‘Not In Kansas Anymore’

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

This iconic line that has screamed from the pages of cinema history and penetrated American pop culture for decades should serve as the motivation and inspiration for the strategic planning of implementing a new vision for spreading the Gospel to the Next Generation. This vision hit me square in the heart in the summer of 2007. Up until that time I had spent my entire life in the South. Serving in churches and ministries throughout Arkansas, I had developed my view of what collegiate ministry was supposed to look like. In many instances, it closely resembled that of a traditional church. Oh there were no membership rolls to maintain…or baptisteries to fill…or communion to prepare for, for that matter. But by and large the resemblance is a little uncanny.

I guess on one hand that resemblance is a good thing. After all, at one time our traditional churches were the hub of activity and fellowship in a community. At one time pastors were the most revered and respected men in town. At one time churches set the standard for morality, and the Bible was the epicenter for that which was right and wrong. At one time. Such is no longer the case.

Now at best, the church of America is plateaued while the majority of our churches are in decline. Many are struggling to simply keep their doors open. Families are deteriorating at a rapid pace. The Bible has been replaced by the media’s and Hollywood’s distorted view of religion. Congregations have become social clubs and the students that occupy our college campuses are the direct result of this decay.

With the lostness of our campus communities reaching unprecedented proportions and the exodus of students that we’re seeing in our churches, the approach of collegiate ministry must be reexamined.

When we arrived in Ohio in 2007 to begin pioneer collegiate work on our campus, we had to rethink things fast. All we had was a calling and a vision. Period. There was no existing group on campus to connect with. Forget about the luxury of having your own collegiate ministry house/property on campus. It was a blank canvas. And looking back, I would not have had it any other way.

A table in our student center became, and still is, my office. Right in the heart of all campus activity. The freedom to be me in the center of hundreds of students is a true adrenalin rush. Every time I set up shop, I have the privilege of having face-to-face contact with the overwhelming majority of the students involved in our ministry….not to mention the hundreds of other students that are part of our missional community.

Being visible and accessible is vital to the success of collegiate ministry, now more than ever. With students having so many people that come in and out of their lives, stability is greatly needed. Here’s something to think through: my campus office hours start somewhere around 6pm. What?! No kidding! Seriously ask yourself this question: “How much more could we impact our campus communities if college pastors/leaders were to hang out, and be accessible, in their student centers during the evenings?”

What else can we do to be accessible to our student family? Here are a couple of ways: if you have students that are athletes, go to their games. Support them. Have students involved in choir or band, go to their concerts. Whatever the opportunities may be on your campus, be seen by your students at their events. This will truly have a much greater impact than we can truly imagine.

Another huge challenge that we’ve faced is having to alter our primary means of communication with our students. A change definitely worth making! Up until just a few short years ago, email was the communications Mecca for student and collegiate ministry. The philosophy was simple. Send out an email to your students, expect a reply most likely the next day, all was well with the world.

Not so much today!

Email is now a dying breed. We see students now primarily using their email accounts for their academic needs only. Communicate with a professor…send in a paper or project…group discussion…etc. If we were serious about reaching our students, we had to go where they were. The decision was a no-brainer. We chose texting.

But not just basic texting. Group text. Oh sure we still do typical 1-to-1 texting for personal conversations, but when we need to ‘cover a lot of ground fast’, we group text! We’re able to creative with our group texts as well. For example, we can send one text message out to ALL of our students, or to just the GUYS or GIRLS. We even have separate groups for our student leadership team and praise team. We also have separate groups for each Freshmen Class, so we’re able to contact students per classification.

We do so much more with our group texting system…but that will have to wait for another blog post! And just for clarification, group texting is not done on our phones!

Hopefully, these ideas can help as we move forward in reaching this incredible generation for Christ. Much is to be learned…much is to be done.

As we become students of our students, we must realize that our student population is cruising down their own yellow brick road, filled with detours and toll roads. What we have to do as collegiate pastors/leaders is to make sure that our vehicles of ministry are not broken down somewhere in Kansas.

 

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About the author: Jim Whaley
Jim is the Spiritual Life Coordinator and Campus Pastor at Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio. Connect with Jim on Twitter at @jimwhaley or email jimwhaleyjr@gmail.com. Check out their website at www.LifeAtH2o.org.
  • Anonymous

    Hey Jim! Good insights here!

    I know you mentioned needing another post in which to talk about your texting system… but I’d love to here a “comment-sized” explanation. I’ve only heard about the mass texting systems.

    Which one do you use?
    How often do you use it?
    For what reason/s will you use it (over FB group message or fan page update)?
    Do students complain about the charges? Or do they all have unlimited text/data plans?
    Have you found any downsides to this form of communication?

    • Jim Whaley

      Hey Guy!

      I’ll do my best to give you the ‘cliff-notes’ to our system. LOL!

      1.) We use GMail. I know that sounds crazy, but it works. And it’s FREE!
      2.) We use it as often as needed. Like tonight, we had our weekly large group worship service. At mid afternoon, I sent out a group txt to promo tonights event. On Tuesday’s I’ll send out a group text to ALL GIRLS to remind them of the GIRLS ONLY Bible Study. And likewise for the guys.
      3.) I like FB Group Messages for Announcements of Upcoming Events. We use FB Fan Page to a) remind students of weekly events; b) quote Scripture; c) put up a 1 or 2 sentence tag line from the nights message; etc. To me, texting guarantees the student will get your messages ASAP, when you can’t know ‘for sure’ that the FB Group messages are read on a timely manner.
      4.) As of right now, I haven’t had any student complain about the charges. Probably because the overwhelming majority have unlimited texting plans. Now something that has happened, is that we will add a student to our groups, then they want to be removed. If that happens, we remove them immediately and let them know.
      5.) At this point, everything really seems to be working well. We’ve used this for 2 1/2 years now, and I’m really excited about the possibilities that can come from this. A huge upside is the fact that I don’t have to be on my computer or laptop to do this. Our campus has computer access ALL OVER campus. With GMail, any computer will work.

      Just as a side comment, Group Texting is one of the greatest weapons in our communications arsenol. I truly think that this can revolutionize any campus! And the larger the campus, the greater the coverage!

      Hope this has answered most of your questions. Greatly appreciate your interest!

      ~Jim

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