College ministries come in all shapes and sizes...especially sizes and resources. But, there are some things that are true in all of them that make them effective. David Worcester has a great article (“What Works Everywhere in College Ministry”) at collegeministry.com with four he believes are true in all of them. I want to add four that I think are true in all college ministries.
1. ONE TO ONE MEETINGS WITH STUDENTS ARE THE MOST TRANSFORMATIVE THING THAT WE CAN DO.
God uses many things in ministry, but I am wholeheartedly convinced that the most transformative thing in a student's life is meeting with them on a one to one basis. I believe in large group weekly events and believe that God uses them to touch lots of different students who are at different places in their walk with the Lord or as non-believers. But, our meeting privately on a regular basis with a student to hear from them their concerns and questions and to encourage them is huge. We do not have time to do this with all our students, if our ministry is very large, But, I believe in doing this with our key leaders. God will use it to shape their lives as we encourage, teach and model faith to them, and pray about their concerns, etc. This is true in all different types and sizes of ministries.
2. TRAINED AND EMPOWERED STUDENT LEADERS MULTIPLY OUR MINISTRY AND OUR TIME.
Whether a ministry has two effective student leaders or fifty, it is stronger. Student leaders need to be helped to understand what they are to do and how they are to do it. The "throw them out and let them sink or swim" method of student leadership training mostly leads to lots of discouragement and less than effective leadership. Part of helping student leaders be and feel successful is helping them to know clearly what they are to do and some possible ways to do it. Then, they must be given the opportunity to express their personality and gifts in doing it.
3. WHEN STUDENTS OWN A MINISTRY THEY INVEST MORE IN IT.
Investment is not about money, but rather it is about giving to a ministry rather than just taking or receiving from it. Students own it when they believe that their involvement matters and that what they say and do matters. One way that we give ownership is by allowing students to have a voice in key decisions. When students know that we believe in them and trust them, it empowers them and usually brings out a greater investment on their part. As the leader, we may need to make the final decision, but students can know their voice is heard. And, there are other times, that the decision can be strictly theirs. When they feel some "responsibility" for the success and or failure of the ministry, they will own and invest more.
4. ALL MINISTRIES NEED SUPPORT.
Support comes in lots of different ways. An obvious one is financial. Money does not make a ministry, but it is hard to have one without money. But, even more important often is emotional support and prayer support. One of the two biggest killers of College Ministers is feeling alone. It can be that feeling that "no one cares but me." The more people who care and pray, the more likely the ministry is to thrive and the leader be at his or her best. If you are a college ministry leader, are you giving people the opportunity to be a support and to care? Information is part of what leads to caring and supporting. Let people know what is happening and more will begin to care and support.
Others can be the instrument that God uses to help you know that you are cared about and that a particular college ministry is cared about.
Arliss Dickerson is a part time college ministry consultant for Lifeway Christian Resources and the author of five books on college ministry available in eBook and print at amazon.com (type in Arliss Dickerson).