Its easy to plan lots of exciting, exhausting events for freshers week and get to the end wondering if they were the right ones to do.
Here are 2 questions to ask yourself and your team to help you think through what you’re planning for freshers week 2014. (For a basic checklist of freshers week prep see here)
Remember, ultimately, its all about connecting with individuals. Conversations, coffees and praying for people is what will make the difference. The number 1 priority is to get together a team (i.e. mobilise your current students, recent grads, even the older members of your church) & see them committed to connecting with, welcoming, talking to and keeping in touch with those you meet; wherever and whenever that is. If they all commit to helping one or two freshers settle in your church (or in a church where they'll thrive) by Christmas you’re onto a winner.
Question 1: Who do you want to connect with in freshers week?
This question can help you focus your activities but also your message. You might answer:
Christian freshers: ‘We love students, you’re welcome here’ is brilliant, but the same message from every church can make it hard to choose where to stick. What’s your vision as a church, what’s your community like? How can they get involved with that?
Where are Christian students during freshers week and how can you connect with them there? Get a church stall at Freshers Fair (look out for charity prices) and use Student Linkup really well!
Non-Christian freshers: Freshers week is a time for trying new things and for many, church falls into that category. Why not use a Freshers Fair stall for your church football team or an Alpha course? You could help students unload their cars when they first arrive or see which Student Union freshers week activities you can help support… (NB question #2)
2nd and 3rd years returning to uni: Many students return to church in second year having missed out as a fresher. Why not post welcome-to-the-area packs through some of the student-let properties near your church or encourage your students to make the most of their new homes with house-warming parties?
Question 2: Where do we want to be by December?
This question helps you think beyond freshers week activities to sustainable student work.
- If you want 20 new freshers committed into your church are there cell groups (for example) which have space for them?
- If you want to see 5 freshers become Christians have you planned in time to meet with them, organised an Alpha or arranged an appropriate preaching series to make sure they have space to explore the gospel?
- If you want to have found students who will help you pioneer your church have you communicated clearly from the start that that’s what’s on offer so that the right students have the chance to join in?
Remember - its all about using these opportunities to meet, welcome and stay in touch with wonderful individuals.