Archives For freshmen

Here at the University of Arkansas, pretty much everything we do in the first week to reach freshmen was gleaned from Brian McCollister. Brian is a national director with Cru who is one of the best in the world at reaching freshmen and building a movement. He served for over 20 years as a Campus Director at Ohio University.

The basics we do to reach freshmen the first week:

  • During move-in week we have big cookouts in front of the big freshmen dorms (and have them fill out a spiritual interest survey as they get a burger)Cookout 1
  • On the first day of school we set up tables in front of every dining hall on campus. We hand out something free (sunglasses, free sandwich coupon, etc.) in exchange for students filing out a spiritual interest survey (click here to download a sample jpg or Photoshop file you can adapt for your use). Between the Cookouts and Tables we do about 4,000 of these spiritual interest surveys.
  • Have co-ed Bible studies in every dorm the first week of class

Here’s the key: our staff and student leaders then follow up, one-on-one, with as many of these students as possible. We share the gospel during EVERY appointment and work hard to connect these freshmen to Bible studies. In the previous spring most of our leaders had been through training on how to share their faith. We share the gospel with every student, despite the fact that our University is in the “Bible Belt,” because the vast majority of students do not have a clear understanding of the gospel of grace. Many times we see students trust Christ for the first time.

Here is much of Brian’s wisdom on the critical first weeks of reaching freshmen –  in 2 parts:

  • A 15 minute talk from Brian McCollister walking through how to reach freshmen the first few weeks. You can download here.

 

  • A step by step of how to reach freshmen. This how-to was put together by St. Louis Cru which is great because it applies to the wide variety of contexts they serve in (community colleges, elite private schools, large state schools). It’s not exactly what we do at Arkansas, but very close.

Download the PDF file .

 

Both of these are great resources to walk through with your staff team.

What are some key things your team does to reach freshmen the first week on campus?

I love reading articles together as a staff team. There are few better ways to align your team and learn to speak the same language.

They’re short and to the point (at least the good ones are!).

And the articles can be the bad guy- they can speak authoritatively on a topic and staff don’t hear “my director is trying to get us to _____ (share our faith more, do more work)” they hear “that author who is infinitely wise is saying that we should ______”.

Whether your senior staff are reading these ideas for the 10th time or it’s a new staff reading it for the first, foundational ideas need to be over-communicated repeatedly.

It doesn’t always have to be articles, I’ll often print up a bog post (even my own!) to read with our team.

Here are some of the staple articles (all found on CruPressGreen) that have shaped our team (and that we’ll likely be re-reading this fall):

  • The First Two Weeks– our team reads this every year in preparing for the fall. Really short and to the point. Sets your team’s expectations for the first weeks (16 hour work days!):
    • Gathering Christians, reaching non-Christians…or both?
    • What to do on appointments
    • What to do with returning students
  • Building Movements on a Staffed Campus – this article has shaped our movement more than any other. Jim Sylvester shares his considerable wisdom in what it takes to build a thriving movement. An abridged version of Jim Sylvester’s epic source material on how to do College Ministry. Principles God Honors, the original, is 134 pages of wisdom on how to build a movement that will reach an entire campus with the gospel. Building Movements on a Staffed Campus is 8 pages and a great introduction to this phenomenal material.
    • Two shorter adaptions of Jim’s wisdom:
      • Going from 20 to 200 – Bob Fuh’s shorter and easier to read version of Jim’s principles. 5 principles to grow a small ministry into a thriving movement. This one might be better to read with your team or students than Jim’s.
      • Brian McCollister offers a slightly different take on the same principles here.
  • Hearing the Music Of the Gospel – a longer article but so good. Are you carried along by the rhythm of God’s Spirit through his Word or doing the mechanical dance steps of behavioral change? This is a good one to have your team read over an hour of time with God and then come back and discuss as a team.
  • Empowering Staff thru Staff Jobs– great wisdom from Eric Swanson on empowering staff to lead as directors. This fall we just quoted from this article and used the ideas as we communicated to our team on staff jobs – but a great read for team leaders.
    • “Each job is “director level” in that the other staff are subordinate to him or her in this area.”
    • “Each job is “owned” by the staff in charge and is autonomous in its responsibility. If the staff does not carry it out or motivate others to do so, it simply doesn’t get done. No one bails him or her out.”
    • Each staff is expected to be an “expert” in his/her job. He needs to read books, articles, magazines, listen to talks, and interact with other staff from other campus to develop expertise. He or she becomes a resource for the other staff in their area of expertise. You and the other staff may be purposefully ignorant: “I don’t know, but Rabs is the expert in that area.”

What are some of your favorite articles?

I was recently looking over some notes from a talk given by my friend Brian McCollister, a national director with Cru and a guru on how to build a college ministry.

He asserts that, in college ministry, the two most important days of the year are:

  • The first day of school
  • The first day of fall retreat

CalendarThe First Day of School

Really, it’s whatever day you do your big push to do as many spiritual interest surveys as possible. So for us, it’s actually the second and third day of school. On that Tuesday and Wednesday we do around 4,000 spiritual interest surveys (in exchange for a a free Chick-fil-A sandwich card). Why Tuesday and Wednesday? Because our first Cru meeting of the year is on Tuesday and all of our freshmen Bible studies (in every dorm) are on Wednesday. All 4,000 students who fill out a survey get a brochure (about Cru), a flier (with first week events on it), and a personal invitation from a student. Click here for more ideas on what the first week looks like.

The First Day of Fall Retreat

“The second most important day of the year is the first day of our Fall Retreat.  Why is it so important?  Because it is then that you find out how well you have done in the first six weeks.  If there are a lot of enthusiastic freshmen and a lot of tired but eager upperclassmen, then you have done well.  You can enjoy the weekend!  And you have just greatly increased the number of potential laborers in the Harvest.  You have great momentum and can focus great energy on reaching lost students on your campus.”

What do you think? What are your most important days of the year?

And, more importantly, are you investing your resources (time/money/leaders) in a way that reflects their importance?

 

image courtesy of Dafne Cholet

On my Stuff You Can Use for the First Week on Campus post (which has spiritual interest surveys, fliers, brochures, and other free & helpful stuff on it), a recent commenter, Ron Cram, wanted more details on how we do spiritual interest surveys. And since I love data analysis I couldn’t resist sharing what the data tells us.

I think it’s pretty interesting to see what correlation there is between

  • number of surveys done the first week of school AND
  • number of freshmen that actually get involved (in Bible studies)

 

So here’s Ron’s comments/questions and my answers:

Tim, I am interested in an analysis of the data on the card. It sounds like you got 3000 students to complete the card…

We do about 3000 surveys over the first few weeks at various events. The stats below reflect the 2500 surveys we do at tables we set up outside of dorm cafeterias on the second and third day of class. Why not the first day? Because our Cru meeting is on Tuesday, and Dorm Studies on Wednesday. When we do a survey with them we give them a “Free Chick-fil-A Sandwich” card and a flyer for Cru and Dorm Bible Studies (and we say, “you should join us tonight at Cru/Bible Study”)

How many of them indicated an interest in Cru?

1 Minute Questionnaire

Click to see full size

To download a Photoshop file you can edit to use on your campus, click here.

We don’t keep stats specifically on each question because it doesn’t affect how we do follow up. We follow up anyone who checks “yes” on either question.

70% of students checked “yes” on one of the two questions.

30% of the respondents answered “no-no”. Not interested in Cru nor Bible studies (we don’t follow them up at all).

Here’s the breakdown of how they answered:

“How interested are you in exploring spiritual matters in college (1- not interested 5= very interested)?”

1 = 7%
2 = 13%
3 = 29%
4 = 21%
5 = 24%
No answer = 6%

So on our campus, about 25% of students are not interested in spiritual things. 75% are at least mildly interested. How does that compare to your campus?

How many actually got involved?

We noticed this a few years ago: it’s not important how many spiritual surveys we do, as long as we’re doing enough to have a plenty big pool of contacts to follow up (I’d say around 1000-1500). Doing more surveys does not result in more freshmen getting involved (at least for us).

That being said, we do feel that it is good to do surveys with as many freshmen as possible for several reasons:

      • Every person we do a survey with, we get face to face with and invite them verbally and with a flier to a Cru event. And they get something free (Chick-fil-A card or sunglasses) – hopefully a very positive first experience with Cru.
      • If we can do surveys with a high percentage of the freshmen class, we have a baseline understanding of where A LOT of students are at spiritually. As we bump into students later in the year (or the next 4), we can quickly look them up on Mission Hub and know “Michael was not very interested in spiritual things at all in August 2012 – he put 1-yes-no. Joey Smith met with him and invited him to a Bible study but he never came” 

Here’s what our stats showed us:

surveys vs freshmen involved

You notice from 2008 to 2009 we doubled the number of surveys we did. But it has zero impact on getting more freshmen involved.

Here’s what matters and causes more freshmen to get involved:

    1. Having more student Community Group leaders. You can see how the growth in Freshmen in studies correlates with (and I would say is caused by):

      study leaders

    2. The quality and thoroughness of follow up

 

How many people (staff or students) were involved in collecting this data? How long did it take? Was it all done in one day?

We do tables for two days at five locations (4 dorm cafeterias and the Union) from 11am-1pm and 5-6:30pm.

Our 10 staff are at the tables both days at lunch. Students are present at the tables for both lunch and dinner. I would guess that we have 30 students at lunch and 30 at dinner each day. Maybe a total of 50-75 helping during the two days?

Right after we collect all the cards we divvy up the cards among students and they enter in the information into Mission Hub. I have no idea how long that takes. I would guess 5 hours for about 20 students?

We also do spiritual interest surveys at two big freshmen cookouts during move-in week, a midnight “Frisbees and Flapjacks” event, and our Cru meetings.

 

Hopefully that data/information is helpful for you as think through a gameplan for getting in contact with (and reaching!) freshmen in the Fall.

Would love to hear from you what you have seen on your campus – what has resulted in you getting more freshmen involved?

 

Part 2 of a series on Planning for Year 2023 

Read part 1 to catch up on an intro to long term planning

Click to read part 3 – how to set faith-stretching yet realistic goals

Why does having a numerical goal (connected to a long term plan) change things?

1) It forces you to plan differently

2) It gives your staff and students hope/vision

 

1) It forces you to plan differently

What happens when you realize that you need to not just reach freshmen but need to reach 80 of them?

It forces your team to think in new ways – to try things you’ve never done before.

It takes “reaching freshmen” from an abstract idea/wish to a concrete reality that needs to be planned.

It makes you realize:

  • We’re going to need more than just our staff team of 3 in order to make this happen.
  • We’re going to need 20 freshmen Bible study leaders (paired up, leading 10 studies) in order to make that a reality
  • We’re going to have 120 in freshmen studies by the end of the fall in order to have 80 still in studies by the end of the spring
  • So we need to figure out a way to have conversations with 400 freshmen (if 1 in 5 will get involved in a Study)
  • So we’d better get in contact with 800 freshmen

 

2) It gives your staff and students hope/vision

Having numerical goals that fit into a long term plan turn ordinary, mundane tasks into vision-enfused opportunities.

Scope is demotivating if you don’t have a long term plan to accomplish reaching the entire campus.

It’s really depressing to constantly hear “we want to reach the whole campus, every single student with the gospel” and then look around the room and see you have 50 students involved. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that ain’t gonna happen this year.

But when your staff and students see a bigger picture for HOW we really are going to reach the entire campus, AND how their hard work this fall fits into that big picture, their work becomes meaningful, full of purpose.

 

Our staff and students need to know that we’re not just involving freshmen to make our name great, to enlarge the Cru kingdom. We have a long term plan to raise up enough equipped laborers that we will eventually share the gospel with every student on campus. I’ll only work so hard for an organizational vision, for Cru. But I will work tirelessly to spread His fame.

 

Tomorrow: How we set goals that aren’t arbitrary guesses about the future

(Hint: a 12 year step-by-step plan from Jim Sylvester has been enormously helpful)

 

How has having specific, faith-stretching goals forced your team to plan differently?

photo courtesy of danorbit