by Bill Springston

Have you ever looked at the students involved in the Campus Life program you lead or supervise and seen too much similarity in the kind of student attracted, the same faces every week, or always the same ethnicity?

My Youth for Christ experience is in the area of our YFC military program called Club Beyond. Because our focus is on military teens, our staff must be relevant to many different kinds of students in a very diverse environment.

Here is an observation: ministry programming gets an undeserved bad rap. I have personally heard it communicated as an obstacle, a “beast that must be constantly fed” and something that limits spontaneity and requires constant support. Here is my reality: Programming is a powerful platform that allows ministry leaders to rally others and unify them around an intentional and purposeful vision for ministry that attracts leaders and all kinds of students.

As I have studied the life of Jesus, I am amazed at the diversity of ways he met individuals and groups. From the rich young ruler to Nicodemus, from the feeding of the 5,000 to the explanation of the parable of the sower and the seed to his disciples, he met them at their different places of need.

If you desire to reach the “every” of your potential student population I would like to speak to two of our 5 essentials. Both will need to come to the forefront of your vision and values when you think of programming.

Adults who Empower: It may seem simple, but we must be intentional and purposeful in the way we invite and train a diverse group of adult and student leaders. We must be adults who desire to empower others. I have traveled the world, and one of the most common challenges voiced by staff is, “I’m all alone and there is no one to help.” There is a common issue when this occurs. If there is no vision or the vision to empower others has faltered, staff cease to extend invitations and there won’t be a development program for adults or students in place.

Evaluate yourself: When was the last time you invited another adult or student to become involved in a higher level of investment in Campus Life? Or, open up your calendar and if you do not see “monthly training events” designed to develop adults and students as ministry teams than I bet you’re a rock star and everyone is watching but you are by yourself.

Staff will begin to reach the every when they accept the challenge of the relentless pursuit of adults and students to become involved and then developing them as leaders and teams. The irony is that staff will limit some of their ministry when they pursue every kid.

Loving Relationships: I almost cringe when I hear staff talk about how their vision is only for the lost or the furthest-out student. Our desire for loving relationships must be towards every kind of kid. The truth is if you stay long enough, and observe well enough, you begin to see there are many different kinds of students with varying degrees of commitment and students respond to the program level that appeals to their level of commitment. Some kids will go to Campus Life, others to camp, some to a poetry reading and others to a 100 ft banana split. No one kind of student should have all of our attention. Every student needs the chance to hear and become a lifelong follower of Jesus Christ and become a member of a local church.

Watch experienced youth guys and there is always a common commitment in programming. They create different kinds of programming for different kinds of students. The tempo remains tied to the school year and throughout the year there will be diverse program opportunities from leader development to outreach type opportunities and everything in between. If you fall into the rut of providing one kind of programming or doing the same thing over and over, your ministry influence will be negatively impacted.

Evaluate yourself:  Open up your calendar and if you do not see diverse kinds of programming targeted at different kinds of kids, then I bet your Campus Life has limited and predictable influence in your community.

Where to take it: If you read this and said, “Ouch,” I would recommend that you contact the ministry department Dave (High School) or Allison (Middle School) and ask about a Campus Life coach in your area. This is a new program that is intended to partner staff with someone who is a little further down the road. If this is to threatening, consider reading Jonathan McKee’s book, Getting Kids to Show Up. Jonathan McKee was a former Campus Life director.

Staff will begin to reach the every when they accept the challenge of creating diverse teams of adult and student leaders that work as a team to provide different kinds of programming.

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