The “Engage” Method: Sparking Community in Your College Ministry

Tony Angelo

During a recent panel at Collegiate Week, Tony Angelo of Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas shared a great strategy their church’s collegiate ministry uses for connecting with students and keeping them connected for the long term.  Check out his guest blog!

chain“Most people who have been involved in college ministry for any amount of time know that the primary problem is not getting students in the door, its keeping them there long enough to make an impact.  Many of us rely on various forms of connection cards and a system of follow up to help remedy this problem.  These methods are by no means wrong, we use them in our ministry as well, but they fail to do one important thing: grow community.  The strength of the Engage process in our ministry is that within one visit, new people feel as though they are a part of a community.  Rather than one person gathering their information, there is a group of people who show genuine interest in them as a person that goes far beyond any small group gathering you may have.  This model transcends the quest for higher numbers and digs deep to the place where our ministries actually live, the hearts and lives of college students.  This process is by nature self-replicating, and will not survive without it.  So without further adieu, here are the steps to the Engage process as well as how we use them.

Encounter: Open up a dialogue.  This seems simple enough, but the difficulty is making this step genuine.  At this point the goal is to start a conversation when a new person walks in the door.  Get to know their likes, their dislikes, and their background.  What do they care about?  What are they passionate about?  What led them to the doors of your ministry that night?  The goal here is a deeper conversation than the current weather, or the woes of driving in your city.

Extend: Bring somebody else into the conversation. A surefire way to do this is to use details that they have shared that you know relates to another student.  Always remember that the goal in all of this is community, and by it’s very nature community requires people.  Once you have your “group” make sure to stick with that person through the rest of your small group time.  Sit with them, and continue the relationship through to the end.  Never allow your hello to also be your goodbye.

Exchange: This step is by far the easiest! Get their information.  Whether it works out to be a social media add, or a cell phone number, do not let them leave without getting their information.  This way it is not just a system, ministry, or pastor who has their information it is actual people.  Another important factor is to give them your information as well.  Community is built on relationships, and a relationship with only one interested partner isn’t a relationship, it’s an unhealthy stalk.

Encourage: Through out the week reach back out with a prayer message, an encouraging word, and a return invite.  Let them know you were lucky to have met them, and that you valued the time you got to spend together.  Let them know you are excited to know them, share more stories, and live life together.  Challenge them to continue to be a part because you want them to be.

I think you will be amazed at just how far something so simple goes.  I am able to come to my leaders at any time and ask, “did you Engage that person?”  It also makes it easier on me knowing I do not have to follow up with every single new person that comes through the doors because they are involved in a follow up that is far greater.  I also encourage my leaders to bring any and all students with them in the extend portion.  This allows them to teach this process to somebody else so that it continues on.  I hope this will be a help to your ministry, and will help you continue to further God’s kingdom as He reaches into the hearts and lives of college students where you are.  Please reach out if you have any questions, I would love to help you implement this strategy where you exist!”


Tony Angelo

College ministry

Shadow Hills Church

Las Vegas, NV


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