I love the start of school and all the special events that go with it. I have done a ton of special outreach events as a campus-based college minister and some in the last two years as a church-based college minister. Often, we do not evaluate these well, because we are simply rushing almost blindly from one thing to another during those crucial first two to three weeks. As I have evaluated them at some point along the way, I decided they were not worth the time, effort, and (sometimes) the expense that went into them.
The most common question or point of evaluation of a college ministry start-of-school event is, “Did we have a good crowd?” I think that’s the wrong question to ask. I stopped having some events where we had “a good crowd.” We used to have a big luau. It was great fun, and we had large crowds. We had it on the night where we usually had our weekly worship event and did the luau instead. I realized that most of the students who came to the luau and had a great time still had no sense about our ministry, who we were, or why we were there. While it was great fun and brought large crowds, it wasn’t serving the purpose for which we were having it.
Here are the three questions I think we must ask about our start-of-school events:
1. Did it benefit the students who came?
I honestly think one of our purposes in start-of-school events is to benefit the students. Survival is one of those types of events with its “Survival Tips,” etc. We might be able to say that an event blessed or helped those who attended. The gospel is shared and heard. That is an event worth doing.
2. Did it benefit our ministry?
Honestly, about ninety percent of why we do start-of-school events is to inform students about our ministry and/or draw them into our ministry. So, the question is not, “Did we have a big crowd?” or “Did everyone have a good time?” The question is, “Did it benefit our ministry?” Were students informed about what we do, and did it cause them to want to connect to our ministry?
3. Was it worth the cost?
An event may draw a big crowd. It may benefit students and/or our ministry. But, was it REALLY worth the cost? Would that same amount be better spent if spread out over multiple events? I am all about “spending wisely, extravagantly” at the start of school. But, sometimes, it is just extravagant and not wise.
We went from having the big luau to having our regular worship event with food and lots of fun connected to it. If they came to that, they knew who we were and why we existed. I am not opposed to fun events, but they must serve our purposes. I have been connected to some events that had big crowds, and everybody had lots of fun, but they just didn’t serve our purposes. As you are approaching the start-of-school season, I encourage you to ask these three questions.