Will you go where the students are?

Student with mobile phoneWhat do nearly all the world’s 130 million college students have in common?

From the remote villages of Africa, to the stuffy eight-man dormitories in Asia, to Times Square in New York, to the historic Quadrangle at Sydney University, in the pocket of each student you’ll find a mobile phone.  Their fingers chattering away, their gestures quickly swiping instructions and their voices uttering robotic, yet personal commands, to their tiny devices, students are interacting with the world in fundamentally different ways.  SMS. Facebook.  Twitter.  Orkut.  Renren.com.  YouTube.

When Bill Bright stepped onto the campus at UCLA is 1951, he went where the students were.  When Josh McDowell stepped onto the campus at UBC in 1967 he went where the students were.  They went to the lecture halls, to the cafeterias, to the dormitories.  They were called to reach students and to the students they went.

Our organization has always been about going where the students are.  Today, as it becomes increasingly difficult to engage with students in the cafeterias, in the dormitories and in many places even to set foot on campus, an opportunity has emerged.  Students are connected.  They are online.  They are within 3 meters of their mobile device 99% of the time.

Permission has already been granted.  It is missional critical that we use digital strategies to reach today’s students.  We must invest deeply.  We must experiment with creativity.  We must exercise courageous faith.  We must have a multi-faceted approach.  We cannot be afraid to fail – the mission depends on it.

Will you go where the students are?

  • Facebook – Would you post your story on a note and send it to 10 friends?  Could you post a collection of images that depicts your faith journey?  Could you post a video in 2 minutes or less, sharing how you made the most important decision of your life?
  • Twitter – Would you start listening to the stream of people crying out, raising their hands in the cafeteria as it were, saying, “I’ve got questions I need answered?”
  • Large group meeting – Meet in the computer lab.  One campus I know estimates they touched 25,000 people by having one meeting in the computer lab and working on strategies like the ones suggested above.
  • Online Mentoring –   Sign-up today (TruthMedia, GMO) to answer students life-defining questions.  Students from your campus might already be there waiting for your answers.

Please keep going to campus, but think twice about were the students are.  I’d love to figure this out together.  130 million lives demand our best.

[Photo credit: Tim McClean]

  • http://darrenholland.blogspot.com Darren Holland

    The large group meeting being held in a computer lab is interesting. I think there are a substantial number of our students that may not do well in traditional outreach but might excel when given the opportunity to engage their non-believing friends (and strangers) through the written word via Facebook/Twitter/etc. I’ve thought about something like this for an aspect of the day of outreach we have at some of our regional conferences. I’d like to hear more about the campus that did the computer lab meeting and outreach. It seems like another benefit of this is activating introverts that may have a harder time face to face. Some of them may excel in written communication and tap into evangelism gifts they never knew they had.

    • http://www.brianbarela.com/ Brian Barela

      this would be a great for a leadership team mtg–so much vision can not only be cast but can be executed. great way to jump start a movement in getting them to think this way.

  • Allan

    Russ asked me to share a little bit more about the large group online outreach we did at my campus. The outreach itself was part of a 6 week strategy we tried in the winter term last year.
    Week 1 – We gave students a vision for using their personal story to share their faith. We also got them to create a list of 5 friends they wanted to share the gospel with.
    Week 2 – We did a Bible talk on the power of our story to help others meet Jesus by looking at John 4 and the women at the well’s experience
    Week 3 – We did a 45 min workshop that helped students develop their personal story based around a specific craving they were trying to satisfy (ie. love, meaning, acceptance) and how the gospel is transforming their lives and leading them to Jesus, the only one who can truly satisfy
    During our small groups that week every DG focused on having their members share their story and give each other feedback.
    Week 4 – We rented out a computer lab and had our students come to the lab with their story ready to be shared with their friends. We walked them through a guide on how to use different social media platforms to share their story (with text, images or video) and then spent 3 hours posting our stories, tagging friends, sending private messages, chatting on skype, etc.
    Week 5 – We had an outreach where students could invite their friends to come and investigate our craving for meaning.

    Personally I think this was one of the best outreaches I’ve been a part of on campus because 1) It got grass roots involvement and had people at the grass roots taking huge steps of faith (way more than just putting up a poster for a debate) 2) It is a great broad sowing strategy. We had about 40-50 at the computer lab that day. If your average student has 300-500 FB friends we probably touched about 15-25,000 people. 3) It engaged people in our movement that never really dove into other opportunities we’ve created/provided 4) There were tons of entry points 5) It lived on way past the 5 weeks we did it. We had a couple students lead their friends to Christ a month or more after the actual large group meeting because they’d been engaging with their friends in dialogue. 6) It had a broad international scope. For example, one student led their friend to Christ from Canada on Skype who was in the UK.

    This summer we developed/refined a lot of the resources we used this past winter for this outreach and are working on finishing a complete package for all of this that a campus/conference could just roll out. I can share some of that with you if you want by personal request.

    I think there could be huge potential for campuses to use their weekly meetings to do this. But I think this could also be a whole new way of doing evangelism at some of our conferences. Imagine campuses did what we did in Weeks 1-3 prior to the conference so a student shows up to their Winter Conference with their story ready to go. Then for the Day of Outreach we set up a massive computer lab and students spend 4-5 hours engaging with their friends and starting conversations that could continue when they get back to school. If every CCC conference did this we could be connecting with hundreds of thousands around the world in just a few hours.

    Hope that helps to unpack this idea little more.

    • http://www.brianbarela.com/ Brian Barela

      allan this is amazing! will reblog this for sure!

    • Anonymous

      Allan and Russ, I’m completely tracking with you! It’s so easy for students to engage other students online. It’s their culture. Their comfort zone.

      We have put together similar ideas, available on http://www.EveryStudent.info.

      It shows how they can post an article or video to their Facebook profile page. Ideas for comments they can make and links to include in Facebook status. How they can post their personal story on their own page on EveryStudent.com.

      And now, they can drop EveryStudent.com right into their Facebook page, with a tab that reads, “God?” They can get that here: http://apps.Facebook.com/everystudent

      The more students learn how to reach out to others in their online world, the more equipped they’ll be for a lifetime of ministry!

    • http://equipping4eministry.wordpress.com/ Sus Schmitt

      EveryStudent.com has a version of this:

      1. Run a 45-minute “Click Session.”

      You literally have staff and/or Christians in the community sit in a room with their laptops. Ask them to click around http://EveryStudent.com.

      15 minutes: Look around the site. Click on the “Like” button for any articles/videos they like.

      15 minutes: Post one or two articles/videos to their Facebook profile page.

      15 minutes: Message an article/video to three friends.

      People who have been in this kind of a “Click Session” kept saying, “Oh my gosh. This is GREAT. Why haven’t we heard about this site?!” They posted articles/videos to their Facebook page. Messaged articles/videos to their friends. It was a great day of outreach.

Back to Top ↑