I minister along with our associate director, Katie Troutman, on the state university campus, Lander University, which has a population of 4000 plus students. Our university is very open to ministry and has “seen the light” of utilizing our ministry. Let me confess that I have been serving on this campus for almost 39 years (as of June 1st), but this didn’t happen without a lot of prayer, groundwork and developing a reputation of being a valued part of the university. Our university makes it possible for BCM to have a table at all the freshman orientations during the summer. We also have a table at all the Open House sessions that happen throughout the school year. Lander gives our ministry many opportunities to connect with students, faculty, and staff. Here are some ways that I hope will help your ministry use campus sponsored events like freshman orientation to connect with students.
First, follow the rules!!
This is important because our campus sees us as a team player. Not only do we believe in following the rules, but it means that we do this consistently. We put up signs in the appropriate places; we get permission for events through the right channels (usually student affairs can tell you the appropriate process for this). When we meet freshmen at freshmen orientation, we contact the incoming freshman through three methods: 1.) A letter is written 2). A message is sent via text to the incoming student by Katie or me 3.) A current BCM student sends contact through a telephone call or text message. Then we make our appreciation known to the university personnel that gave us this opportunity. It is an important part of our work to express appreciation through written contact (thank you notes), by electronic media (phone, text, email, etc.), and by personal words of affirmation.
Second, we make sure that appropriate people in the school are well aware of our work and our efforts.
We provide written summaries of the number of students we have reached, stories about students that are impacted, and relationships with students who have made good choices. We do this by sending a report to the President, all Vice Presidents and other student oriented staff members. A few years back our university hired a “retention specialist.” We met with this new staff person pretty soon after he arrived. He became a friend of our ministry and he began referring students to our ministry. We have also formed a relationship with our university counseling center. The director of our counseling center has also become a friend of our ministry. Anytime there is a student that has faith questions, he and his staff refer that student to our ministry. Not only does this give us great opportunities to talk with students, but it also gives our counseling center a strong relationship for questions they might have. We had a student that was not involved in BCM who sadly took his life. Our counseling center asked us to meet with students who had been impacted by this student’s life and death. We spent a week meeting with each student by phone or in person. Our university staff was grateful when they heard that we had made contacts with so many that were affected by this tragedy.
We also have made it a point for many years to attend events that students participate in.
We attend athletic events (especially the ones that are a little more obscure), attend concerts, Christmas events, graduations, end of the year events, and anything else that involves students. Not only do we attend these events but we try and meet family members if they are in attendance. This gives us a great opportunity to connect with families on a bigger scale.
It’s okay to ask the faculty and staff in areas of influence if they need your help and ask them if you can pray for them.
We have new athletic facilities being constructed fairly regularly on our campus. In the past we attended all ground breaking ceremonies for these new buildings and playing fields. We then began receiving invitations to offer an invocation for the dedication at these new facilities. This past year the Athletics Director asked us to speak to the head coaches about our ministry. We were able to share about our ministry and our opportunities. This came about because the Athletics Director saw us at different sporting events over the last few years.
It is important to establish a relationship with Student Affairs/Student Activities.
Because of this long term relationship the folks that work in these areas will assign us tables that we can display BCM promotional literature in a most advantageous spot. These are usually the higher traffic areas which allow our ministry to meet and greet more students.
It is important to make contacts with as many people as possible in your university setting. It’s important to be reliable. If you say you are going to be somewhere at a certain time, be there. It’s important to show up when events begin and stay the whole time. It’s important to be a person that cares about the university and the people that work there. Relationships matter and don’t underestimate kindness—it matters!
Scott Smith is the BCM Director for Lander University. You can follow Lander BCM on IG @landerbcm.