So you have worked hard and collected a bunch of contacts from instagram, or received a list of spiritually interested people from your school or from a summer orientation. It is a great list, full of so much potential. Now what?
Ultimately we all agree our desire is to see every person for whom we have contact information to hear the Gospel, but first we need to connect with those contacts. Here is a bit of a breakdown of how our ministry to students in Vermont goes from “IG to GA.”
First, we start by following students on instagram that follow their class IG page. Usually they follow a naming format like schoolname202* or schoolinitials202*.
Any students that follow us back after we have followed them we will message with a link to a short spiritual-interest survey.
Those survey responses help us identify students most interested in connecting with us and give us a basic understanding of where they are coming from spiritually.
“Welcome to UVM. So excited to welcome you here this fall. My name is Shaun(@artimus.jones but I don’t post there much), I am the director of The Vine Campus Ministry. We are a UVM club. We would love to get a chance to meet you and treat you to a cup of coffee on us when you get to campus. You don’t have to be religious, you don’t have to be a Christian. If you are interested would you fill out the following form so we know how to get in contact with you? It is just a few spiritual interest questions to help us learn what is important to you and the rest of the incoming class.” https://forms.gle/UxNW73j64Ni9qe136
Each of those survey responses are then assigned to a student leader to follow up via text. The initial goal in the follow-up text is to begin a conversation and hopefully a connection between this new student and an upperclassman. The ultimate goal is to set up a Gospel appointment or “GA” (gospelappointments.com).
During this early conversation we remember the focus should be on them as a new student. Ask them lots of questions. I like to ask them what they are studying, why they decided to come to UVM, what got them interested in what they are studying, if they are nervous about anything, and what they are most excited about. Other questions could be about hobbies and interests, or where they are from, or what is the best part of where they live. The focus needs to be on them. Refrain from going spiritual over text. Save those topics for an in-person meeting.
Which brings us to goal two. Over the course of this text conversation, which may happen in a single sitting or over multiple days or weeks of chatting back and forth, invite them to get coffee when they arrive on campus. The best time to do this is in the few weeks before classes start. If you wait till they arrive they will quickly find themselves busy and potentially overwhelmed with all the new opportunities and you will find it hard to get 20-30 minutes with them.
Below is an example based on an actual conversation. You will see in this example that the student asked me about The Vine. I answered directly and honestly (we are not hiding from spiritual conversations, just not pushing them) and took the opportunity to arrange a face to face.
Suddenly the semester is upon you. If you have done your prep work you should have several GA’s set up. CONGRATS! But your work isn’t done. As mentioned earlier, students will get busy and distracted quickly after landing on campus. Touch base with them again, express how excited you are that they are here, and that you are looking forward to meeting up with them for coffee. Confirm the time and place and you are off to the races!
If you would like to know more about how to conduct a GA check out gospelappointments.com.
Shaun Stotyn is the Director of The Vine Campus Ministry in Vermont, The Campus Ministry at The University of Vermont, and Worship Pastor at Daybreak Community Church where he attends with his wife, Monica, and two wonderful children, Cadence and Ransom. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.