As college leaders, most of our fall semesters are well underway. We've moved the freshmen in (and secretly laughed at all the stuff they expected to cram it into a room roughly the size of a Hummer). We've participated in involvement fairs and distributed enough survival packs to feed students well into their Christmas Break. We've also hosted our first group gatherings.
The beginning of the fall semester is the most opportune time to reach students on a college campus. And boy do we put a lot of energy and resources into those first few weeks. But once the semester is in full swing, how do we continue to be a visible and welcome presence on campus?
There are countless opportunities to increase both the visibility and viability of our ministries well into the semester. But I've found that one of the easiest ways to get to know students on campus is by continuing to give out free stuff.
A simple example is passing out some free breakfast bars early in the morning as students scurry off to early classes. Face it, how many of those students made the effort to wake up in time to grab a decent breakfast before class? Camping out in a busy area of campus to offer free breakfast bars is simple and doesn't take much time to organize.
But don't expect students to come running. College students tend to be wary of gimmicks, and they resist the idea of being sucked into anything unexpectedly. Regardless of what you're giving away, be genuine. Encourage students at the start of their days, and let them know you care about making their moms happy and guaranteeing they have enough energy to get through their early class.
Also, put an emphasis on giving quality, rather than quantity. Even college students have limits to the free things they'll accept. Budget restrictions may mean giving to fewer people than you hoped, but the students you do meet will find your generosity attractive.
Keep up the "free things" presence on campus when the weather cools off by adding something like hot chocolate to the menu. Not only will you help students stay warm, you'll also have a couple of extra minutes to interact with them as they wait in line.
Although a breakfast bar and a cup of hot chocolate isn't a revolutionary idea, the fact that you show up week after week with a smile gives students an opportunity to ask "Why?" and may be all you need to both meet a basic need and allow students on campus to interact with your ministry.
Before you begin, consider that university policies may limit what you can give away. Plan ahead — make sure you're up to date on the proper procedures, and get approval before you start giving out the freebies. It'll make your world a lot easier and keep relations with the university running smoothly.
Create your own small way of making a difference. Meet the students on their territory, and do it repeatedly—even weekly—throughout the semester to reassure students that you're interested in them as individuals, not as bodies to fill the seats at your ministry events.
What are some of the ways your college ministry maintains a consistent presence on campus throughout the semester?