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Thursday, December 3, 2020

A National Movement for College Ministry?

 A few years back I started promoting on social media something I called "Give $25" in the month of December. It was to encourage every alum of any college ministry to give $25 to it by the end of the year.  My hope was that it would spread.  It hasn't.  Basically, it is just me and a three or four friends that promote it.

But, I haven't given up.

Here is my thinking.  I don't intend it to be just Baptist.  In my more godly moments, I realize that there are lots of college ministries God is using other than just my tribe. And, if we all of every tribe promoted it, all would benefit.

Why $25?  Why not $50, $100, or "give what you can"?  Many years ago I finally understood that lots of alums and friends do not give money to a college ministry they appreciate because they do not feel they can give a "significant amount".  So, they don't give anything.  Most of us can afford $25 to give away even at Christmas time.

If every alum of your college ministry were to give $25 once a year, most of you would have the biggest annual budget you have ever had.  Many college ministries are decades old and have touched hundreds and even thousands of students.  Younger ministries would still have a significant windfall. Lots of those would be super blessed by ten people giving $25.

Here is the catch.  I am saying just promote #give25.  It is not give $25 to MY MINISTRY.  If we were to all just say, we want you to bless whatever ministry blessed you. Did you know that many denominational ministries are not allowed to ask an individual for money....even their own alumni?  Wouldn't it be crazy if we promoted #give25 to the ministry that blessed you and those that need it, but cannot ask, started getting money in the mail from their alums.  Many of them would give, but do not know it is needed.

If we just spread the word nationally and it was not just about our ministry, I wonder how God might bless and use it.  I have been fascinated to see that InterVarsity is advertising like crazy on Facebook.  Their theme is, "Reach TWICE as many students this year=end". They have a goal of raising $150,000.  I was surprised to see it was not more.  That would be 6,000 people giving $25.  I have no idea what this Facebook campaign is costing them or what results they are seeing.

What if every parent or grandparent were to see something on social media about giving $25 to the ministry that was or had blessed their children or grandchildren?

I began to think much more about year end giving some years ago when my son-in-law told me that he got some year end money from his firm.  What???  Being a College Minister, I didn't know people got extra money in December.  He told me it often was handed out on December 31st and he would write a check to some causes they support and mail them that day.  But, he and my daughter have to know there is a need.  They have their church and some others on their mind and heart.

Here is a little secret...some will send more than $25, but leave that up to them.  We have to mean it when we say "Give $25"!  Don't hint for more.  And use the hashtag.  Put it on social media that does not even relate to it.  So, join in me in asking people to #give25 unless you are not allowed to do that.  Then, just pray for those that are doing it.  

How many millions of dollars could be given this month to college ministry in America if every alum would give $25?  It would be a miraculous movement of God.

PS:  If you send out a year end newsletter or update, don't forget to put a return envelope in it.....if you are allowed to do that.  Don't break any policy rules.

PPS:  You send a check for $25 to the ministry that blessed you.  I have done mine.

Arliss Dickerson's new book, ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT COLLEGE MINISTRY, is available at amazon.com

Monday, November 30, 2020

Declining Offerings, College Ministry, and Baptists

When word came in the last couple of weeks that the Georgia Baptist Convention was cutting their number of BCM Directors, it was stunning.  The Georgia Convention due to declining offerings in local churches has asked several of their employees to take early retirement.  Among that number are some of their most veteran and experienced College Ministers.  The result is that a major campus will go from multiple staff to one staff member. Other campuses will have no full time Baptist Campus Minister.  Georgia has long had a strong commitment to college ministry.  The realization is that, "if it can happen in Georgia, it can happen anywhere."

 Quite simply, the reality is that when offerings in local churches decline, then there is less money to do what we have been doing.  Then, the money sent on to State Conventions gets cut. Should cuts be made across the board?  What most impacts kingdom work?  What most benefits the ministry of churches? Some argue that when cuts are made that college ministry takes a disproportionate hit because leadership receives less push back in that area.

So, where does that leave us?  What are options apart from simply cutting back?  If we believe that reaching the young adult generation is important and even paramount, just cutting back is not the answer.

Here are some alternatives:

LEAVE COLLEGE MINISTRY TO THE NON-DENOMINATIONAL MINISTRIES.  This has been suggested by some that we simply let CRU, InterVarsity, etc do the college ministry.  They raise their own salaries, etc. It doesn't cost us anything. While much great ministry is done by these ministries, we lose the distinctive strengths of our denomination both in beliefs and practices.  AND, much of the money these staffers raise is being raised from Southern Baptist individuals.

ADOPT THE VIRGINIA MODEL.  A few years back the Virginia Baptist Convention notified their BCM College Ministers they would have to begin raising a percentage of their own salary and that percentage would increase over the years.  When I first heard this, I thought how awful!  Now, I am not so negative of that approach.  They did not quit.  They did not say we just don't do college ministry anymore.  One reality that bolsters this idea is that today's younger Christians no longer like the idea of just giving their money blindly to their local church and saying do whatever with it.  They want to see where their money goes and what it accomplishes.  We can like it or dislike it, but that is a growing reality and perhaps one reason offerings are declining.

ASK THE LOCAL CHURCHES TO TAKE UP THE COLLEGE MINISTRIES.  This is the model that the North Carolina Baptist Convention adopted some years ago.  They went from multiple BCM Ministers with Centers to three employees who are to enlist and train individuals and churches to do it on a local level.  Different observers give different reports on their success.  

GO TO ONLY THE UNDERSERVED CAMPUSES.  This approach argues to cut our number of College Ministers and go to the smaller campuses where no one is doing anything or very little.  Big name campuses have lots of ministries and smaller and often more commuter campuses have less witness. This spreads our gospel witness and ministry where it is most needed is the feeling.

GO ONLY TO THE FLAGSHIP CAMPUSES.  The argument for this is that "flagship campuses" are the ones with the most students normally and it is easier to draw support for these ministries for either salaries or budget because they are high profile.  That argument further continues that "flagship campuses" tend to turn out the most high profile, assertive leaders that will make the greatest difference in the world (and church) to come.  Southern Baptists have long advocated the idea of being on more campuses while CRU and others have more practiced the "Flagship model". 

DEVELOP PARTNERSHIPS BETWEEN STATE CONVENTIONS AND LOCAL CHURCHES.  This idea maintains that instead of local churches hiring their own College Minister and there being a local BCM/BSU Campus Minister to combine their efforts and salary money.  That allows the local churches and the convention to cut what they are spending and develops a unified approach.  Some state conventions now do this on some campuses.  But, these alliances are often fragile and complicated.  Some churches are willing and others are not.  Should we invite all, and simply combine with those who are willing?

These are UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS about options. I believe that is one reason we are not having them. Should Baptist leaders make these decisions alone or should it be more of a denominational dialogue?  Good arguments can be made FOR and AGAINST each of these suggestions.  Instead of "perfect solutions" maybe we need to be looking for and adopting "workable solutions".  As we see young adults walking away from faith and church, is cutting back on college ministry a good idea?  Is this the most effective idea for the future? 

I challenge all of us to be part of this discussion!

Arliss Dickerson's new book, ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT COLLEGE MINISTRY, is available at amazon.com


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving for College Ministers

 Thanksgiving always brings a sigh of relief for College Ministers.  In normal times, it is a pause before the winding up of the semester.  In Covid times, for many the semester has ended.  At this point, it is easy to be frustrated by all that could not be done this fall semester.

Rather, I want to encourage you to think of things to be thankful for, in this what is most likely your most frustrating semester, in your ministry of no matter how many years.

-What is something you tried that worked...and might even ben something you would do in a "normal semester"?

-Who is someone that came to the Lord or who really got serious about their personal growth and discipleship this semester?

-Who are some leader types that possibly stepped up and went above and beyond?  By the way, why don't you send them a personal note of thanks.

-Think about how this semester affected your personal relationship to the Lord.  Did you pray more?  Did you trust more?  Did you find solace in the Lord more?

-Write down some things you are thankful for this semester, instead of just thinking about the "could not's".

"I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonders.  I will be glad and rejoice in you;  I will sing praise to your name, O Most High."  Psalm 9:1

HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM SUE AND ME TO ALL OF YOU.

Arliss Dickerson's new book, ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT COLLEGE MINISTRY, is available at amazon.com

Monday, November 23, 2020

Time to Bring Back an Old Idea?

 For many years our ministry paid a significant amount of money to have a high quality, glossy, picture laden poster done that folded into a brochure.  We mailed it to every incoming freshman name we could get and we handed it out at Summer New Student Orientations.  Then, during the first days of school, we hung it on most anything that did not move.  We put it on class room bulletin boards.  We put it on dorm bulletin boards.  We put it on kiosks all around campus.  We taped it to the inside of bathroom stalls at eye level.  You get the idea.  We put it everywhere.

With the Covid crisis and no New Student Orientations, less and less mailing lists, etc is it time to start doing posters on campus again?  Long ago, our Publicity Team used to put out weekly flyers that had specifics of that week's event...the Bible Study/Talk title for our big weekly event, etc.  I am not saying this is a need now.

BUT AND HOWEVER, as this semester winds down, should we be doing a first class poster to plaster the campus with for the students that return in January...or February....or whatever unusual schedule your school is operating on??

MY RULES FOR POSTERS:

1.  The quality of the poster says something about the quality of the ministry.

2.  Pictures are a must. They draw attention.  They say way more than you can write that people will read.

3.  Show pictures of the events you are advertising.

4.  Have pictures that show students like the students you are hoping will respond.  Predominantly white ministries have a hard time reaching African American students.  Do any of your pictures have black students in them?  Are there Greeks in Greek letter shirts?

5.  Show FUN PICTURES!  I am just not spiritual enough to think all the pictures ought to be of students kneeling in prayer.  I know...it's just me.

6.  Have a picture of the meeting place, so it can be identified easily.  If you have a Center or a building or whatever, show where it is, or list the address, or tell what campus building or landmark it is located close to.

7.Possibly have a picture of you, the staff, and or the Leadership Team.

So, what if school is almost out and I don't have any pictures like that?  Call some of your students that are still around and make some fun pictures.  And, I bet some of your students have some pictures on their phones that would be great to use. Send out an SOS.  OR, is this the time to decide to have such a poster for next fall and plan now to make the pictures at events that will provide what you need for next fall's poster?

Two Quick Stories About Posters:  Sometimes, we would have an individual picture of me and my Associate on them.  One day I was in a dorm and the elevator I was on had one of our posters in it.  I got off at a floor and when I came back, someone had spit on my picture on the poster.  Glad I had not been there!  One night a freshman girl came to our worship event for the first time, I introduced myself to her and she turned red and said, "I know who you are; I saw your picture when I was using the bathroom this morning."

Is it time for posters to come back??  It may be a great new idea for these times!

Arliss Dickerson's new book, ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT COLLEGE MINISTRY, is available at amazon.com.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Reaching MORE College Students

Most College Ministers want to reach more students.  Whether a ministry averages 25 or 250, we know there are other students that need to know Christ and or be growing in that relationship. Here are seven thoughts or actions to consider, if you have a desire to reach more students. 

1.  BEWARE OF MINISTRY KILLERS.

There are several  that can be holding a ministry back.  Two of them are, Inappropriate Behavior by Student Leaders and Same Old/Same Old.  If other students see what are key leaders behaving inappropriately, it gives the whole ministry a black eye.  Same Old/Same Old can be simply a lack of excellence in what is done.  Or, the ministry has failed to update and adjust over the last few years.

2.  DOING TOO MUCH.

There is always more that needs doing.  But, it is possible for a ministry to be attempting too many different things to do any well.  Plus, it spreads student leaders thin either in effort or responsibility.  Nothing is done well in the haste to do it all.  Is your ministry offering to many options, events, or ministries?

3.  YOUR MINISTRY IS NOT "THE IT MINISTRY".

If your ministry is working where there are multiple ministries and there is one that is obviously "the IT ministry", it can suck the oxygen out of other ministries.  Beware the temptation to copy what they are doing.  Don't bad mouth what they are doing. Decide what is the unique strength of your ministry and YOUR unique strength and bear down hard on those.  Be the best you that your ministry can be.

4.  COMMUNICATE THE SENSE OF MISSION.

"Open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest." John 4:35.  Do your students sense that your organization is on campus for a mission or to provide wholesome activities?  Help students and especially student leaders grow in their sense of mission.

5. BUILD CAMPUS AWARENESS.

Simply put, does the campus as a whole know the ministry is there?  Use publicity, special fun events, outreach tables, etc, etc.  As the Campus Minister, relate to key administrators that can close or open doors for the ministry.  Some events are done just for awareness.  Everybody is looking for a well done fun event.  First class publicity communicates that the ministry is first class.

6.  TOO MUCH YOU OR NOT ENOUGH YOU?

There is a balance for a leader and that is being up front enough to provide direction, etc or up front too much.  If the leader is too much the central focus of the ministry, the ministry will only connect to those students who relate to that leader's personality.  Some College Ministers are too much the focus of their ministry and some are not visible enough for modeling, etc.

7.  FOCUS ON SOME DIFFERENT TARGET GROUPS.

There are a wide variety of groups on every campus.  There is the band, Greeks, athletes, Stem students, commuters, etc. Many times multiple ministries are all aimed at the same campus group or two.  Is there a different group that your ministry could develop a relationship to?  Reach someone in that group and that group is open to your ministry.

I am NOT suggesting you immediately do ALL seven of these.  Pick one or two that you sense could be a weakness in your ministry or you sense an opportunity in that area.

These ideas are bits and pieces from my book, "Fixing a Broken College Ministry".  I goofed when I used that title and slant. Since most ministries are not broken, most saw it as not applicable to them. It really should have been "Reaching MORE College Students".  If you are interested in more ideas and an expansion of these seven, "Fixing" in eBook form is on sale this week (November 16-20) for 99 cents at amazon.com.

Arliss Dickerson's new book, ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT COLLEGE MINISTRY, is available at amazon.com.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Working with Young Adults is Messy!

 A friend called upset to ask, if I could help her son.  He has graduated college and is living in another city.  He and his girlfriend are wanting to get married and the church they are attending will not do the ceremony and their pre-marital counseling.  They are involved in a young couples group and she attends a women's Bible study.  Plus, they contribute to the church.  They are living together.

They had made an appointment at the church to talk about the possible wedding but received an email the day before the appointment to say that the church staff would not do the wedding or their pre-marital counseling.  The mother says, "They are trying to do the right thing."  She went on to say, "What's the difference between them and a couple who maintain separate apartments but sleep together a couple of nights a week?"  Her point is that they are more honest.

If a couple comes to ask if you will perform their wedding, do you ask if they currently sleep together occasionally?  Or, do you ask, if they live together?  Is there a difference?  

I was asked once by a young woman to do her wedding, but I could not mention God or Jesus.  She said the man she was marrying did not believe in God.  She was not involved in our ministry but had grown up in the church I attend and said she had always dreamed of being married there.  I indicated I needed to think about it.  Could I be a witness in the situation somehow for good?  I decided I would not do the ceremony.....for one reason, it would have been a sixty second ceremony.  I talk a lot about God and what the Bible says about marriage and relationships.  Without that, I got nothing.  And, I don't do "Weddings for Hire".  The pay is usually not good and you have to sit by their crazy aunt at the rehearsal dinner.

Some College Ministers I know have certain stipulations they give and will perform the ceremony, if those are met.  If you have not been placed in this predicament, you will be.  So, think through it and decide where you are.  Some will not perform the wedding of a Christian and a non-Christian.  But, they will do the wedding of two non-Believers, if they consent to pre-marital counseling which involves presenting the Gospel.  Others say they will do a small more informal wedding.  Some indicate they will do the wedding, if the couple commits to live apart leading up to the wedding.

I think there are good arguments on all sides of this discussion.  But, here is one thing I think should be a universal answer.  I would be glad to do your pre-marital counseling!  Thank you for asking me.  All of us in ministry are concerned about the state of marriage.  If we perform a wedding of a couple who lives together, are we condoning that behavior?  How do we draw people in and how do we not push them away?  How do we stand on our principles and beliefs?

 It is messy!

By the way, I was able to call a friend in that city who said he would be glad to meet with them and possibly do their ceremony.....and at the very least, he would offer to do their pre-marital counseling.

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh." Ephesians 5:31

Arliss Dickerson's new book, ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT COLLEGE MINISTRY, is available at amazon.com


Monday, November 9, 2020

Context is Everything in College Ministry....3 Truths

One of the reasons we cannot copy the ideal college ministry on to every campus in America is every campus is different.  I have warned that it is easy to follow and try to emulate someone who is well known.  Yet, that person's context may be totally different.

WHAT IS CONTEXT?

The official definition according to Miriam Webster is, "the circumstances, conditions, or objects by which one is surrounded."  One synonym is "atmosphere".  What is the "atmosphere" of your campus?

3 TRUTHS ABOUT CONTEXT:

1.  EVERY CAMPUS SITUATION HAS MINUSES.

2.  EVERY CAMPUS SITUATION HAS PLUSES.

3.  CONTEXT CHANGES EVEN ON THE SAME CAMPUS.

_____________________________________________________________________________

SO, WHAT DO WE DO?

 FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE.  Look for the positives.  What does this campus situation have that can be a unique positive?  There is nothing happening on campus.....we can be the something.  

TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THE MINUSES.  Students get it when we are negative and have no sense of energy and optimism about the ministry.  Be a source of the positive!

KEEP STUDYING YOUR CAMPUS.  Just because you understood it two or three years ago does not mean you understand it now.  Walk the campus EVERY DAY.

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave nor forsake you."  Deuteronomy 31:6

Arliss Dickerson's new book, ALMOST EVERYTHING ABOUT COLLEGE MINISTRY, is available at amazon.com.