one or two of the things and then would have her little cookbook she made to take home.  This weekend, we had our Retreat for the church where I serve as College Minister and she did her cooking seminar.  The speaker shared that he and his wife were still using the cookbook from one of her 1999 seminars.

We have offered "Self Defense for Ladies" and "5 Questions to Ask Before You Marry", "Being a Better Leader", etc, etc.  No, these are not all we offer.  There are your "more spiritual" topics as well such as "Spiritual Gifts", "Understanding the book of  Revelation", etc.

Our "Challenge of the Classes" Volleyball tournament was huge for students as part of the Retreat. We did it with Sophomores vs Freshmen and Seniors vs Juniors with the winners playing for the championship.  A couple of years ago I was at Virginia Tech's Big Weekend, which is their Fall Retreat, and their volleyball tournament featured their Family Groups against each other.

Look at your Retreat and ask, "Why should a lost student come to our Retreat?'  Or, why should a student who is not making their relationship to Christ a priority at this point come to our Retreat?  When they get to choose two or three different seminars and hear the main speaker, plus connect to more committed students, who knows how God will use it in their life?

Arliss Dickerson is the author of five books on college ministry available in eBook format on for 99 cents each.  His paperback, FIXING A BROKEN COLLEGE MINISTRY, is specially priced for $3.99 right now.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

"How did you learn to do College Ministry?"

Recently, a friend asked me a question I don't think I have ever been asked before.  He said, "How did you learn to do college ministry?".  I had to think about my answer for a while.  Simply put, it has been a lifelong process.  But, here are key points for me in the process of learning to be a College Minister.

-I was active in BSU on two different campuses and on the leadership team.  One was a small Baptist college and the other was a larger state university campus.  I saw a variety of things done.  Usually, we start out doing simply what we have seen done.

-My first job was at Henderson State University and I just picked up and continued doing some of the things that Nancy Philly Russ had done there before I came.

-We were required to go to Collegiate Week at Glorieta and Max Barnett was BSU Director at Oklahoma University;  He was considered one of the top College Ministers in Baptist life and he did a seminar in the leader track every year for several years.  I went to all of them.  The key thing I learned from him was to have a plan and strategy.  Then, work that strategy.  Don't just show up for work each day and see what happens.  Have a plan and work it.  I have done that ever since.

-When I went to Arkansas State as the BSU Director, Ron Wells was the BSU Director at Texas A&M and was considered one of the top College Ministers in America and led a large ministry there.  My boss paid for me to fly to Texas A&M and I followed Ron around for 2-3 days.

-A few years later I was at a regional College Ministers Conference at Southwestern Seminary and after a session, a group of us went to Grandy's to eat cinnamon rolls and talk shop.  Someone said, "This is better than the conference.  Wouldn't it be great if we could do this for two or three days?"  So, the next summer a group of us met at the BSU Center at Arkansas State and did it for three days.  We wrote questions on a white board and just went down the list.  It was wonderful!  The next installment of that meeting will be at Ole Miss July 8-10.  You should come.

-For several summers I would pick out four or five College Ministers who I had heard were doing an excellent job.  I would send them a stamped, self-addressed envelope and ask if they would be willing to send back to me a copy of any of their printed materials, posters, etc.  I learned a lot.

-In about the second year of those summer gatherings, Dave Jobe, who was a BSU Director in Texas, shared an idea he had developed and was using called, "Freshmen Survival".  It had made a huge growth curve in his ministry.  All of us resolved to do some version of it.  It was the single most important and beneficial decision or ministry adjustment that I ever made!  Our ministry began to impact more and more students as a result.

-When I am on another campus somewhere, I walk through the different religious centers on campus.  It is amazing what you can learn by looking at their facilities and what is on the bulletin boards.

-The National Collegiate Ministries Summit in Nashville has been that for me in recent years.  And, I always try to go to something that I think will likely be contrary to my thinking or philosophy.  It causes me to think hard.  AND, I go to hear some people who I know who are doing the same things I am and learn some little tweak or detail that makes me better.

I guess this is how I am learning to do college ministry.  How are you learning to do college ministry?  My daughter gave me a book for Christmas entitled, THE COMPOUND EFFECT by Darren Hardy.  In it he says, "If you want to grow in an area, befriend the person you think is the biggest, baddest, most respected person in your field."

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

Arliss Dickerson is the author of five books on college ministry available in eBook format for 99 cents each at  His book, FIXING A BROKEN COLLEGE MINISTRY, in paperback is currently specially priced at $3.99.