One of the biggest discussion points for people I consult with around the country is whether or not they should seek to invest in a large(r) group gathering. It seems as though people get stuck on the either-or side of things. But I would say it should be both-and.
I typically talk about the relational/discipleship side of ministry, which is likely why I get these types of questions a lot. I do this because as American’s we typically start with the larger/programmatic things. Because of this people can wrongly assume I’m against larger group gatherings or church-services designed specifically toward college age people. I have clearly issued concerns about this approach – mostly because of things I’ve missed in my own ministry – but have tried to make it known they are not condemnations. I happen to think they can play a critical role in reaching college age people, regardless of context.
Having said that, I do think we should intentionally focus our ministries. So, to break it down, I would simply say we need both larger group gatherings and intentionality in creating relational bridges between younger and older generations. Here’s how I recommend focusing these two areas of ministry:
Large Group Gathering: This is a connecting point for peer-to-peer and a time where we intentionally address age-stage specific issues. It could be small groups or a full fledged church service. Regardless of the approach, the important thing to realize is the college age stage of life today requires leaders to be very specific. No shotgun approaches, we must nail these issues and address them in everything we do – including every message or study we lead. The people we work with are seeking to move through this stage toward independent adulthood, which requires them to sift through their unique issues today.
Relational Connections: The goal is to help people move from only being relationally connected to the student life of our churches to being relationally connected to the adult life. This is not programmatic assimilation, it’s relational. In other words, the goal is not to get people to transition from youth group to church service or to serving in other the areas of the church. This can be a byproduct, but it’s not the goal. I can sit in the same church service with people from different generations and never actually “connect” with them. We want to work toward relational connection in the context of every day life and even off the church campus.
If you’d like more on this, I talk about these in depth in my book, College Ministry From Scratch, and discuss how I measure effectiveness in each area as well. But, how do these two focus points fit into your strategy for your ministry this summer and coming fall?