I spent last weekend at a retreat for college students from across Missouri. I've got to say it was a great event. Our speakers, Bill Stephens and Janie Stuart did a workshop for campus ministers on Friday before the event, and we had music from Don Chaffer.
I'm usually pretty skeptical of MO Conference training events, but was very pleased with this one. Bill and Janie offered a lot of good insight from their ministries (respectively The Annex in Boulder, Co and The Inn in Seattle, WA). I'm excited to see what might happen with the new college ministry efforts through the UMC here in Missouri. New ministries similar to The Green Room here at Missouri State launched at campuses in KC and in Cape Girardeau this Sunday as well. That makes three new model ministries in the state.
I thought that the event effectively challenged both adult leaders and students in the importance of reaching to the edges of campus rather than looking inward. I've believed for several years that the college campus is one of the biggest mission fields available to churches near a college campus. I loved the story of a church-based college ministry in a small community that has 100 students involved on an 800 student campus. That's an amazing outreach.
Here are my key takeaways and responses:
- Fewer student leaders that meet a higher standard of leadership are more effective in building a kingdom focused ministry than more leaders with low expectations. Response: We're starting an application/interview process for student leaders with very clear expectations and high standards.
- Adult leadership helps the church feel broader ownership in the college ministry. Response: In the fall we'll have people not in college within the church that are leading our small group Bible studies. They'll be single gender, single year in school groups of 5-8 students.
- Administrative and relational support staff is important in making lasting connections to students. Response: We're going to be offering two student internships in the fall.
- Rapidly connecting students at the start of the year is critical. Response: We're going to plan a killer freshmen retreat the weekend after classes start.