I served as a Campus Minister on campus with a Center for many years and as a Church College Minister at a church away from campus for two years. I think the campus based one has an advantage of opportunities those first couple of weeks. So, what can a Church Campus Minister do those first few weeks.
I 200% believe in the college ministry axiom that "The first 2-3 weeks determine your whole year." My only slight hedge on it is I believe that the window is already partly closed in that third week. However, I do believe that the church opportunity window lasts up to three Sundays.
So, what are some things the Church College Minister Can and Should do the first 2 weeks and 3 Sundays?
1. If any of those first 3 weekends is a home football game weekend, MAKE THE MOST OF IT! If students are going to be on campus in mass, it is going to be that weekend. That is a great Friday or Saturday to do something. And, make the absolute most of that Sunday. If your church has College Sunday School prior to worship, have a big breakfast. It can be potluck by adult volunteers or it can be your leaders cooking pancakes and doing bacon and biscuits on the spot. BUT, also do whatever you do on a regular Sunday even if it must be abbreviated. Make sure students experience what happens there every Sunday and to see why they might want to be a part of it.
If your church does not do College Sunday School, do a Lunch following worship. Make sure it is college friendly food with lots of great homemade desserts...even enough they can take to-go plates when they leave.
2. Be on campus as much as possible those first 2-3 weeks. Eat where students eat...cafeterias, food courts, etc. Announce at events or on social media that you will be in the Union Food Court at X time on Tuesdays and would love to eat with whomever....and depending on your budget.....that you will buy. Announce another day you will be in the Cafeteria at X time and would love to eat with whoever is there then.
3. Move your weeknight to campus for a special "On Campus Night". If your ministry has a Wednesday night Bible study or worship event, move it to a meeting room or ballroom on campus for one of the first two or three. Make it like your regular event, but with an extra appealing topic for promotion and if possible, have food afterwards. This usually has to be catered by the college food service. So, be prepared for high prices.
4. Attend EVERY event of the BCM or other campus ministry related to your church. It develops relationships with new students and shows support of that ministry.
5. Make follow-up appointments with every new student who attends any of your events. Meet them for coffee, cokes or whatever. Tell them they can bring their roommate or another friend. This can serve two purposes. It may make them feel more at ease about coming AND you may meet someone else new.
6. Whatever you think will be your biggest initial Sunday, have students do something in the worship service. It can be one student giving a testimony. Students can take up the offering. There can be students in the worship band or it can be your all student worship band. It can even by "Bearcat Sunday" where you have asked the church as a whole to come in school attire or colors.
7. Have a variety of age Church Members who are great mixer/minglers at all your events. The huge plus that a church ministry has that a campus based ministry does not is the opportunity to connect students to real life adults who can encourage, mentor, and add wisdom. Students want to learn from older adults and this connects them to the church as a whole...not just the college ministry.
8. Tee shirts that promote your weeknight event or ministry as a whole are huge. Depending on your budget, give them to upper class returning students, sell them super cheap, or give away 50 at your first event of the year. But, make sure they are attractive and comfortable. REMEMBER ONE OF THE TEE SHIRT PRINCIPLES: GIRLS WILL WEAR A "GUY SHIRT" BUT GUYS WILL NOT WEAR A "GIRL SHIRT." Get student input on design and before ordering. As students have said, "The reason you go to college is to get good tee shirts."
Arliss Dickerson's book, Tips for College Freshmen: 124 Tips for Fun, Faith & Good Grades, is available at amazon.com/dp/B09QFB9DJ9.