Less than two months from now college ministries across the country will be in the middle of the second most important time of the year – “Welcome Week.”
It’s fast-paced with early mornings, late nights, a ton of coffee, and lots of Gospel conversations. It’s loaded with gathering contact information, text messages, follow-up meetings, Instagram posts, free food, and, by God’s grace, some of the most exciting days of the year.
Welcome Week and the two weeks after are the most impactful three weeks of the year. So why is it the second most important time of the year? Because the most important time of the year is the time we all take to plan and prepare the ministry that will take place in those three weeks.
If we show up to Welcome Week without a plan, a structure, and a system in place we will miss out on loads of contacts, Gospel conversations, discipleship opportunities, future leaders for Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM), and future leaders of churches across the state.
Every college ministry needs a plan for three things going into the fall semester.
- A plan for connecting
- A plan for follow-up (Evangelism)
- A plan for discipleship
Let’s explore all three.
First, college ministries need a plan for connecting with incoming freshmen. BCM’s across the state of Arkansas are privileged to have RSO (Recognized Student Organization) status on each of our campuses. This means we’re recognized by our universities in such a way that we can set up a table on campus and gather contact information. Many of us do this at student orientation days and Welcome Week events.
In Conway we have already been at 12 University of Central Arkansas (UCA) student orientation days and we’ve gathered around 200 contacts from these orientation days. We will be part of two events during Welcome Week that will allow us to connect with an additional 400-500 students. This means myself and our 55 person student leadership team will need to do our best to follow up with nearly 700 students during the first few weeks of school.
BCM at UCA is in a really healthy place and we have favor from officials on campus which gives us the opportunity to be involved with these events. We are grateful for that. I’m aware that some ministries may not be in this position and may not be at a school that even has 700+ incoming freshmen. If you’re a college minister reading this, don’t get caught up in the amount of people you are unable to connect with and stay focused on the amount you are able to connect with. Be faithful to steward what God has given you on your campus. Stewardship in this area starts with planning for opportunities to actually get contact information of people stepping onto your campus for the first time in the fall.
Second, college ministries need a plan for follow up. I’m not naive. I’m aware that only a percentage of the 700 contacts we’ll get this fall will actually want to be involved with BCM, and that’s okay. One way to handle follow up is to simply get the contacts, invite them to other events we have going on, and hope they keep coming back. This isn’t a terrible strategy because it gives students an on-ramp to get more involved but there is a gap in this strategy. What about the students who don’t want to get involved in BCM yet because they aren’t a Christian? We need to have a way to connect with those students.
Our follow-up strategy this year will involve three key components.
1. We will send mass texts to students and invite them to our upcoming events. Like I said, this isn’t a terrible strategy. This will give students who are confident BCM will be their landing spot an opportunity to get involved and meet new people right away.
2. We will create opportunities for the leadership team to follow up. Inevitably our student leaders will randomly connect with incoming freshmen during Welcome Week. We’ve built in money in our budget to allow for these leaders to take those freshmen to coffee and ask them about their relationship with Jesus.
3. We will ensure staff have the capacity to follow up. By planning and organizing our fall schedule during July, that will allow staff to have the freedom to actually follow up with new students in August.
Overall our goal will be this: to share the Gospel as many times as possible and help students get connected to one another.
Lastly, college ministries need a plan for discipleship. I’m asking three questions as I plan in this area. How can I help students read their Bible more? How can I help students get connected to the local churches in our area? How can I help students step into low levels of leadership responsibility?
When a freshman steps on campus on August 19th (Move-In Day) there are three things I would love to hear them say by September 19th:
1. I’m reading the Bible more than I ever have before.
2. I’m already connected to my local church and LOVING it.
3. I’m already serving on a leadership team at BCM.
This means our action steps in those three areas need to be ultra clear and our leaders need to be trained properly to help other students join them as they read the Bible, go to church, and serve in leadership.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how robust your plan is, how perfect it is, or how many students you think will be involved. No plan is perfect. Things will go wrong, and unfortunately, some students will slip through the cracks. One statement we always make here in Conway is simple, “Some things will fall through the cracks. Make sure it’s not people.”
The beautiful thing about college ministry is that if your plan doesn’t work this year you can try a different plan next year. The point is to have a plan. The only guarantee I have for you is that if you don’t plan and prepare the fall won’t go as well for you as it possibly could. God has given us a ministry to steward and planning is part of that stewardship.