The first two weeks of the semester are incredibly important for college ministry. Most incoming freshmen are looking for fun, friends, and food, and they are eager to step out to find those needs. This is a great time to meet them where they are. Students also establish their routines and friendships within this time frame and make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their lives.
As college ministries, this is a crucial time to connect with new students. They are seeking community. They want to be wanted. Some will even be actively searching for a faith community to help them deepen their faith, so this is a great time to grab their attention. Here are 8 tips on how you can maximize these first two weeks of the semester.
- Plan events that can take place on campus as much as possible. Events that attract students are important. Figure out where on campus new students will be walking and at what time. We have found that having events around the cafeteria building around meal times is effective as it draws students in who are walking back and forth for food.
- Advertise your events wherever possible. Social media is one of the best ways to do this, but so is word of mouth, handouts, flyers and on campus media. It is important to advertise ahead of time and the day of. Utilize Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, text alerts, and Tik Tok for quick reminders, even hours or minutes before the event happens. This generation seems more open to last minute plans than previous generations.
- Make welcome events a priority in your budget. These events don’t have to cost a lot of money, but it is important that they are a priority in your budget. Some events will cost more than others. Weigh the cost with the effectiveness of the event. For example, we used to have a giant shaving cream fight on campus. The students loved it, and it was a lot of fun, but it was very expensive. It also did not provide much opportunity for conversation because as soon as it was over, everyone wanted to leave to take showers. We made the decision to not do this event again, not because it wasn’t fun, but because it wasn’t very effective in connecting with new students.
- Plan events on campus with high visibility. One of the events we do is Nine Square in the Air. We recently bought a set that is easy to set up, and it can be used in grass, on concrete, indoors, and even in the water. It is easily portable, and it attracts people as they walk by because it is tall. Make sure to have a banner that displays your logo and ask student leaders to invite students to come play.
- Be aware of how your student leaders are doing. You will want them to be engaged and attend the events with the intention of inviting new students to come along with them. However, you also need to be aware of their emotional and mental health. You don’t want your student leaders to be stressed and burned out right at the beginning of the semester. Expecting too much time from them at the beginning is not always a great strategy.
- Walk in the Spirit as you execute your strategy. There is a tension that naturally happens at the beginning of the semester between strategy and trusting God’s sovereignty. The simple answer is to pray for wisdom, be faithful and obedient, and then trust God to draw the students to your ministry that He desires to be there. As in all areas of ministry, walking in the Spirit and listening to Him is vitally important during this time. Be faithful to what God has called you to do. Plant seeds. Be engaged with what is going on, and don’t forget to rest and trust God to work.
- Collect contact information at every event. Always make sure you have opportunities for new students to give you their contact information during the event so your leaders can follow up with them. We like to contact new students within a day to set up a Gospel Appointment. All of our student leaders are expected and equipped to have a spiritual conversation with others through Gospel Appointments. If you would like more information on this strategy, NAMB has created an app called Life On Mission that is a great resource.
- Continually encourage your student leaders during these weeks. Help them to remember the vision and that they are an important part of it. Tend to their spiritual needs as well. Celebrate with them when they have victories, and be there for them if things fall apart. They are learning how to trust God in this process as well. Just this week, one of our student leaders has talked to four international students who are interested in studying the Bible with her. It’s awesome to be able to celebrate this with her as she has stepped out in faith!
At the end of your welcome week events, take a moment to reflect on how things went. Praise God for the work that He is doing in the lives of the students. Encourage your leaders and point out how valuable they are, and make sure to rest.
*Image credit: Collegiate Impact